There are times that what I assume or the way I feel Scout requirements are fulfilled does not jibe with the actual wording of the requirement.
I don’t sign off many requirements. Requirements for ranks up to First Class are almost exclusively signed off by our older Scouts. I do sign off requirements in the if I am functioning as a merit badge counselor, but not too much in my role as a Scoutmaster.
When I am showing Scouts how to sign off requirements I tell them to look for the verbs and modifiers and pay attention to them. I tell them to read the requirement carefully and to make sure that they are actually doing what it says rather than just glossing over the wording and getting the wrong idea.
Here are some examples:
Scout 7. Understand and agree to live by the Scout Oath or Promise, Law, motto, and slogan, and the Outdoor Code.
‘Understand and Agree’ does not mean ‘repeat from memory’. In some ways this is a higher standard than rote memorization. What does it mean to be thrifty, to be reverent?
Tenderfoot 12. B. Show first aid for the following: …
‘Show’ does not mean ‘talk about’ or ‘write down’ it means ‘show’. To complete this requirement a Scout has to use his hands and a first aid kit to show what needs to happen in the cases listed in the requirement.
Second Class 1. A. Demonstrate how a compass works and how to orient a map. Explain what map symbols mean.
‘Demonstrate’ does not mean ‘tell’, it means actively showing how the skill is accomplished using the actual tools required to accomplish it. ‘Explain’ indicates that a Scout should no only know the information but what it means.
First Class 6. Identify or show evidence of at least ten kinds of native plants found in your community.
‘Identify’ means being able to recognize or distinguish something. Modified by ‘show evidence of’ indicating that the actual object being identified may or may not be present, perhaps it’s a picture of the object. The modifier ‘native’ is important too, what does it mean and how does it modify the type of plant used to fulfil the requirement?
Camping Merit Badge 3. Make a written plan for an overnight trek and show how to get to your camping spot using a topographical map and compass OR a topographical map and a GPS receiver.
‘Make a written plan’ is not telling or demonstrating, it’s writing. You won’t see many requirements that require book work or writing (thank goodness)
When we read Scout requirements and take them at face value we’ll better serve their intentions and be less likely to water them down or to add to them.