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Merit Badge Class . My Thoughts

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I just finished running my first merit badge class.

 

It started last Saturday at our district camporee.  I had 45 minutes to work with groups of about 25 on a couple of requirements for the radio merit badge and ended yesterday with Jamboree on the Air activities which included covering more requirements and those who addended both and did requirement 8 as homework (research a career) the would leave with a signed blue card.

 

1. Blue cards: Why does the concept of the blue card seem so difficult for scouts?  I ran into this at the National Jamboree too, so many scouts really did not know how to fill them out.  Also, one troop had their own blue card form, that was weird.  I learned why many counselors at merit badge classes clearly state that the cards should be filled out completely and numbered, because when you have a large stack of cards, it starts to chew up real time filling out cards for scouts. 

 

2. Big event classes.  At the National Jamboree, scouts knew they were giving up 1/2 of their program day to take the merit badge, so they were generally interested in at least earning the badge, if not the subject matter too.  At our camporee, over 200 scouts rotated through the station.  Most of them were not interested and didn't want to be there, and that was not helpful to anybody.  

 

3. I'm getting a reputation, good or bad, as someone who won't let you attend the class and not participate and still get a sign off.  If the requirement says discuss or explain, each scout will discuss or explain.  Many of the scouts seemed perplexed by actually being expected to discuss or explain, as if it is the first time they have had to do this for a merit badge before, even some of the older ones that I know to be star and life scouts!  

 

4. I really enjoyed helping 13 scouts earn the radio merit badge though, and getting them on the air communicating.

 

 

 

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My thoughts are that there are fewer points:

 

1) Mass merit badge classes is a problem. Yes, it's easy to sign scouts up but many don't want to do the work (they didn't even really want to sign up, they were likely told to). So, the blue card issue, the fact that few want to do the MB, and your reputation are all related to this.

 

2) Some scouts really enjoyed it. That's the silver lining. By the way, not only do you have a bad reputation you likely also have a good reputation from those that enjoyed the class. I've had numerous scouts thank me for pushing them beyond their comfort zone. Nothing beyond the requirements, just do a good job.

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Two words to your camporee leadership: Never Again.

 

It's one thing to have all the scouts do a round robin, learn something about the badge, then come back to sign up for counseling to earn it. It's completely different to send scouts in without an inkling of if they care.

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I taught a badge at the last couple Council organized and executed U of Scouting events.  I always ask the boys (usually a class of around 20) before we start why are they there.  Some have a genuine interest in the topic.  Some are chasing a MB that isnt offered a lot or that they don't have.  some signed up late and this was all that was left.  and finally we get the my parent signed me up and sometimes that comes with the additional I don't want to be here.

 

I just run my badge and those that want to learn an earn do it enthusiastically.  Others just do it and then others just sit there and do nothing.  If you do the stuff I sign the card.  If not, good day to you.  I had one of those signed up their kid parents call me about completing the partial and what did she need to do to get the MB completed.  I told her I told her son what he needed to do and how to get ahold of me if he cared.  never heard from her again.

 

last time the ratio of kids who truly wanted to be there vs those who ended up there was just too far out of whack for me to sign up again.

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I don't mind merit badges being taught at district camporees.  I'd just like to see that there is something else for those not interested or who already have the badge.  Otherwise, attending the camporee becomes a statement of signing up for a merit badge course.  I know I had scouts not sign up because our troop did a campout near a facility that offered the badge.  It was a great opportunity and a great experience.  But it left the scouts two years later with no reason to attend.

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Scouts see groups classes as easy badges. We know we can hide and still walk with a mb. I have friends that turn in the sheets like homework and expect the badges. I went to two when I was a scout and swore never to go again.

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I have been using this very issue as part of my thesis for my Doctorate in Commissioner Sciences.

 

Promoting the “out†in Scouting.

Council Camps and Merit Badges. Have we forgot we’re outdoors?

Clive S. Choat

District Commissioner, Thunderbird District, Calcasieu Area Council

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DRAFT Copy for Comment

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Executive Summery

 

 

This thesis will look at the merit badge process, how it is being applied at council camps, and what we can do to both enhance the merit badge process, and the outdoor camp experience. Some of the things that I am proposing is the elimination of "teaching" merit badges that can be worked in a classroom setting (such as the three citizenship merit badges, family life, emergency preparedness...) and concentrate more on those things that a camp environment can offer (swimming, camping, sailing, rowing, canoeing, wilderness survival, pioneering...). I will also suggest ways that local councils through their districts can recruit and train merit badge councilors, thus delivering the promise of the Scouting program.

This thesis does not intend to bash these council run camps, because we are aware that they are trying to provide the best program they can, given their limited budgets and resources. It is our hope that it will help better serve or Scouts and point the way to possible solutions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Table of Contents

 

Defining the Issue

The Merit Badge Program

Restoring the Merit Badge Process in a Council

Suggestions for Improving the Camp Experience

Conclusion

Bibliography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Defining the Issue

Summer camp—Summer camp is what many Scouts enjoy most. Camp programs provide numerous opportunities for Scouts to earn merit badges along their advancement trail. Resident camp includes at least five nights and six days of fun outdoor activities.

― The Boy Scout Outdoor Program, BSA Website

It’s well known that the outdoor adventure is the promise made to boys when they join Scouting. As leaders, it is our responsibility to ensure that our Scouts get the type of program that that stirs their imagination and interests. It is in the outdoor environment that our scouts have the opportunity to obtain skills that will allow them to become more self-reliant. It is here they can explore activities such as hiking, canoeing, sailing, pioneering as well as complete challenges they may have thought to be beyond their ability. But is this the program we are giving them?

As a Commissioner, have you ever had a Scout leader come up to you and question the validity of a scout’s merit badge progress report from a summer or winter camp? Or a parent complaining that their Scout didn’t get all the badges he signed up for? It’s become normal for Scouts (and their parents) to measure success by how many merit badges they (or their son) earn, and are vocal if the scout comes back with partial completions or no badges at all. Given the cost of the camp, parents expect something tangible in return, else they feel that they have not got their monies worth. Some camps therefore, have over the years cultivated a reputation (whether deserved or not) of being “easyâ€, with requirements and completions.

Thus the ability to earn merit badges have become one of the primary reason why many Scout leaders choose one camp over another. A quick look at how the average council run summer/winter camp advertises itself based on how many different merit badges it offers, but not on the quality of its instruction or staff, or other programs that allow the scout to experience the outdoors. To meet these promises, many of these camps rely primarily on either youth staff members under the age of eighteen, or those adult unit leaders, attending camp with their troops and hastily recruited to teach a merit badge that they not only were not expecting to do or prepared for, but quite often not even familiar with the merit badge requirements or field. So although the promised “number of badges offered†is high, the quality of instruction is highly questionable.

During my research on this topic, I asked for comments on the Scouter IPS Community, a forum set up for Scout leaders to discuss various topics relating to Scouting. One comment struck me hard. “I am not paying $500 for my son to have a personal vacation. Right or wrong, I expect some kind of return on my investment. I would assume that many parents feel the same way and have not been told how merit badges work so that leads to disappointment and frustration.†(The $500 dollar price tag included transportation costs) So is the message we are sending about what the purpose of camp is wrong?

 

The Merit Badge Program

As Commissioners, let’s ask ourselves these questions. Do merit badges exist simply for the purpose of providing scouts the opportunity to learn skills? Is correctly utilizing the merit badge program important to a scout’s advancement? Can a large group of scouts really earn Eagle required merit badges in a classroom environment in three or four 50 minute sessions? Do Scouts benefit if they simply show up, do nothing and are awarded the badge? What merit badges should and should not be offered at council run summer and winter camps?

Before we explore each of these questions, let’s remember that as Commissioners, we are the guardians of the Scouting program. As such, one of our responsibilities is that we are charged to see that the program is being delivered as directed by the guidelines and policies set forth by the national headquarters. One of the keys to this program is Guide to Advancement which defines the merit badge program.

 

“Earning merit badges should be Scout initiated, Scout researched, and Scout learned. It should be hands-on and interactive, and should not be modeled after a typical school classroom setting. Instead, it is meant to be an active program so enticing to young men that they will want to take responsibility for their own full participation.â€

― 7.0.3.0. The Process of Counseling

 

The merit badge process was designed to give scouts the opportunity to get out into the community and meet with adults who in turn could mentor them on topics of interest to the boy. It is designed to give the Scout the confidence achieved through overcoming obstacles, improve their social skills and develop self-reliance. It allows the scout to explore fields of study and interest outside of the school classroom. The process starts with the scout showing an interest in a merit badge subject and discussing this with his Scoutmaster or designated assistant. The Scout is connected to a counselor, who has registered with the BSA and has demonstrated knowledges and experience in the field the badge covers. The merit badge counselor acts as a coach, assisting the Scout in completing the requirements to earn the badge. While merit badge counselors are permitted to guide and instruct a Scout on the subject matter, the Scout must do the work himself.

When one counselor works directly with one Scout and his buddy, or with a very small group, personal coaching and guidance can be achieved. This why the recommended best practice as stated in the national guidelines is the small-scale approach for merit badge instruction and requirement fulfillment. Large group instruction, while perhaps efficient, doesn’t provide the desired results when it comes to both learning and positive adult association that the merit badge program intends. This is why it is important that districts and councils should focus on providing trained, qualified merit badge counselors for as many subjects as possible, and made available to the Scouts.

Sadly, many scouts, instead of getting blue cards from their scoutmasters and seeking out merit badge councilors, are earning all or the bulk of their badges in a council sponsored camp environment. In doing so, we have allowed the merit badge process, and in turn, the advancement process to be watered down, and have turned our summer and winter camps into factories, with the main goal to have the boys earn as many merit badges as possible. This has led to a detrition of the merit badge program as quantity of badges offered takes priority over quality of instruction, and detracts from the outdoor experience.

 

 

 

“In Boy Scouting, advancement requirements must be passed as written. If, for example, a requirement uses words like "show," "demonstrate," or "discuss," then that is what Scouts must do. Filling out a worksheet, for example, would not suffice. “

― 4.2.0.1 Scouting Ranks and Advancement Age Requirements

 

Camp Directors will point out that 7.0.3.2 in the Guide to Advancement allows group Instruction. And while it may be true that BSA deems it to be acceptable, and that under certain circumstances even appropriate that merit badges be taught in group settings, every Scout in attendance must “actually and personally†have completed the requirements, as spelled out by the merit badge. If the requirement states that the Scout must “show,†“demonstrate,†or “discuss,†then every Scout must do that. The Guide goes even further, clearly stating that “It is unacceptable to award badges on the basis of sitting in classrooms watching demonstrations, or remaining silent during discussions.†(The Merit Badge Program, BSA National Website, 2017) And yet we find in many council camps, groups of 20 or more Scouts are taking Eagle required merit badges such as Citizenship in the Community, Nation or World.

The expectation that badges such as these can be completed and earned in a group that large over a short period of time (3 to 4 fifty minute classes) is stretching the bounds of possibility, considering the fact that if conducted to standard, of the eight requirements, each scout would have to “discuss†four requirements, “explain†one, “show†one and “tell†two. Yet somehow, scouts are returning home with completed Citizenship in the Nation merit badges. Adjustments, compromises and exceptions have had to have been made to allow every Scout to “complete†the requirements to earn the badge. Add to this mix, one counselor (who may or may not be underage, or inexperienced in the subject) can be found running several classes each day, and there is no way to know if a Scout actually actively participated, or just showed up.

National guidelines clearly spell out that “The same qualifications and rules for merit badge counselors apply to council summer camp merit badge programs. All merit badge counselors must be at least 18 years of age. Camp staff members under age 18 may assist with instruction but cannot serve in the role of the merit badge counselor.†(The Merit Badge Program, BSA National Website). This means that those staffers serving as merit badge counselors must be registered in Scouting, and both knowledgeable and qualified in the subject that they are hired to instruct to sign off on merit badges. It puts the onus on the Camp Director to certify that these standards are met, and that all badges were earned in compliance with the Guide to Advancement.

However, the Camp Director is limited by many factors, the most pressing of these is money. In order to keep costs within the limited budget set forth by the council, the Director is limited to just how many staffers he or she can hire, and how much they can offer to pay them. Coupled with a need to offer as many merit badges as possible, this means that hiring an all adult staff, qualified in the various badges offered is an unobtainable goal. Instead, the pot is spread by hiring youth members, and assigning them as merit badge councilors for several different badges. In addition, pleas are made for the adult leaders attending camp with their units to assist by teaching merit badge classes that the director could not fill.

 

 

 

Restoring the Merit Badge Process in a Council

So how do we fix these issues? I suggest a two pronged approach to this issue. First, restore the credibility of the merit badge program by requiring that Scouts complete the requirements as written, and second review the merit badges that a camp should be offering, tailoring them to accentuate the facilities the camp can offer, and in turn, returning them to providing a great outdoor experience.

To restore the credibility of the merit badge program, we must first look to recruit qualified merit badge councilors. While this may be the responsibility of the District or council advancement committees, (who are, by their nature, charged with the recruiting and training sufficient counselors in order to meet their unit’s needs) we as Commissioners must always be on the lookout for individuals that can serve.

An already present resource in the councils are their registered adult leaders. Scoutmasters and assistant scoutmasters should be encouraged to sign up as merit badge counselors, taking on one to three badges of subjects that they are both qualified and comfortable. Unit Commissioners should work with the Scoutmasters to identify other unit level leaders and parents, who might also be interested to serve. From both of these sources, a master list should then be compiled for Scoutmasters to refer to when a Scout is ready to pursue a merit badge.

District and Council Commissioners can network with those who belong to the same civic groups as they do, such as the American Legion, the Lion’s Club, Shriners, PTA, etc. By doing so, we can gather names of people who may be qualified to serve, and pass them along to the advancement committee for follow-up. In addition, we can help ensure that these individuals are fully supported by conducting both Youth Protection and the Merit Badge Counselor training.

 

 

Suggestions for Improving the Camp Experience

Camp. The word as defined by Webster’s is “a place usually in the country for recreation or instruction often during the summer, a program offering access to recreational or educational facilities for a limited period of time, such as a resort offering boating and hiking campsâ€. For the purpose of this paper, I will be breaking out the three types of camps currently run by the BSA, these being High Adventure, Traditional and Combination, but will concentrate on the Traditional.

At the pinnacle of Scouting’s camps lies the High Adventure Camp. (HAC) These camps offer specialized, unique scouting opportunities such as back country backpacking expeditions, sailing and scuba diving, wilderness canoe excursions, Philmont Scout Reservation, Florida National High Adventure Sea Base, Northern Tier and the Summit Scout Reserve are the best known of these, with Swamp Base in Louisiana and Sea Scout Base-Galveston two local examples.

A combination camp offers scout units the choice of either the traditional camp experience, or a specialized program. One such example of this would be the Sid Richardson Reservation, run by the Longhorn Council in Texas. This camp offers attending Scouts the choice to either participate in a traditional summer camp experience (earning merit badges) or in a series of high adventure activities that do not lead to merit badges, where the Scouts immerse themselves in various historical periods where the can experience life as a Texas Ranger, Civil War soldier, UFO hunter, and other fun activities.

This brings us to the Traditional Camp experience. When one thinks about the traditional view of a Boy Scout summer camp, the mind congers an image of a woody place with hiking, canoeing, and campfires. But today, many of our council camps have changed this view with a greater emphasis on offering as many merit badges as possible. This is largely to counter a trend in decreasing enrollment in summer camps, due to competition from other council camps as well as non-scouting venues.

But you say, “Don’t the Scouts want to earn merit badges?†Yes, in a sense they do, and because of this, the camp has become almost an extension of school. Instead of taking time to just relax and enjoy nature, our scouts are regimented into a schedule of six to eight periods of instruction of fifty minutes each with 10 minutes to move from class to class. Many of the badges offered are neither nature or outdoors related at all, and are all but impossible to complete in the allotted time, and the subjects being taught could have just as easily been done at the Scouts normal meeting places or in his community. While some camps take time off from this schedule to offer inter-camp activities, these are usually poorly attended by the units, as the boys tend to use this “free time†to do the things that they really want to do.

So what is a cash strapped Camp Director to do? First, take stock of what your camp has to really offer a Scout, in order to get the most out of his outdoor experience. The Scout is your customer. Your job is to give the customer good service and value for his money. A summer camp environment should allow the Scout to learn new outdoor skills in a safe and nurturing environment. What merit badges can you offer that a Scout that fits your camp environment? With the facilities you have? What special activities can you offer that will set your camp apart and make scouts want to return year after year? Is it more important to offer fewer Scouts a great experience, or cram in as many Scouts as possible, with multiple meal times and packed classes to maximize profit? If you can offer fun, you will get return business.

If you’re going to offer merit badges, limit them to those badges with connections to the outdoors. Remember this rule, if they can earn it at home, then why are they coming to your camp? Take the time to ensure that your councilors are trained in the subjects that they will be instructing. If the trainer doesn’t know what he or she is teaching, the Scout’s will quickly see through the bluster and take advantage of the trainer’s weakness. Nothing is more frustrating than feeling as if you’re wasting your time. Keep the class size small. This is especially true for those classes being led by youth staffers, who should already have experience managing a patrol size element, but will be overwhelmed with a large group. If a class proves to be popular, offer multiple classes at the same time with separate instructors, instead of adding more Scouts to the class. The key is that Scouts learn better in small groups.

Schedule classes in the morning, and offer open sessions in the afternoon, where scouts can practice the skills they learned. It is one thing to have a formal class in rowing, let them check out a boat and row on their own. Encourage patrols to organize a hike, work on a gateway for their campsite. Instead of a dining hall prepared dinner, set up an open charcoal pit and allow the Scouts to make their own tin foil dinner one night, or issue them a grub box and have them prepare their meal in their campsite.

Offer activities for the adult leaders. Don’t look at them as extra staffers to plug your staffing holes, but as customers as well. This is where your Camp Commissioner (CC) comes in. He or she is the go to person that these leaders will approach if any issues come up, freeing up the Camp director to take care of other activities. The CC should be responsible to provide activities to keep these individuals occupied, such as training opportunities and fun activities throughout the day. One of the best ways is for the CC to have a Scoutmaster Merit Badge program, where the unit leaders participate in various activities such as judges for contests, helpers at the ranges, cooking skills demonstrations, training participation, etc. The key to remember is that although the Scouts may run their units, the Scout leaders have the ability to sway these camp decisions. A comfortable Leader lounge with coffee or lemonade, where they can go and relax, is an inexpensive addition that should not be overlooked.

Or, why offer merit badges at all? Instead, have all areas open for the Scouts to explore as they please. This can be done at the individual level, but a better suggestion would be to keep it at the patrol level. As the troops Patrol Leader Conference (PLC) normally decides where a troop is going to camp, let’s work on the assumption that the troop will all attend the same camp. Before arriving at camp, the patrols will have already been given a list of available activities to plan out what they would like to do. Each patrol within the troop would pick and choose from the activities offered to build their own program. This can be done electronically using the internet so that the Program Director can gauge interests and if necessary reassign staffers in advance to meet demand.

In addition to the SPL, Patrol Leaders will attend a daily camp wide PLC, where patrol leaders will be informed of additional activities that have become available ( if say a patrol cancels an advanced planed attendance), or changes to the program due to weather related issues. If not already done electronically in advance, the Program Director would have sign-up rosters for popular classes (such as the rifle range, or waterfront activities to avoid overcrowding) available for patrol leaders to sign up for each morning. In this way a New Boy Patrol would concentrate on Scout thru First Class outdoor requirements that they have not yet completed, as well as mix in some other fun activities, while the venturing patrol can spend its week doing nothing but water related activities. With an open program, Scouts would have the freedom to explore many different activities, rather than four or five merit badges.

How would this look? Instead of teaching the Cooking MB class, the staff can offer to do patrol sessions on various types of cooking, (Dutch oven, backpacking, propane stove, etc.) at their campsite, allowing the Scouts to prepare their own meals during the scheduled breakfast, lunch or dinner hours. The waterfront area can offer sessions on Kayaking, Rowing, Sailing or Canoeing, with patrols first signing up for an instructional period, then being allowed to practice what they have learned during open boating periods.

The Patrol can sign up for a pioneering class. The Scouts will arrive at the Pioneering site, and with the tools and materials at hand, receive instruction on a building a tower, camp chair or monkey bridge. Then during free time, they can return to their campsites and build a gateway or other camp gadgets that they have just learned, reinforcing the lesson taught. Instead of a structured Nature merit badge class, a staffer can take the patrol on an observation hike, pointing out the various flora and wildlife found in the camp along the way, or have a conservation project, where patrols can stop by, work for an hour (or more if they desire) then move on to something else. Scouts may not earn completed badges, the idea here is that Scouts are enjoying the outdoors, not sitting in classes. They are completing those parts of a merit badge that cannot be done in the non-outdoor environment as they go along. Once back at home, the Patrol can work together to complete the badge.

 

 

 

 

This will require that the camp Director, and his or her Program Director will have to work to ensure that their staff is able to deliver this type of program. It will also require a fundamental shift in the idea that a successful camp is one where Scouts earn many merit badges.

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Big fan of  blue cards here.  Great way to track what Scout has done and hasn't. Strange that many camps won't sign them or  fill them out. Guess there are too many Scouts. Our advancement chair accepts electronic reporting from MB counselors and it's kinda sad, but not my call. Scout should  have a blue card if he has an incomplete. 

 

When I serve on Eagle BORs, I get a real kick outta the Scouts who have kept all the their blue cards and put them in a notebook like baseball cards. They bring them to the BOR and invariably ask "Do you want to see my blue cards?" 

 

Most definitely, I reply. 

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Big fan of  blue cards here.  Great way to track what Scout has done and hasn't. Strange that many camps won't sign them or  fill them out. Guess there are too many Scouts. Our advancement chair accepts electronic reporting from MB counselors and it's kinda sad, but not my call. Scout should  have a blue card if he has an incomplete. 

 

When I serve on Eagle BORs, I get a real kick outta the Scouts who have kept all the their blue cards and put them in a notebook like baseball cards. They bring them to the BOR and invariably ask "Do you want to see my blue cards?" 

 

Most definitely, I reply.

 

I thought blue cards were required??

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I thought blue cards were required??

 

 

Not every council ever wants to see them or require the Scout to present them at the BOR.  With Scoutbook becoming the future, many camps are now requiring MB signups be done online BEFORE camp, and the results are given back as spreadsheet for partials and completes entered into SB.  

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I just finished running my first merit badge class.

 

It started last Saturday at our district camporee.  I had 45 minutes to work with groups of about 25 on a couple of requirements for the radio merit badge and ended yesterday with Jamboree on the Air activities which included covering more requirements and those who addended both and did requirement 8 as homework (research a career) the would leave with a signed blue card.

 

1. Blue cards: Why does the concept of the blue card seem so difficult for scouts?  I ran into this at the National Jamboree too, so many scouts really did not know how to fill them out.  Also, one troop had their own blue card form, that was weird.  I learned why many counselors at merit badge classes clearly state that the cards should be filled out completely and numbered, because when you have a large stack of cards, it starts to chew up real time filling out cards for scouts. 

 

2. Big event classes.  At the National Jamboree, scouts knew they were giving up 1/2 of their program day to take the merit badge, so they were generally interested in at least earning the badge, if not the subject matter too.  At our camporee, over 200 scouts rotated through the station.  Most of them were not interested and didn't want to be there, and that was not helpful to anybody.  

 

3. I'm getting a reputation, good or bad, as someone who won't let you attend the class and not participate and still get a sign off.  If the requirement says discuss or explain, each scout will discuss or explain.  Many of the scouts seemed perplexed by actually being expected to discuss or explain, as if it is the first time they have had to do this for a merit badge before, even some of the older ones that I know to be star and life scouts!  

 

4. I really enjoyed helping 13 scouts earn the radio merit badge though, and getting them on the air communicating.

 

Don't cave- the requirements are the requirements, and that is the way it should be administered.  I do agree with others that there is a hangover effect of what some Scouts may experience at summer camp.  I personally observe many staff members who truly want to do things the correct way and hold a standard, but not all do- I just remind myself they are still kids too.  

 

As to blue cards, yeah, it's especially frustrating to me when I am working with 3rd or 4th year scouts who struggle to even remember hat district they belong to, let alone fill in every area that asks for their name.  I suggested that the Troop Guide should spend one of his first meetings with the new patrol on what the purpose of a blue card is, how to complete it, what to do with it after it is returned to them, etc. but the idea was shut down ("he already has too much on his plate, and I should be doing that" was the reply from the AC- ignores that he hadn't done his job very well that I had to suggest something different).

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"There is more to merit badges than simply providing opportunities to learn skills. There is more to them than an introduction to lifetime hobbies, or the inspiration to pursue a career—though these invaluable results occur regularly. It all begins with a Scout’s initial interest and effort in a merit badge subject, followed by a discussion with the unit leader or designated assistant, continues through meetings with a counselor, and culminates in advancement and recognition. It is an uncomplicated process that gives a Scout the confidence achieved through overcoming obstacles. Social skills improve. Self-reliance develops. Examples are set and followed. And fields of study and interest are explored beyond the limits of the school classroom.

. . .

 

Because of the importance of individual attention and personal learning in the merit badge program, group instruction should be focused on those scenarios where the benefits are compelling. [i have never - never - seen a compelling reason.]

. . .

 

There must be attention to each individual’s projects and his fulfillment of all requirements. We must know that every Scout—actually and personally—completed them. If, for example, a requirement uses words like “show,†“demonstrate,†or “discuss,†then every Scout must do that."

 

Boy Scouts of America, Guide to Advancement (2017)

 

. . .

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When did the MB U phenomena start?  Who is driving this corner-cutting: national, council or misguided parents? My Webelos  son will be in a troop in about 14 months and it would benefit to more about this.

As a scout in the early to mid 70's no one came back from summer camp with more than 2 MBs, and these were usually ones unique to camp, or super time consuming to do at home (lifesaving, oceanography, pioneering, canoeing, etc.) During the school year one was lucky if they averaged three per quarter.

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When it was decided that advancement numbers were a performance metric for employees, it was inevitable that the system would be gamed as membership numbers have been games since very early on.   There were no MB midways, days or universities in my council twenty-five years ago.  I am sure they have been "on" for the last fifteen years.  Some are worse than others in that some are more likely to hand out MBs without actual testing, but the trend is so towards cheating in the councils around here, that I have decided not to participate.

When council SEs began to see MBs as party favors to drive Summer Camp attendance,   Summer Camps as MB Mils were inevitable.  THAT disgrace has been going on for at least thirty years.  National knows it and has done virtually nothing.  At one camp I observed this Summer, there were  actual registered MB Counselors for less than 1/3 of the MBs awarded.

Thus for "values."

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10 hours ago, WRW_57 said:

When did the MB U phenomena start?  Who is driving this corner-cutting: national, council or misguided parents? My Webelos  son will be in a troop in about 14 months and it would benefit to more about this.

In the beginning, there were only 57 Merit Badges. Now we have over 130.

More scouts earn Eagle in a month than have ever completed all Merit Badges in the last century. It is a BIG DEAL when someone does it, so big that it makes national scouting news. When is the last time someone making Eagle was national scouting news?

I don't blame scouts (or those that serve them) for responding to the incentives. If we want to reduce the MBU environment, then we need to change the MB program. The "club" of those that have done them all is more exclusive than being an Eagle.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_merit_badges_(Boy_Scouts_of_America

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