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A Brief Background of the Scoutmaster Handbook (BSA)

9th Edition—The Scoutmaster Handbook (1998-2015)

Cover is a color photo-montage of smiling Scoutmasters, and Scouts hiking. The book is attractive, with full-color photos throughout. But its huge size (8.5x11"), and the fact that it must be placed in a ring binder when you remove it from its clear wrapping, makes it awkward to use. No Scoutmaster will bring this thing to a campout, or be likely to take it with him to troop meetings. Give me back a real handbook that I can keep in my briefcase or take camping.
9th Edition

9th Edition Summary and Printing History

Actual 9th Edition Table of Contents

Troop Leader Guidebook (2015/16-????) [new title, but equivalent to a 10th Edition of the Scoutmaster Handbook]

Volume 1 cover is a color photo of Scouts jumping off a raft into a lake. Volume 2 cover is a photo silhouette of a Scout backpacking.
Troop Leader Guidebook, volume 1 Troop Leader Guidebook, volume 2

This will be the first two-volume SM handbook since the 3rd Edition in 1936. Release was repeatedly delayed for over two years, with volume 1 finally released in late July, 2015, and volume 2 scheduled for winter 2015/2016.

Although this is in effect the 10th Edition of the Scoutmaster Handbook, BSA has retitled it "Troop Leader Guidebook" to emphasize that it is aimed at all adult troop leaders, not just the Scoutmaster.

Volume 1, written by Mark Ray (who also wrote The Scoutmaster's Other Handbook), is aimed at new leaders, and covers things like the patrol method, how to conduct troop meetings, the year-round program, and more. Volume 2, written by Bob Birkby (author of the current Scout Handbook), is aimed at more experienced troop leaders, and will have more in-depth information about high adventure, youth & adult training, and more. I'm disappointed that splitting the book into two volumes effectively doubles the cost (US$13 each). I'm also concerned that many new leaders may buy only volume 1, and many experienced leaders may buy only volume 2, when both volumes contribute to an effective adult leader. Now that I've read volume 1, it's clear, thorough, and well written: an excellent (essential!) resource for newer Scoutmasters, and contains ideas and reminders of value to old-timers, too (shame on any Scoutmaster [or other troop leader] who doesn't buy--and read--it).

I don't quite understand why the Troop Leader Guidebook is being released without regard to the impending changes in the Boy Scout program, especially when we've already waited over two years since the first announced release date. BSA says these changes are minor, yet they apparently are enough to justify a new edition of the Scout Handbook (in January, 2016, even though the current Handbook has been out for only six years). I've already spotted some (minor) areas where volume 1 does not match the announced changes in the advancement program.

I always find it interesting to read about BSA's long-time hang-up against identifying the 'field uniform' as 'Class A', and the 'activity uniform' as 'Class B' (see volume 1, page 26). I suppose these sound too militaristic, but as a Scoutmaster I know that every Scout and every parent, including those who have never been in Scouting before, instinctively understand that 'Class A' means the full uniform, and 'Class B' means something less (such as the T-shirt version). While 'full uniform' may also be clear, I don't think parents or boys new to Scouting readily understand the distinction between 'field' and 'activity' uniforms. So I'll keep using 'Class A' and 'Class B', but I'll put those terms in quotes to reassure everyone that those are not official terms.

I'd sure vote to convert this to a single, less expensive volume, and put additional information online or in PDF format. And I'm disappointed that these two volumes are cumbersome, loose-leaf inserts for a bulky 3-ring binder instead of a bound handbook.

Actual Troop Leader Guidebook, Volume 1, Table of Contents

Introduction: Welcome to Boy Scouting
Section 1: Boy Scout Basics

Section 2: The Boy Scout Program

Section 3: All About Youth

Section 4: All About Adults

Section 5: Advancement and Awards

Section 6: Troop Administration

Section 7: Health and Safety



Proposed Troop Leader Guidebook, Volume 2, Table of Contents

Section 1: Assessing Where You Are
Section 2: Effective Leadership Today
Section 3: The Power of Program and High Adventure
Section 4: The Value of Service and Stewardship
Section 5: Keeping Scouts Involved and Interested
Section 6: Dealing With Special Challenges
Appendix: Resources, Scouting websites, and glossary