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CalicoPenn

Do We Really Need Eagle Required Merit Badges?

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In another thread, a Scouter and parent mentions a perspective on merit badges and summer camps that we've all likely become familiar with, and one in which Councils have responded to with gusto and that is that summer camp is seen to be less productive if a Scout hasn't earned some Eagle-required Merit Badges at camp and that got me to thinking.  Is there a reason we need "required" merit badges for Eagle Scout rank?  Wouldn't the Scouts be better served by the program if there wasn't a pressure to earn certain specific merit badges?

 

Consider this Swiftian proposal:  Drop the required merit badges to two - that's right, two - First Aid and Camping - and I only added Camping as a second required merit badge because we are the Boy Scouts of America and American's expect Boy Scouts to be able to camp.  That's part one.  Part two is to take all the rest of the merit badges and lump them into like categories - for example, all the nature merit badges in the category Nature, all the sports merit badges in the category Athletics, all the arts and crafts merit badges in the category Arts and Crafts. 

 

I would propose the categories be:  Athletics, Academics, Outdoor Sports (shooting sports, fishing, climbing), Nature and Environment, Society (your citizenships, etc.), Outdoor and Scouting Skills (hiking, backpacking, etc.) Water Activities, History and Culture, Arts and Crafts, Labor and Trade, Professions and Commerce, Agriculture and Animals (which would take in pets, vet science, horsemanship), Health and Safety, Games and Hobbies, Transportation, Science and Technology and Bugling (cause I just can't figure a place for it in the rest of the list - ok, maybe Scouting Skills)  That is 16 categories.     Once that's done,  the next requirement would be to earn 2 merit badges each from 6 of the categories (Scout's Choice) and 1 each from the other 10 categories.  With the two required, that's 24 merit badges - all but two the Scout's choice - and I think it leads to a more well-rounded Scout. 

 

For those that can't fathom giving Scouts that much freedom to make their own choices, I might allow that we can name the 6 categories that 2 merit badges be earned from - and my suggestions, if we were to go that way, would be Nature and Environment, Outdoor and Scouting Skills, Water Activities, Health and Safety, Society and Science and Technology.

 

So my modest proposal - any thoughts?

 

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Interesting concept.  It gives the boys some choice in what they want to do, what a concept! ;)    I might take you up on picking one of the categories that they have to have two in and that would be Society as I think it is one of our major duties as leaders is to help our boys learn good citizenship.

 

I think by doing this you might have boys that dread the MB portion of scouting less than they currently do.

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It's the same in college. I often hear faculty and administrators alike expressing the wish that a degree was merely earned as a certain number of credit hours and that students could fill those credits with any courses they wanted to. Nearly everyone agrees that without that structure the degree would be far more useful and meaningful than it is...and that there is no one in a better position to judge what courses ought to be taken than the students who haven't taken them. 

 

NOT

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We aren't talking about college degrees which are designed to make students ready to engage in specific fields of endeavor.  We're talking about merit badges for middle and high school students which are, at their core, an exploration of various topics and activities.  No one completing Chemistry Merit Badge is qualified to call themselves a chemist - but someone taking Chemistry merit badge just might find themselves interested enough in chemistry to decide to study it in college. 

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Yeah, my kid wasn't thrilled with some of the electives.. But I as a parent saw it as a great educational tool for my son.. I guess I am not someone who saw Scouting as just for "fun", but if you were a kid just wanting fun, you could do so and not work to get your Eagle..

 

I kind of look as it as preparation and training for college and jobs..  Having electives and required (and some required is a choice of doing 1 of 3 again just like college).. Life will not ever be going along only doing what you want.. Also talking to adults as counselors prepared him to talk to school councilors and professors. And if your troop does it right them enforcing that the parents do nothing for the scout, (like talk to the counselors for them, and not have all the MB done by only one or two counselors which would limit the scouts interactions with a lot of different adults..

 

If you scout doesn't plan on going to college it is still good for them going off in the working world.. Rarely do you get a job where you only need do what you want to do, and interacting with different managers and co-workers is needed to get ahead..

 

Also some scouts given the opportunity would pick the easiest merit badges that could be knocked out in a few hours..  I am sure with Packsaddle's students if they could take anything in order to get their credits to graduate.. It is very easy to just pick the simplest easy courses, but that doesn't prepare you for getting out in the real world and doing the job.

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I'm going to go with packsaddle on this one.  Yes, there are certain requirements that one has to do to qualify for a major and minor in college.  But on the other hand there are some basic core requirements that ALL students needed to take to get a degree.  All took  a couple of semesters of English, history, biology, maybe a couple more sciences, foreign language, a couple of appreciation classes, a little phy ed, sociology and maybe psychology and of course my favorite Math.  

 

These were designed to give one a basic understanding separate from their chosen field to major/minor in.

 

BP says a scout should be prepared.  I'm thinking T-FC gives some of the basic instructions that all scouts should have, but if one is going to major (Eagle) then there should be a core of information that goes along with that.  Otherwise a Liberal Arts degree is just fine (T-FC)

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With MB colleges popping up everywhere you'd see the Eagle rate jump to 20% if we didn't have required MBs.

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I still like the old ranking of a solid FC and forget the rest of the fluff because that's all it is.

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It's the same in college. I often hear faculty and administrators alike expressing the wish that a degree was merely earned as a certain number of credit hours and that students could fill those credits with any courses they wanted to. Nearly everyone agrees that without that structure the degree would be far more useful and meaningful than it is...and that there is no one in a better position to judge what courses ought to be taken than the students who haven't taken them. 

 

NOT

 

:cool: I'd love a college like that. I think most schools required 128-130 hours to graduate last time I checked (which was a while back). I have 140 hours but am no where near graduating in anything.

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... but someone taking Chemistry merit badge just might find themselves interested enough in chemistry to decide to study it in college. ...

 

"interested" ... that's the issue.  Excited scouts start merit badges only to have WAY WAY WAY less interest after the merit badge.  Shoddy, dry, power-point, hands-off merit badges kill interest.  Then badges that are redundant with school and where the schools deal with the topic much more thoroughly and professionally.  

 

Scouts know when something is junk.  Then, to get a merit badge for it?  It creates jaded scouts and tarnishes the image of scouts.

 

Giving the scouts choices may be good, but start at the heart of the issue.  Merit badge counselors have no guidance how to teach.  

 

Revise the program by creating expectations for merit badge counselors

  • Guidelines
    • Hands-on and physical demonstrations.  Avoid power point presentations.  
    • Personal learning experience.  Participatory and interactive.  Avoid class room lectures.  
    • Actively learning instead of passive learning.
    • Requirements completed as part of learning.  Avoid an after-the-fact review or test.
  • Rules
    • No worksheets.  Scouting is not school.

Scouts is about doing things.  Merit badges should be that way too.

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Mgood777, I don't know of a single brick-and-mortar institution that does not have significant, sometimes rigid, structure to their degree programs. There is usually some level of 'elective' involvement but as someone else mentioned, there is often a 'core' of instruction that nearly all students must complete successfully.

 

[Advising rant deleted]

Edit: Just realized that you're over 40 years old (based on your other post) so you're way beyond these students, certainly beyond (for example) my recent meeting with a student and his mom...they both left with a whole different outlook on things - his was about personal responsibility, hers was about FERPA. I wish you the best of success.

Edited by packsaddle

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[Advising rant deleted]

Edit: Just realized that you're over 40 years old (based on your other post) so you're way beyond these students, certainly beyond (for example) my recent meeting with a student and his mom...they both left with a whole different outlook on things - his was about personal responsibility, hers was about FERPA. I wish you the best of success.

Ah, Helicopter Parents!

 

I've had three in the last six years. Two of the boys are Eagle but can't lead a Webelos Den. The third may make Eagle but won't have learned a thing. Despite meeting after meeting over the last five years, none of these moms have backed off. They coordinate which MBs the kids take, what camp outs they go on, etc. Even had one attend TWO Scoutmaster conferences. The other two sat in on MB sessions because th thought the MBC was being too strict (she wasn't! she was just making them work). BTW, none of these kids are special needs. Ironically we have a group of special needs scouts (attend a local school together) and their parents have never attended their SMC....go figure.

 

Sadly, none of these helicopter scouts are worth a darn. They know some stuff but can't lead, plan or execute. Wasted five years in scouts. We've tried to shoot those Blackhawks down but they keep coming back. They've done a total disservice to their kids.

Edited by Mozartbrau
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Heh, heh, send them on to me. Here's how the conversation went. 

I only have one chair in my broom closet...oops, I mean my office. When they walked through the door my first question was, "Which one of you is the student?". When the student identified himself, I asked him, "Why is SHE here?" By that time she had already seated herself and he was leaning against the door frame (no room elsewhere in the office). At that question she had a shocked look on her face and she apologetically explained that she was just making sure that her son understood everything. 

I looked at him again and responded to him, "You did notice, didn't you, that I asked YOU that question and not her, right?" He was looking a little shocked too, and she was about to protest when I turned to her and asked, "Do I have permission to be just a little stern with your son?" I guess she wasn't expecting that one so she nodded slowly.

I told him, "You're over 18." "It's time to cut the umbilical cord." "You are now responsible for your own life and you need to seize that responsibility."

I turned to her, "Do you know what FERPA is?" shaking her head silently. "It means that it is illegal for me to discuss this student's status or record in your presence, without his written consent...which I do not have." "Being the parent does not alter this." "Please wait outside while I meet with your son."

She slinked into the hallway and as he took the nice warm seat, I closed the door and then we had an advising meeting. 

The young man has since taken an active role in his plans. He's asking the right questions and I think he'll do fine. Perhaps in time, Mom will also realize the favor I did them.

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