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CalicoPenn

Do We Really Need Eagle Required Merit Badges?

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One Scoutmaster of mine commented that there are a lot of Eagle Scouts out there who, if dropped in the woods in the middle of nowhere, would die of starvation and exposure. He thought this was a sad state of affairs and that there was no excuse for it.

 

Well, there are some, but most that I know are pretty proficient in their outdoorsmanship. Not Les Stroud proficient, but enough that they could keep themselves alive long enough for rescue. 

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Like this one. Broke just about every rule we teach first year Scouts.

 

can't say I "liked" the story... but I think i know what you meant.

it is very tragic for sure.

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One Scoutmaster of mine commented that there are a lot of Eagle Scouts out there who, if dropped in the woods in the middle of nowhere, would die of starvation and exposure. He thought this was a sad state of affairs and that there was no excuse for it.

 

Let's look at the required merit badges for Eagle Scout:

 

First Aid

Citizenship in the Community

Citizenship in the Nation

Citizenship in the World

Communication

Cooking

Personal Fitness

Emergency Preparedness or Lifesaving

Environmental Science or Sustainability

Personal Management

Swimming or Hiking or Cycling

Camping

Family Life

 

Out of all of those merit badges, how many prepare Scouts with outdoor skills?  My answer?  One - Camping.  Cooking does have some outdoor cooking involved but it also has indoor cooking involved as well.  Hiking is really more about fitness than surviving in the outdoors.

 

The sad state of affairs isn't that those Eagle Scouts that would die of starvation in the woods are Eagle Scouts - the sad state of affairs is that if those Eagle Scouts were so poorly served by their unit's delivery of the program, then so are/were all of that units First Class, Star and Life Scouts.  The way Scouting is structured, the bulk of the outdoor skills learning is done by the time a Scout reaches First Class.  If the Eagle Scout would have difficulty in the woods, it's either because he never learned his stuff before becoming First Class or his unit doesn't provide enough opportunities to continue to practice and learn. 

 

So, since I started this with a question of do we need required merit badges, and we're now 3 pages in, I'm going to change the question up so...

 

If it's a given that Scouter's and perhaps the Public's perception of the Eagle Scout rank is that an Eagle Scout should be able to be dropped in the woods and essentially shrug it off as barely a challenge, within in the listing of required merit badges, what badges would you take out and what badges might you replace them with?

 

I'd eliminate all of them except for Camping, Cooking, First Aid and Citizenship in the Community (since the consensus seems to be that we need at least one Citizenship - and since all politics is local and we should think globally act locally, and since at some point in most peoples schooling they'll be discussing in much more detail the things in Citizenship in the Nation, and will be fairly well exposed to Citizenship in the World concepts, we don't really need to repeat those).

 

I'd add Wilderness Survival, Orienteering and Weather.  The rest is just filler.

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can't say I "liked" the story... but I think i know what you meant.

it is very tragic for sure.

Like = As in this story. Not "Do you like this story".

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If it's a given that Scouter's and perhaps the Public's perception of the Eagle Scout rank is that an Eagle Scout should be able to be dropped in the woods and essentially shrug it off as barely a challenge, within in the listing of required merit badges, what badges would you take out and what badges might you replace them with?

 

 

  • First Aid
  • Wilderness Survival
  • Camping
  • Weather
  • Swimming/Lifesaving
  • Orienteering
  • Pioneering
  • Climbing/Hiking
  • EPrep
  • Plant Science/Gardening (Have to grow food if you're lost)
  • SAR
Edited by Mozartbrau

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I'd venture a guess that a very high percentage of  eagle scouts (and even lower ranks) are very well prepared for plop camping or tailgate camping....

  • Upvote 1

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I can say with great confidence that discovering for the first time the term 'plop camping' was just wonderful. Thanks.

 

My MB picks for Eagle required:

camping

first aid

cooking

wilderness survival (beefed up quite a bit)

personal fitness

pioneering

swimming/cycling/hiking.

 

I would break the others into functional groups and require two from each with the remainder as 'electives'. 

If they combined all three citizenship badges into a single citizenship badge it wouldn't hurt my feelings.

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Are we arguing for changing the objectives of Scouting to add something about achieving outdoor skills?

 

 

Wilderness Survival Merit Badge was once about being able to survive for some time in the woods.  The information given was not in depth.

 

That objective went away generations ago in favor of "modern survival."  The current MB does not even approach that limited topic well.

 

It ought to at least be about dealing with crisis.  But the preent version, like the original, does not do that well.

 

Hanlon's Razor cuts again.

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I have been camping since I was 4 years old, I'm not 64.  Unfortunately I can say I knew more about camping/outdoor skills when I STARTED scouts than a lot of Eagle Scouts know.

 

I took over a troop and there were two boys Life working on Eagle.  I asked one of them to start a fire so the Grubmaster could start some breakfast charcoal.  (I hadn't worked the troop into full Boy Led yet.  Needless to say, the boy couldn't get a fire started.  The Grubmaster couldn't cook either.  and these were all scouts 14+ years old.  It was really kinda sad.

 

My wife knows a lot of woods skills and I asked her if she was ever a Girl Scout.  She said yes, a Daisy for one year.  I then asked her how she knew so much about outdoor skills.  1) She's a forester by training, 2) home schooled her kids, 3) camped at every opportunity, and hates her office job.  Over the years I have tented, trailered, and motorhomed in the woods.  Her kids bought her a new tent for Christmas last year.  Kayak the year before.....  

 

If kids today were to learn 10% of what my generation simply picked up along the way of life, our Paper Eagle designation would disappear.

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"If kids today were to learn 10% of what my generation simply picked up along the way of life, our Paper Eagle designation would disappear."

 

While I yearn for the days of much stronger outdoor program, a good many of the Merit Badge Mill MB's are not woods skill MB's.   The rot goes deeper than high-ranking Scouts with weak outdoor skills. 

 

As for fires, how many fires did your patrol routinely start in a day, Stosh?  At least 3-4, right?  Now add "chemical stoves," still strongly discouraged when I re-upped in 1981.  No practice any more.

 

And I too have my paper Eagle horror stories, but they add nothing to those already told.  

 

On the other hand, an Eagle from my old troop organized over 6500 university students in the aftermath of 9/11 to supply food, drink, and wet towels to those at Ground Zero. I was very pleased but hardly surprised. Pat was one of the "real" Eagles, and you saw it coming when he was 11.  "Only" 23 MB's because he was busy leading and busy at school (two Phd's now).

 

It really would not take much.  Real outdoor program training for adults and leaders (Scouts).  Enforce the MB rules by making loss of certification the cost of the routine cheating that goes on.  And absent corporate action, we can approximate those two national actions by organizing the training and by boycotting MB Mill camps, as my current troop is doing this year after three years of millery.

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What about backpacking?  I think that backpacking is an essential outdoor skill for a Boy Scout.  

 

My list:

 

Camping

Backpacking

Citizenship Everywhere

Cooking (removing the cooking requirements in Camping and Backpacking)

First Aid

Wilderness Survival

Emergency Preparedness

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I took over a troop and there were two boys Life working on Eagle.  I asked one of them to start a fire so the Grubmaster could start some breakfast charcoal.  (I hadn't worked the troop into full Boy Led yet.  Needless to say, the boy couldn't get a fire started.  The Grubmaster couldn't cook either.  and these were all scouts 14+ years old.  It was really kinda sad.

 

That I don't understand.  The first two things any scout learns in our Troop is how to handle a knife and how to start a fire.  On our winter campout, we had contests to see who could start a fire in 18 inches of snow using wood they could find around the campout.  In 5 minutes the boys had  nice fires going that they were able to maintain.

 

At this weeks meeting, in response to the announcement that we will be doing an orienteering course, a recent crossover said, "I don't know how to use a map and compass."  The PL responded, "don't worry, we'll teach you."

 

We had a backpacking trip scheduled in March (which was turned into a shakedown hike because the temperature was supposed to drop down to 13 degrees at night).  We had more scouts who had never been backing before ready to go on that trip than experienced scouts.

 

The bottom line is that most boys want to go outside and play and get dirty.  As I told the boys coming back from the shakedown hike, "Tell your parents that I said that Boy Scouts is the one activity that you can come home covered in mud and your parents have to say 'good job.'"  Build an strong outdoor program and they will come.

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I just can't imagine the importance of what kids are up to today.  Yes, computer skills for a few, mostly entertainment gaming by oneself or online with another person socially isolated from the world.

 

I always looked forward to summer because I could be with my buddies for a change.  Every weekend my family went camping from first thaw through first snowfall.  Finally when school was out, my parents would go to work and that left weekdays for fun.  Biking, hiking, swimming, fishing, sports, you name it, we got into it.  I knew every square inch of back country within 5 miles of town.  I knew all the fishing holes that produce the best fish and parks and rec had swim lessons which I took from blowing bubbles in the shallow end of the pool to life-saving certification.  

 

Sure we did our stint in front of the TV, but not too close, either you were going to go blind or sterile, can't remember which.

 

But we also had a monopoly game going at all times, most of the guys played chess, someone had sand lot ball going somewhere in the neighborhood.  That was besides the Little League going on too.

 

Parks and rec actually had crafts that one could make lanyards having been instructed in large and small, square and round braiding. 

 

Winter?  Pot belly stoves with the smell of burning wool as the kids cooked their wet mittens.  Ice skating with no hockey taking up all the ice.  The sledding hill and toboggan run were always busy. 

 

As I look back over the years, with the exception of TV, NOTHING HAD A BATTERY AND NOTHING NEEDED TO BE PLUGGED IN.  And yes, the light bulb had been invented many years prior to that and every home had electricity, running water and furnace.  Our house had converted over to oil from coal a few years before I was born.  I do remember going down into the basement at the grocery store and shovel coal over to the auger when the bin got low.  That was the late '60's.  (I take that back, when I was very young, I remember many outhouses still in use and because my grandpa was the owner of the hardware store, we did have indoor plumbing.  The main bathroom upstairs did not have hot water in the tub.  We had to fill a big canning kettle with hot water and dump into the tub to get a hot bath.  I was in college before I saw my first flushy in a campground and that was at a Canadian provincial park.  

 

Outdoor skills?  It wasn't that we were taught, it was we didn't have an option.

 

Maybe it wasn't as "interesting" as all the flash and excitement of computer games, but those skills still come in handy yet today.

 

Built a green house today with raised beds for growing a garden.  Got a book on year-round gardening that can be done as far north as southern Canada.  Neighbor saw the activity and come over to chat, offered to let me borrow his rototiller.  Said I didn't need one, I do organic, no-till farming and what dirt I do need "turned over" I do with a shovel, easier to handle and has less moving parts.  Been turning over gardens as a part time job back before I was in Scouts.... A Scout is Thrifty.  Didn't have a mom and dad who could afford to buy me scout equipment, so I had to earn my own money to be involved in scouting.  Full uniform for both Cub and Boy Scouts.

 

Not bad for a non-Eagle scout that earned one MB (Stamp Collecting) which is the one thing I no longer am involved with.  :)

 

I held life-saving certificate, but never got the swimming or life-saving MB.  My troop really was an embarrassment.  Scouting was nowhere near the high point of my outdoor adventures when I was a kid.

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I often think of myself sort of an in-betweener.... at almost 49years old I have been exposed to many of the things your write about Stosh, but i can't say that I lived them.  I'm a suburbs boy.  My parents were both from poor farming families.  Mom was born in a log cabin.  Both clearly remember when they 1st got electricity and indoor plumbing.  I have used outhouses, and have experienced farm living when visiting grandparents.

My dad raised me hunting and fishing and boating and camping.  I was free to roam the neighborhood with my friends.  Mom knew generally where I was, but not really.  I had many of the freedoms my parents did, but not all.

Sadly, my kids know none of that freedom... with the exception of camping and boating.  They do get some opportunity to roam the woods a bit, but not as freely as even i did....

 

But, back to the discussion of Eagle requirements.... and the discussion to focus on outdoors skills

This thread makes me ask, is outdoor skills really the point of scouting?

ultimately, what is Scouting's goal in teaching the boys?

outdoor survival skills?

leadership?

citizenship?

to tie knots?

exposure to hobbies and career choices?

character?

 

Looking at the scout law and the scout oath, I see no mention of a good scout being required to be a good outdoorsman at all.  Why is it that most folks think a good scout knows outdoor survival skills?

I have to admit, the chance to get outdoors and practice or learn wilderness survival skills is what I enjoy about being a scouter... and it's what makes me want to encourage my son to do it.... It's a way for me to expose him to these things....

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I often think of myself sort of an in-betweener.... at almost 49years old I have been exposed to many of the things your write about Stosh, but i can't say that I lived them.  I'm a suburbs boy.  My parents were both from poor farming families.  Mom was born in a log cabin.  Both clearly remember when they 1st got electricity and indoor plumbing.  I have used outhouses, and have experienced farm living when visiting grandparents.

My dad raised me hunting and fishing and boating and camping.  I was free to roam the neighborhood with my friends.  Mom knew generally where I was, but not really.  I had many of the freedoms my parents did, but not all.

Sadly, my kids know none of that freedom... with the exception of camping and boating.  They do get some opportunity to roam the woods a bit, but not as freely as even i did....

 

But, back to the discussion of Eagle requirements.... and the discussion to focus on outdoors skills

This thread makes me ask, is outdoor skills really the point of scouting?

ultimately, what is Scouting's goal in teaching the boys?

outdoor survival skills?

leadership?

citizenship?

to tie knots?

exposure to hobbies and career choices?

character?

 

Looking at the scout law and the scout oath, I see no mention of a good scout being required to be a good outdoorsman at all.  Why is it that most folks think a good scout knows outdoor survival skills?

I have to admit, the chance to get outdoors and practice or learn wilderness survival skills is what I enjoy about being a scouter... and it's what makes me want to encourage my son to do it.... It's a way for me to expose him to these things....

 

 Doesn't say anywhere in the Oath and Law that the scout has to be male either......  If one wishes to define the program. Start out with Lord Baden-Powell, his military background, and the definition of a scout.  At least you'll have a handle on the initial intent of the goal he was working towards.

 

Most of what we have today is a variance of that original ideal.

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