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Eman

Are merit badges being watered down?

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From what I've seen in our council lately and read on this board it seems that ranks and merit badges are losing their meaning. Between summer camp and merit badge universities it appears as if we are awarding badges simply to "just get the badge". I was part of a Scoutmaster conference for a boy working on his Eagle project, he's 17. He had just completed Citizenship in the Nation at our councils merit badge U. In the course of questioning I asked him how many Senators there were from our state and who they were. Needless to say he had no clue. I then asked him at the next 2 meetings and he still did not know the answer. I see merit badge requirement sheets returned from MBU and summer camp that show the requirements as completed yet the scout does not know the material. When I bring this up and try to make the scout "earn" the badge or rank the parents get upset. Why have we become an organization in a society that is more interested in the quantity than the quality?

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I think we can look at 2 primary reasons that you feel the way you do Eman.

 

1. Is the quality of some merit badge instruction.

 

2. the over-emphasis of the Eagle rank by Scoutmasters.

 

 

First the Merit Badge instruction.

To mant merit badge instruction such as local Merit Badge Days stress getting the entire merit badge in 90-minutes or less. The support a process of minimal instruction and group knowledge testing. Neither of which are in keeping with BSA advancement principles. I put summer camp in the same category with many of the MB earned there. Swimming , Rifle and Shotgun, Canoing, all do a good job of individual testing, however many of the other MBs, such as First-aid, dol group testing. I know that this varies from camp to camp, but it is necessary for adult leaders to touch bases with their Scouts MB classes to make sure a quality job is done.

 

Also on this topic, the first step in working o a MB is for the scout to see the scoutmaster for a bluecard. It is the scoutmaster's responsibility to send this scout to a competent and qualified counselor. If they keep getting back scouts who don't know the topic but have a signed blue card the SMs have no one to blame but themselves. Quit sending boys to poor quality counselors.

 

On the second topic. There is one advancement goal in scouting set by the BSA and it is First Class/First Year. The Eagle Scout rank is an individual accomplishment by the scout, yet how many conversations have you heard where a troop is grading itself by the number of Eagles it had last year or the number it is going to have this year.

 

TOO MANY leaders see Eagle scout as the aim of scouting rather than Character Development, Citizenship, Mental and Physical Fitness. You can leave scouting with all these characteristics and not have achieved Eagle Scout.

 

We need to help these boys pace themselves. The first year should be spent earning First Class-no MB required. Keep the first summer camp workload of MBs light, let the boys have a good time swimming, shooting, boating, and meeting new friends.

 

Control the quality of MB intruction. Avoid group testing, bad counselors, and poorly run MB Colleges. Use troop meeting activities to introduce MBs not as MB clinics.

 

The MB is designed as an individual process for each scout.

 

My .02

 

 

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You talk about merit badge instruction. Merit badge counselors are supposed to be just that not instructors. Merit badges were designed for the boy to somewhat do on his own and use the counselor when he ran in to a problem or when he finished his requirements and the counselor review them. Many troops "teach" merit badges at the meetings and I've seen boys get the badge just by being there. I've seen some boys get the badge without even being at all the meetings covering the badge. Many of these are the hard ones meaning Eagle required like citizenship, personal management and family life.

Generally there is no problem when merit badges are done according to the book as you state using the blue card and a qualified counselor. But I see very few merit badges being done this way and more being done through MBU and camp. If not for Eagle Bound programs at camp I believe more boys would stall at 2nd. class instead of Life. When they get that Life rank their parents just assume they will get Eagle. I have had one mother say to me if her boy doesn't get his Eagle he wasted all those years in Scouts! Much of this mentality and the push for MBU's and merit and rank advancement at camp comes from council and districts "counting Eagles".

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"To the fullest extent possible, the merit badge badge counselor relationship is a counselor-scout arrangement in which the boy is not only judged on his performance of the requirements, burecieves maimum benefit from the knowledge, skill, characterr and personal interest of his counselor" the Advancement Committee Policies and Procedures manual.

 

The Counselor has a two part job, to guide and instruct, and to evaluate. All scouting advancement is based on 4-steps; the scout learns, the scout is tested, the scout is reviewed, the scout is recognized.

 

In the merit badge process the MB counselor is reponsible for teaching and testing.

 

Bob

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Camps are in the same boat. As much as we try to even the playing field, it is difficult to make sure that everyone knows the material when you have twenty Scouts to counsel, or even ten. I've tried written tests, but that has seemed too much like school, something I try desperately to avoid in ecology merit badges. Sadly, there is not enough time in the day to individually test each Scout on the information.

 

Kind of a bad situation from the start, with too many Scouts per week, Scouters who will sign off on everyhing for their boys, and too few counselors.

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It seems that in my council there are too few merit badge counselors?

How can the council solve that? Do other councils recruit? Do troops recruit?

 

I'm teaching at an upcoming MBU. The boys take ONE class all day -- total of about 6 hours. Do I set aside the last part of the afternoon to talk to each scout individually? What do I have the others do in the mean time?

Am I expecting to much to believe they can quietly behave themselves?

 

In my experience in the business world and in Cub Scouts, I have seen that most adults do not have the confidence to teach. Many people are terrified of speaking in front of 20 people, even 20 kids. I had many parents tell me they could not teach anything to the Webelos, so you can bet they will not even think of teaching to the older boys.

 

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Many times when I deal with scouts I try to put myself in their situation. If being a scout meant going to a class for 6 hours on a Sat. I believe you could count me out. That is just one of the problems I see with MBUs. Summer camp has also turned into a classroom when they offer many of these merit badges. I heard they were offering citizenship badges at camp this year. I know if I was 14 I'd really get excited about that.

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