Guest Author - Erik Moeller
A short quiz was run which discussed a number of issues related to merit badges and merit badge counselors. The average grade on the quiz is 67- not what we would hope for. Maybe we should get the Advancement Chairman in our districts to do some training of our counselors. If you need some training guidelines, I can point you to some good instructional guides.
Some of the low scores dealt with questions like who was responsible for training merit badge counselors. The correct answer is that all levels of Scouting (Troop, District and Council) are responsible for recruiting and training counselors. It is easy to understand how some other combinations could be argued. This has been pointed out to me.
There are four areas that got the lowest scores and these concern me most. The lowest score (35%) dealt with counselors teaching relatives. There is no restriction in the Advancement guide to this procedure. Many counselors (myself included) do not counsel their own sons. I never wanted there to be any appearance of some impropriety. Most of us live in an area where there are several choices for merit badge counselors for most of the merit badges. In some areas with long distances between troops and where there are small populations, eliminating relatives from the counselor pool could significantly reduce some Scouts’ ability to earn merit badges. I believe that this is the reason for the wording in the guide. I would support counselors not teaching their relatives if other alternatives are available, but it is not against the rules to do so.
The next lowest scoring area (41%) is who can complete a “partial” merit badge. The only person who can sign off a partial merit badge is an approved counselor for that merit badge. It does not have to be the same counselor, but it does have to be an approved counselor. Scoutmasters, Committee Chairman, Assistant Scoutmasters- these individuals are NOT approved to sign off “partials.”
The final two areas of concern got 65%. Merit badge counselor lists need to be approved every year. Someone in the District should contact each counselor to verify that each wants to continue. This is also a good time to eliminate any problem counselors. Your Council should help you with the procedure they follow. Finally, Scouts with “partial” completions have until their 18th birthday to complete the badge. Any other limitation is against policy.
Merit badge counselors are a very important part of the Scouting program. Work with you Troop, District and Council Advancement chairmen to insure all your counselors are trained and approved. It could eliminate problems down the road.