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Summer Camp MB mill - as usual

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As usual. And it's getting worse even as they are trying to make improvements.

My recommendation for my scout parents for next year is NO EAGLE BADGES at summer camp, except swimming, as it is done well.

If they push it, they can get them, but their patrol buddies will know it, sooner or later.

I saw Eagle badges "completed" in 70 minutes; I'm sorry, this is unacceptable.

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Hope we can keep this civil.


I will communicate with the Council that operates the camp in question, but my experience is that they are not doing anything unusual. I was told today that my Council's camp was doing the same thing. In fact, so many MBC's quit that all CIT's were "promoted" to MBC's - some as young as 14.




">> They started at a zero knowledge base ...


Why? Did none of the Scouts read the MBP? Read the relevant sections in the Handbook and Fieldbook? Did their SPL or SM encourage them to do so before signing up for the program to make sure they'd enjoy it?"


Shortridge, I think the answer is the objective is to get MB's - not education. The SM's are getting what they, as customers, want - lots of pretties to hand out at next COH. One troop at camp boasts of over 25% Eagles. Many of their Scouts were given five MB's at camp. Some were surely earned.



BEAR GRYLLS often acts like an idiot on his fraud of a TV show. Whether he appreciates it or not, he is a good teacher of "what not to do."



" Using that logic, T-hawk, we're going to have to change the requirements to Nuclear Science MB least some kid be put in charge of a nuclear power plant and cause a melt down.


99% of us will never be in a survival situation. Of the remaining 1%, their best course of action will be to hug a tree and blow their rescue whistle. I believe my boys learned that lesson very well from an episode of Barney before they started cubs. If practical WS training is the goal, let's just show the Barney episode."


Respectfully, I have no ideas what you are trying to communicate in your first sentence.


As for the rest, the need to make choices cannot be legislated out of existence by BSA. If you are on the first day of a two-week backpacker when an adult snaps an ankle, "hugging a tree" is nonsense. No one will miss you for weeks. No one may come along to relieve you of responsibility. Odds are, you will have to move some, and you may have to self-rescue. Sadly, teaching about navigation and self-rescue has disappeared from BSA Wilderness Survival, although pages of criteria for a survival campsite implies a need for safe movement.


If 99% or some lesser % of those who go into the wild are never in a survival situation, they would still profit from a good educational experience about handling an emergency. Life is not without crisis for the vast majority.




"While WS theory has obviously changed, I again submit it should not be called "Wilderness" or "Survival." Not sure what to call it ("Make Yourself Comfy and Wait for the SAR Team, They'll Be Here in a Jiffy MB" is kinda clunky) but we are giving the scouts a false sense of competence when we sign them off for the MB as it is currently formatted."


It's about how to reduce the odds of dying in wilderness. It will work for the vast majority, and nothing will work 100%. Thinking straight, 98.6, signaling, first aid, avoiding nature's pitfalls, water purification - these are all good for any wilderness survival approach - if actually taught.



"GATLINBURG, Tenn. (AP) Visitors to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park during its 75th anniversary year were up 5% over 2008 and were the most in nearly a decade.

Park Superintendent Dale Ditmanson said 9,491,436 people came into the 500,000-acre park in calendar year 2009 through its three main entrances and outlying areas."


So 95% of that figure would be a shade over 9,000,000.


Causes of serious injury in GSMNP/yr. per NPS:


Motor vehicle accidents 50

Walking or hiking accidents 38

Bicycle accidents 16

Falls from waterfalls 9

Horseback riding accidents 7

Tubing accidents 5

Sting reactions 4


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Wow, part of me is surprised by this series of posts, saddly part of me is not.


Ultimately there are boys being cheated of a good experience. I shame as Wilderness Survival is good starter MB.


1. Young starting scouts being cheated out of earning a merit badge the correct way...BUT more importantly missing out on the life skill of reading the tasks and working through the list. It sounds silly, but I know many adults who can't handle that.


2. Young 14 year old MB councilors...believe it or not, I think many younger scouts could properly do teach the Wilderness Survival MB...Provided they are mentored by adults..The ability to teach is an even bigger life skill. One that I look for hard when when interviewing potential employees. The ability to share knowledge makes all of us better. I won't hire those who can't or won't share knowledge. The young councilors in this case may have also been cheated.


3. Merit Badge books - Yep, I still have my 70's Wilderness survivial MB book. When my young son started scouts, I went out and got a new one last year. In the "internet" age some other scouts and parents looked at me like I was nuts. I have not read much of the new Wilderness Survival book, but looking that the requirements to reads more like "Wilderness Emergency Prepardness"...(I remember actually have to set deadfalls, then being given some meat to cut on a stone)..Leave no trace ended that. (shame, taken too far)


4. I am still "New" to scouting in this decade, but I will say the cooking MB book impressed me. It was full of decent information. Hiking also looked pretty good.

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So what is your guess????? Less than 50% of all merit badges attempted are actually completed as written??????


With so many not completing the merit badge program in the spirit of it's design. lets just do away with it.


I read day after day, year after year of eagle driven parents and well meaning Adult leaders comprising the program. The sad part is these WEAK paper only Eagles will be counted and valued the same as our Troop Eagles who actually earn it by the book, they complete each requirement and own the skill, they lead, explore and experience only as boys do......


These threads really make me sad, Scouting has become less than it was.......were boys actually want to attend, canoe, fish, swim, sail, rock climb, hike, camp, explore, hang out with friends...hey guess what along the way they get some ranks as they gain experience and skills.



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Just to hit on a few points here as a former camp program director.


When I went to NCS (1998), it was made very very apparent by our instructor that:

A)Requirements were to be followed to the letter (do means do, show means show)

B)Program area directors were the real MBCs, even if younger staff taught, they had to sign due to the the need for an adult

C)As program directors, we were ultimately responsible for every signed off blue card. If a parent/SM/etc questioned it, we'd be the first asked.


Now, I took that seriously, but I still know there were people who got "gimmes" because the counselor didn't do their job right,but I policed as best I could.


But, in the same vein, in my 6 years at camp, we kept toying with open versus closed program. What happened was the areas like Handicraft and Nature, which had a large number of badges offered was a situation in which a staff of 3-4 had 6 badges to worry about. So, the boys coming in would get a little instruction, and then set about their projects or papers. This meant that on average, the quality of anything they did was low, because there wasn't any of the mentoring that goes on in a true merit badge environment, even as a class.


No matter how hard I fought the open program model, the council wanted to keep it, because it meant that Johnny could come home with 8-10 merit badges, including a bunch of Eagle ones. I told them time and time again that as a camper, I took 1-2 merit badges a year and went to different program areas to sample their programs. Yeah, I got my Eagle at 17, but I had fun at camp, which became a long time summer job.


I see more and more mills coming along in scouting since I was a youth, and have declined invitiations to teach at Merit Badge colleges because when I told the coordinators that no scout could complete the badge in 3 classes they said to "make it work". That became a fun chat with the council advacement chair, yet it wasn't changed.


And to steal (and butcher a quote); What do you call an Eagle Scout with just 21 merit badges? Eagle Scout


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Unfortunately many have given up the value of earning an award for the ability to say "look at all our Eagles".


Back in 95 I went to OA NLS, where a question was asked to Clyde Mayer, the National OA Director about testing people, because many Lodges were under the idea that no one could fail. His response shocked them when he said "of course you can test, just like EARNING Tenderfoot, Arrowmen should EARN Brotherhood"


Wish more people thought like that.


I'm a trainer at work, and I teach courses that lead to certification from professional organizations or the Federal Government. In obtaining my instructor certification, it was stressed over and over that by my signing off that a student had done X,Y and Z that I became personal liable if they later went on to make a mistake and said "I was never taught that". While I realize that a merit badge isn't on that level, I take the same seriousness to signing a blue card. If I sign that a scout did everything on the list, then he did. May take multiple tries with lots of teaching, but that scout can say with pride he did that requirement, not "oh yeah, at camp we talked about how to make a shelter"

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Counselors that work with our troop at home generally do all the requirements as written. Counselors at camp generally do not.


Some of the merit badges actually cover all the items - especially the Eagle-badges like Citizenship in the World, Communication, Citizenship in the Nation. Those are the exception, though, by far.


One year we sat down with our Scouts and went through the requirements to see what they thought that they had done versus what the camp said they had done. The camp's version was a tremendous work of fiction. We did ask the camp director about it - he suggested that the boys often don't remember everything that they've done in class - which is true, but we're not talking about whether or not the boy participated in a discussion of jobs in environmental science - we were talking about some very basic requirements. The worst example was one badge where the class had apparently done none of the requirements, just went on hikes. For another badge, the camp said that the Scouts cooked and ate a fish, something that I'm sure they wouldn't have forgotten.


We've come to accept that camp just doesn't have rigorous standards. Unless the camp records something really egregious (like giving them credit for 20 nights of camping), we'll take their word on what they covered.


This year we only had a couple of mistakes. One of them was that the camp gave a Scout credit for a class that he never showed up for. We didn't count that one.


We've decided that there isn't much value in fighting it - this is apparently just the way camps run.

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Another thing that bothers me is what qualifications do these young camp staff have in counseling these boys in these subjects? Is it any wonder they do the badges as an academic exercise since most of these staff members would not be able to show practical application of these skills in the field.


"This is apparently just the way camps are run", why as scout leaders do we allow that to occur without complaining to the camp director, the SE, and the council camping committee, or at least boycott the camp until they change this policy. IMO, too many scoutmasters have become much too complaisant in the kind of program their boys are exposed too and have allowed way too much substandard quality experiences to creep into their programs. If you don't demand first class quality camp programs from your councils then you will continue to receive sub par low quality programs, and the only ones being deprived of the true scouting experience are the boys.

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This probably overlaps the idea of 'going it alone' as well - but if our pleas to the council fall on deaf ears, then two options still exist. 1) The SM can forbid boys from taking certain MBs at camp or 2) (and this my preference but I've been unsuccessful at convincing the unit so far) stop going to summer camp.

Take a cue from Kudu and take your unit on a REAL week of camping. Then have the boys work on merit badges the way they're supposed to...on their own.

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Ok BP and others, how do you do it? Ranting and raving at the council and program director will only get you so far. Then what? Because thats exactly what theyll ask you


Let me start about November of a typical year. The Camp and Program directors are identified for the following summer camp. These guys are usually college students, maybe theyre pausing after college to start their professional careers, maybe theyre on leave from the military, or even teachers (less and less of those anymore). They usually start right away identifying their directors and building the theme and program overview. They interview. And interview some more. Many weekends, many evenings. About January/February they start advertising for general staff members. And interview many more. Recruiting guys they know, former staffers, former CITs. Slowly they start creating the staff, made up of many college and high school students. Many are unsure until the last minute if they can work. Many arent happy over their pay. Many are already busy kids with school and activities pulling them in many directions giving them serious grief about working at a Scout Camp and "sacrificing their college scholarship in their sport" or instead of "making real money flipping burgers." At this point they may have an idea where they are going to work, but not for certain yet.


In my past council area schools end in early June. Usually theres a week off, then Ordeal to set up much of the tents and camp. Then the staff week starts that Sunday and they have a week to get camp all set up - all their programs, skits, final assignments, training, and so forth all done. Oh yeah also fit in that schedule they have to become EXPERTS in the merit badge they have to teach that they may not even have themselves. Maybe, just maybe, some old timer shows up to teach them the merit badge he is to teach. Maybe he has once or twice to go through the requirements he is expected to become an instant expert. In a few short days he'll be in front of bunch of eager Scouts begging for his attention. Maybe he can do all this before the old timer needs to head home.


I cant speak for other camps, as Ive only ever gone to my home councils camp. But Ive watched and participated pretty intimately how ours goes for many years, close friends to some of the PD & CD and camp staff alumni. Ive had my own son and many from my troop, jamboree, and lodge work on staff. Of all ages. My sons first year on staff he was 15 and he taught Basketry MB, one he didnt have. He did a great job on it and I heard much feedback of how well he handled it through the summer.


Are you going to get good MB counselors at camp? Of course, and you are also going to get some less than that. There was a specific incident one year that caused most of a very popular program area staff to be fired mid week. Think that didnt have a significant impact on everyone in camp the next morning with significant shuffling to cover the shortages? We have an annual exodus from staff for the last couple weeks for bandcamp. Staff members get burned out, tired, quit, and get fired. They are up many evenings reviewing the events of the day, practicing skits and songs, participating in silent fire & campwide emergency drills, being drafted to help out in the kitchen or water front. It is hot and sunny during the day, and they get little sleep at night. Emotions are short. Things happen, things go wrong. They are youth. They are growing, too. Of course that doesnt mean you can overlook lacking quality of merit badges - you make adjustments and hope for the best.


Im not sure what the answer is either. Other than I like to pitch in to help make better what I can. You (we) can make a difference offer to help! Ive helped at the water front myself just as a gopher so the counselor could focus on the class. Ive seen many people help out in many program areas to assist the counselor and lighten the load a bit. Maybe you all have, I dont know, but maybe instead of us looking at summer camp as consumers and demanding our Scouts get their moneys worth of quality merit badges, maybe we find a way to pitch in to make it better for our own Scouts and others along the way.


But I had a vested interest in that camp, it was my home camp. Those of you that travel each year looking for variety and best bang for your buck are just there one time and you make your opinions based upon that one week, maybe even just a few minute snap shot of a class. I get that. I guess I look at it over the long haul and how much my guys have benefitted overall from our program, the good and the bad. I still think the good outweighs the bad where we go and thats why we continue to go back.

(This message has been edited by jtswestark)

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So you agree that expediency is one of the values.


Let's put it on the sign over the entrance to camp: "Scouting - the good outweighs the bad." There's a battle cry.


I have hoped for more.


And it's not the staff creating mills. It's councils.

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First of all if enough units threaten to boycott the camp you bet you will get council to listen. Second camp is not about or ever was supposed to be about solely earning MB's. As far as MB counselors are concerned a staff of 17-19 year olds are really not qualified are they. However dumbing down and fudging the requirements so a boy can complete 5-10 MB's in one week is just plain unethical and dishonest. There are some simple MB's the boys can do at camp, but to run it as a MB mill where unqualified teens are signing off other teens on multiple merit badges is just wrong.


Maybe if the camps were running a decent and complete program the camp MB Mill would become a thing of the past. The truth is it is cheaper for council to run a MB mill at summer camp then to develop the camp facilities to offer a wide variety of activities for the boys to experience, such as a Cope course, rapelling, pioneering, etc.(This message has been edited by BadenP)

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I dont understand what you mean by expediency is a value. Theres only so many hours, so many dollars, so many resources to do so much and to some its still not enough. I cant go along with that perspective. Boys are constantly growing through the process every year, every week, as ugly as it may be.


If you want perfection, youre not going to find it. Dont like it, dont participate. Roll your own camp, many units do that every year. Or keep looking for that perfect camp that is going to meet every expectation you want met. Good luck.


Well, the trend seems to be councils are shutting down their camps so this may resolve your complaints anyhow.


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When I was younger and had fewer years of Boy Scout leadership under my belt, I used to "rage against the machine" far more than I do now, and one of my pet peeves was summer camp. I don't like the advancement-based (as opposed to an outdoor skills and outdoor adventure-based) nature of the typical summer camp program, and I don't like it that the advancement program was often poorly executed.


Now I'm much more cynical, or perhaps just old and tired; but the wall we beat our heads against consists of this: (1) These days, most Scouts, most parents, and most Scout leaders want their Scouts coming home from summer camp with lots of merit badges and advancement requirements checked off -- that is the prime reason for going to summer camp. (2) Most Scouts, most parents, and most Scout leaders don't really care about the quality of the instruction or the experience provided in merit badge "classes." Only a small fraction of Scout leaders -- those who have really thought about the program (you know, the kind who join discussion forums) even know what to look for. (3) Most of the camp leadership and staff, most of the time, are doing the best that they can under the conditions: no money, staff with almost no subject-matter experience, too many Scouts to teach, terrible facilities (picnic tables outdoors in the heat and/or rain) for the classroom-type instruction that has become standard in BSA). If you can't fault the camp staff, all you have left is the Council Advancement Committee bureaucracy, who couldn't really do much anyway because (4) The summer camp season is too short, the summer camp leaders and staff too transitory, and the ten-month time gap between summer camp seasons far too long to build any momentum for improvement year-to-year. The camp has what it has at the beginning of the summer, and that's it. The camp leadership has just a matter of days to train staff. You can expect a certain minimum performance, but beyond that it is a crap shoot.


So what is one to do?


Being old, tired, and cynical, I would say: Stop taking the earning of merit badges at summer camp seriously. The skills that Scouts really need to learn are learned through expert/experienced instruction, actual practice over time, and real experience -- and those things are rarely provided at summer camp. Most merit badges offered at camp, if they aren't fluff, are just "dipping the toe in the water" for a particular subject anyway, and any real knowledge or skill acquired is likely to fade quickly after camp unless the troop offers regular opportunities to practice or the Scout is interested enough to pursue the subject further on his own, and thus acquire knowledge and skill _for real_. In short, very little serious learning is going to happen via merit badge instruction at summer camp anyway; and besides, by offering merit badges in this venue, BSA is telling us clearly the level of importance it gives to them.


In short, accept the summer camp merit badge program for what it is, take advantage of the _other_ opportunities that summer camp offers where you can do something _real_ (hiking, patrol cohesion, cooking in non-dining hall camps, free time in program areas like shooting, archery and canoeing to actually practice, sitting around a troop campfire, doing patrol chores, etc.) and watch out for the Scouts who seem to be taking a shine to a particular merit badge subject so you can help them pursue that interest _after_ summer camp.

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