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  • Merit Badge classes at scout meetings?

    Could you discuss with me or point me to other threads about the pros and cons of running merit badge classes during scout meetings.

    A little background: My 2 boys are part of a dynamic active troop of 50ish scouts. We are one of four scout troops in our little city. It has always been their method to hold merit badge classes during meetings. I thought nothing about this until another mom commented "oh your boys are in the merit badge factory troop". I was taken aback so did a little research and I see that the practice of doing merit badge classes during meetings is not the preferred way.

    I am a merit badge counselor for several badges. I have led Horsemanship and Communications. I follow the rule of "add nothing to the requirements / take away nothing from the requirements". I have observed the ease that the boys earn badges at summer camp. Last summer one of my sons came home with 6 the other with 5. There are requirements that I question how they accomplish at camp. Our district also has 2 merit badge college days. Our troop had a wonderful trip to Ohiopyle, PA last summer where the boys earned their climbing badge inside a cave. The cave people were merit badge counselors. My point is, there are many ways to earn badges, but should the boys do badges only on their own initiative?

    What are the pros and cons of merit badge classes during meetings? But further, should badges only be earned where the boy does all his own initiative? That is, no merit badge college, no summer camp badges, no scout outing badges? Discussion please!

  • #2
    I think a strong case can be made for abuse in the MB program. It's really not fair to the boys who actually do the work.

    I'm not one for MB days, or MB's at summer camp.

    I do like the idea that the boys work out their MBs on their own time.

    I did, however, allow a half hour AFTER the meeting for MB counselors to work their magic. If boys were not working on a MB they went home, if they were they stuck around for an extra half hour.



    • #3
      A cornerstone of the MB program is the personal growth involved with the scout (not mama or his Scoutmaster) A. picking up the phone, speaking with a stranger, setting up an appointment, and making the appointment on time and B. picking merit badges which he is personally interested in. Troop meetings as Merit Badge School gut this personal growth cornerstone of the MB program by removing choice and accountability. They also make for boring troop meetings; if, as a 10-yr-old, I had visited a troop and we sat around doing Citizenship in the X that night, I wouldn't have been back.

      Like jblake's troop, my troop has several adults registered as MB counselors, and from time-to-time one says "hey, Johnny Scout has asked me to councel him in XX badge and he's going to need a buddy, if anyone else is interested we'll be meeting 30 minutes before the troop meeting over the next several weeks." But these sessions aren't part of the troop program and they don't interfere.

      Some of the parents/ASMs in our troop who are also registered as MB counselors don't even answer e-mails or voicemails about working on a MB if it's mom or dad who made the contact.


      • #4
        OH NO a label......If the other troops parents know it, It must be really bad.

        Soooo, have you attended merit badge councilor training?????

        Please review this document on the BSA National Website

        It is a merit badge councilor orientation guide.......As you read thing about the intent of the program....The intent is more than just sampling various topics or hobbys.

        I suspect that there are problems with your troops program.....You have read other posts and are still digesting them.....

        So exactly when do they plan the campouts and patrol activities.

        I am not gonna do a pro or con....

        I am a believer in ZERO merit badge universities, clinics or at troop meetings.


        • #5
          The are lots of cons. The worst of which, IMHO, is that a troop meeting can turn into one more hour of school. I find the troop meetings are busy enough getting the boys to master first-class skills. Part of the time is teaching the skill to newbies, part of it refreshing the skill, part of it having a mini-competition on the skill, and part of it planning the next event that will demand use of those skills. We barely manage to cover every skill in a year, and our scouts rarely reach mastery of every skill in two years.

          The pro is that a counselor can introduce his hobby/profession to a large number of boys. Sometimes getting to know the counselor at a troop meeting increases a younger scout's comfort level about calling him on the phone and arranging to complete the merit badge. Boys see the MB process being modeled, and may be more comfortable with it. If the boy's are choosing the badge and who will teach it, it can be a well integrated part of a varied program.


          • #6
            Had a committee member tell the SM that if he wanted her two older boys to show up for troop meetings he had to offer more merit badges at the meetings. Seriously. So what good is it to have the older boys show up if all they are going to do is sit through a MB class ? I have not had a chance to point that out to him yet.


            • #7
              Sometimes our boys show an interest in a new activity or delving more into a topic. usually there is an outing or campout related to it. So a merit badge counselor may be called in as an expert to give some info/training to supplement what the scouts or other leaders know. They may also go on the outing, and the merit badge counselor may provide more knowledge about the topic along the way. So during the course of that month ish time period, a scout may get 1 part or half or more done on the merit badge by participating. However, if they want to complete the badge, they go get a signed blue card from SM and make arrangements with mb counselor (with a buddy or parent) to do whatever is necessary to complete the badge. If they are interested, they do so, if the topic wasn't their cup of tea, they move on without ever even getting the blue card.

              Some merit badge topics should be covered strongly in the troop and patrol meetings, even if you never call it a merit badge. Good high quality first aid, well formed and strong knots to build camp gadgets, a good intro to citizenship, camping, hiking, canoeing, cooking (and especially calling in an expert to provide the education about food safety issues, as well as feeding the boys new and exciting--or just EASY and different meal ideas). All sorts of scout skills lead themselves to an introduction to the badge, and there is no reeason why that can't be explained to the boys--you've alrady done half to 3/4 of the badge just by participating. The rest is up to the youth to complete the badge or not.


              • #8
                Yeah, your troop has formed very bad habits.. Problem is, it will be hard, if not impossible to break the troop of them even if you were in a high enough position to try (Scoutmaster or Committee Chair).. You have a group of scouts and parents who feel scouting is going through a checklist on a direct path to eagle, and probably take pride in how quickly they can get a scout through that checklist.. Eagle is just something to put on a college app or resume.

                I agree with the person who said the worst part of merit badges in the troop meeting is that your troop meeting is little more then an extension of school classes.. Boys are getting MB's in what is being taught.. True 10 or 11 are required and need to get done, but these should be done when your son is of an age to be able to digest and learn it due to what he is learning in class or experiencing in life.. Like I would not recommend MB's like Environmental Science, Personal Finance or Community in the World at 13 or 14, unless you have a son with the IQ to go to college at about 15.. Yet doing a Troop wide merit badge in classroom style does not take into account the scouts ability to comprehend what is being pushed through.. Worse yet for the large myriad of elective merit badges.. A troop teaching these in classroom style, means the boy gets what is pushed on them rather then choose a merit badge that is of personal interest to him, due to his hobbies or possible career interests.. This is also a problem with just getting MB's at camp or in MB college days.. The boy has some choice, but is limited to what is offered, and what is offered is usually chosen because it can be taught in a classroom like style..

                The summer camp thing, I am not totally against. But, our camps does work hard on not dumbing down the requirements. They give the scout prerequisites for what can not be done at camp due to not having the resources, or because it would take longer then 1 week to do.. If the boy doesn't do it before coming to camp the leave with partials and must hook up with a MB counselor to complete the MB. We also had my son go to different camps in the area so the MB's being offered were not the same every year.. We have camps that have pottery, blacksmithing, others that have horseback riding and motorboats for skiing, and others that have the sailboats etc.. No camp can gear themselves for every merit badge, but if you have choices of camps in the area you can give yourself lots of options..

                Still you don't want your boy to earn all his MB's at camp, because as others have said, the learning curve of picking up the phone and calling a stranger and setting up a meeting schedule and working one on one (with parent in background for YP) or with only two or three for the buddy system, is important, and allows the boy to take MB's that just aren't offered at any nearby camp, but that they have a personal interest in.

                Your eyes might be opening that this is not the way a troop should run, but you may find that the only way to correct the problem is looking for a different troop in the area. Because others in your troop will not see it the same way you do, or will see what you are saying, but really wont care as long as an eagle rank can be earned in an easy, lazy way. The last thing will be to have a discussion with your son about it.. It is his scouting career. He might want to just hang with his friends, or now in this troop has been hooked into getting Eagle in 2 years the lazy and easy way.. You might want to canvas troops in your area, find one that runs differently, then have your son visit so he sees a troop that doesn't do classroom training, but instead work on skill, plan for outings and does teambuilding/ skill building competitions in order to get him to see the difference between troop methods, and which way is more fun..


                • #9
                  Please print Scouter99's post (#3) and make multiple copies. Post 10 or 12 around your meeting room, and give one -- make that two or three -- to every man, woman or child who comes within 100 yards of you troop.

                  Your OP, cnew2, gives one of the best arguments for not having troop MB classes -- people are lined up three deep to give boys merit badges with little or no effort. Summer camps are the biggest offenders. Camps are set up for boys to earn the maximum number of MBs possible. Parents -- parents, not Scouts -- select camps based on "getting their money's worth". Hey, if I'm paying $250 for my kid to earn bling (forgetting the fact that it costs more than that for me to feed him at home) who wants some stuffed shirt pointing out the fact that he can't complete a 90-day fitness requirement in 5 days. Money talks, right?
                  So why add insult to injury by setting up a similar program for troop meetings? I understand that you are conscientious about neither adding or subtracting. Problem is, as soon as you put together more that three or four kids, you've created a classroom setting which diminishes your ability to conduct real discussions with EACH scout. The requirement says "Discuss with your counselor..." not "Cower in the back row while the kid who knows his stuff discusses with your counselor...."

                  All that said, we do conduct merit badge instruction during the instruction time of our troop meetings. In fact, we just started several weeks on fire safety. But the key difference is no one EARNS the merit badge during the sessions. If you pay attention to the discussion, you will learn much of what you need to know to complete the badge. But you still must make an appointment with the counselor, DO THE WORK YOURSELF, and complete the requirements with the counselor. Of course the fun part is that during week 4 the fire department shows up, and blows up a turkey fryer, lets the kids try handling a 2" hose and all the stuff you really wanted to do when you went to the fire station as a Tiger. We did this same program three years ago and had two kids earn the badge (out of about 40). No problem. They guys who were willing to put forth the extra effort earned the badge, The rest learned something and had fun. That's what we're here for.

                  So if your troop wants you to teach Communications (or whatever), fine. But start by announcing the new rules -- no one is going to walk away from the class with the merit badge. No blue cards will be issued at the end of the class. Anyone who wants the actual merit badge will be required to complete the requirements precisely as written and make and appointment with you to review their work with you. Yeah, it will take more effort on your part, but that's why we get the big bucks.
                  Last edited by Twocubdad; 09-19-2013, 09:03 AM.


                  • #10
                    A side note, this would make for a good question or two at a Board of Review - "Tell us your experience in contacting a merit badge counselor for ..."


                    • #11
                      Thank you all for your responses. I had no idea! I did not know there was a Merit Badge Counselor class. I will research this and try to attend. This all makes me curious to know how the other troops in our area operate. Our area does seem to be interested in getting merit badges done as summer camp is one MB class after another. Also the are 2 MB "colleges" to choose from in December.

                      I must admit as I led Communications I noticed the terminology is aimed toward 1 boy working on the badge. For example - Plan a campfire program and serve as master of ceremonies. Of course in my group of 12 boys they couldn't all be master of ceromonies. And yes I did have to spoonfeed/force some of those boys to get through the badge. And yes all in a classroom setting.

             eyes are opening to the merits of not doing badges at meetings. Like another poster commented it may be impossible to change this troop. Perhaps I can get them to only offer 2 MB sessions and not 3. It would be quite a different enviroment for them.

                      Thanks again.


                      • Basementdweller
                        Basementdweller commented
                        Editing a comment
                        So what your saying is you hold three different merit badges a week?????

                        When do they learn first class skills.

                      • cnew2
                        cnew2 commented
                        Editing a comment
                        The troop has 3 sessions of MB classes, fall, winter, spring. Each session is 6 scout meetings. Each session has approx 4 badges offered, boys pick which MB they want to work on.

                      • Basementdweller
                        Basementdweller commented
                        Editing a comment
                        Oh that makes me feel better, the troop puts on only 4 merit badges at one time.....NOT

                        So do you guys meet during the summer.....

                    • #12
                      Sorry to say, but if you had boys who did not serve as master of ceremonies, they did not complete the Communications badge, and if it was awarded it was not earned. Which is sad because it's an Eagle badge. If the card is signed off, it's a done deal, unless you can appeal to the boys that a shortcut was unintentionally taken, and will they live up to the Scout Law and finish it after the awarding of the patch?

                      We've gone through this to some extent with our troop. I've argued against merit badge meetings (we have separate meetings from the troop meetings), but ended up locking horns with an ASM who said "we need to help the boys." My response was that this approach makes for a very fine Webelos activity badge the interest of making peace in the short term I let it drop. If we have parents/leaders who want to be counselors and set up separate meetings, I can live with that if we are not taking troop time, and if the badges are actually completed, which they have been thus far. But yes, that is not how the process is supposed to work.

                      Since you appear to have a merit-badge focused program, you can expect to encounter a LOT of resistance (from parents) if you are proposing changes and telling them they can't get their 12-week personal fitness program done in a 60 minute be prepared. Unfortunately for the average parent who is only peripherally aware of what scouting is all about, they care about what they see--the badges on the sash.


                      • Brewmeister
                        Brewmeister commented
                        Editing a comment
                        Much cheaper for dad to just buy the patches at the scout shop. I think they're less than $2 each.

                      • Basementdweller
                        Basementdweller commented
                        Editing a comment
                        Just keeps getting better and better....

                        So the boy isn't actually interested in earning the merit badge......Just the $10 on the back end.

                      • Scouter99
                        Scouter99 commented
                        Editing a comment
                        Sorry to say, but if you had boys who did not serve as master of ceremonies, they did not complete the Communications badge
                        I was livid this summer when I realized mid-campfire that the Communications MB counselor was signing 15 boys off for being an MC by having each one introduce just 1 skit.

                    • #13
                      I'm with most everyone here, we ran our prgram like Scouter99 describes. But I had a friend in another troop who ran an experiment over a couple years. He counseled a MB class of 30 scouts (I don't remember the badge) where the class met one hour before each meeting until they finished the badge. Then a year later he introduced the same badge, but didn't hold any classes before the meetings. He encourage the scouts to work on their own and call him. He started with about 30 scouts in that group as well. He signed off almost all 30 scouts in the first group who attended weekly classes and 9 in the second group. I'm am not suggesting one way or the other , I'm just pointing out this MB counselors results. I'm so fanatical about the personal growth part of the MBbadge experience that I was kicked off the District MB College team for insisting we use the same standards our troop uses with the scouts. By the way, Horsemenship is a very cool badge. As for communications, I think you will find it a lot more fun and rewarding for both you and the scout when working with each scout individually. The badge itself is a great personal growth and confidence building badge when done correctly. Barry


                      • Brewmeister
                        Brewmeister commented
                        Editing a comment
                        Similar experience, similar results.

                        I have actually led a few merit badge classes in our troop despite my objections to the process. I figured at least I knew they would be done right, since we were going to do them either way.

                        The boys get a blank card at the beginning of the meeting and it is their responsibility. I tell them upfront that this was just a "kickoff" meeting and that, while we'd be covering some things as group work, there were things they needed to do on their own.

                        For instance, I kicked off the Cooking merit badge last winter. We did the bookwork stuff and the boys planned various menus. I also brought in some "experts" from outside the troop to talk about backpack cooking and other topics, which I think is a potential advantage of the group process. But it was their responsibility to get it done. Thus far I have had a grand total of zero boys approach or contact me for any follow up on the badge...

                    • #14
                      I just have to know

                      How many times a year does your unit camp or hike
                      Who plans them
                      Big long expensive trips or something close to home
                      Do your patrols do things independently of the troop?


                      • #15
                        Cnew2, if you are thinking about approaching the troop about this, do a little research and have facts and a plan ready to present. I agree with Brewmeister, it's hard to switch horse in mid stream. LOL You need to sell on the advantages of what Scouter99 calls the "personal growth" part of the process. Identify the advantages of growth form the process. You also can learn how other troops run a successful MB program without it being part of the weekly meeting. Build a couple of simple plans that ween the troop away from weekly meetings and into a program where the scouts have most of the control of how they perform in the process. I will say that from our experience, it only took only three MBs for the scouts to learn the habits of the process. Our troop goes something like this: 1. Get the MB Counselor list, 2. Pick a MB, find a partner to do it with and get a MB Card, 3. Call the Counselor to set up a date to meet and get counselor personal information to fill out the MB Card. 4. Get SM signature on MB card. After that, it's none of the troops business what the scout does until he completes all the requirements. Now of course there are different ways doing this, we had scouts call and ask the counselor to meet 30 minutes before a troop meeting, especially when the scout was alone. Sometimes it is best to work as a group, like the model rockets MB. But once everyone understand the premise of intent of the process, the counselor and scout can work out the process to completing the badge and getting them most growth at the same time. Good luck. Barry


                        • jblake47
                          jblake47 commented
                          Editing a comment
                          "Personal growth" part of the process is not listed in the MB book as one of the requirements.

                          Well that is just but one of the objections one is going to face when trying to change this kind of troop. It's way to easy to teach MB's than it is to teach such things as leadership, maturity development and teamwork dynamics of a patrol.

                          One is dealing with a totally clueless group of adults that run troops under these conditions.


                        • Basementdweller
                          Basementdweller commented
                          Editing a comment
                          I think you will find this troop is more common than you think....

                        • Eagledad
                          Eagledad commented
                          Editing a comment
                          I agree Personal Growth isn't a written requirement, but neither is weekly meetings. However, Citizen, Character, and Fitness are general aims that should be applied to all scouting activities. And your point about a clueless group is right on as well, that is why I suggest doing some research. The difference between weekly classes and working independently on the MB is the difference of using the Advancement Method as the end goal instead of the 3 Aims. That is the big picture and it is a hard one to grasp all at once.