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gblotter

Eliminate merit badges, advancement from Scouting

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I read so many threads with very experienced Scouters speaking quite negatively about merit badges and rank advancement. There is so much disparaging talk about Eagle mills and merit badge factories. Focusing on merit badges and the trail to Eagle means you are missing the point of Scouting and not having a quality experience. You are only a true Scout if you are in it for the fun. Some have even advocated for eliminating merit badges classes entirely from troop meetings and summer camp schedules. In the minds of some, advancement seems to be at the root of all that is wrong with Scouting because it introduces a corrupt motivation and becomes a distraction from having fun. This talk never ends here on Scouter.com which leads to me ask ...

How many folks think that eliminating merit badges and rank advancement from the Scouting program would be a good thing? I'm actually not trolling - I'm asking a serious question.

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Well done MBs and advancement is very meaningful to the scouts.  The challenge is every scout is not interested in every MB needed for advancement.  

IMHO, the advancement program should be changed to something that is meaningful and interesting to the scouts.  Keep the challenge and growth factors.  Maybe the SM and scout should work together to create a more personalized advancement itinerary.  Maybe each time a rank is complete, the SM and scout could work to find a reasonable path for advancement to the next rank.  

I think the problem would be implementing a program that is fair and evenly applied.  

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Because merit badges and rank advancement are so strongly associated with boy scouting, I think it would be a mistake to eliminate them entirely.  Let boys participate in the advancement program, if they wish to do so, but take all the patches (and other bling) off the uniform. 

Eliminate the COH. They are a boring waste of time. 

 

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I don't think the negativity towards mbs and rank is so much about an inherent displeasure with advancement as a method. I know for me, the issue is the method of advancement has often become the mission and aim. Mbs are great, when done properly. Mb colleges, and pencil whipping requirements are a result of adult failure to distinguish between the method and the mission. Boys who get signed off for showing up to a class lose out on the purpose of the mb as a method. When the focus of meetings, campouts, summer camp shifts to be exclusively about advancement, the purpose of scouting is ignored and ultimately the boys lose out on the opportunity which could be realized through advancement as a method, and not the goal.

Eliminating advancement is not the solution. Done properly, it is one of the methods to achieve the aims of scouting. If not done properly it the aims might never be achieved. That is the source of the negativity.

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If there was no mbs or advancement then in my opinion, would be basically like a church youth group.

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The Latin Scot, you nailed it. How much would discussions change here if we all read your post before starting new threads. The tone of your post should be the tone of the SM Specific course. The contents of the syllabus wouldn’t need to change, just the adults frame of mind for how to apply the course subjects as they are presented.

Barry

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52 minutes ago, Eagledad said:

The Latin Scot, you nailed it. How much would discussions change here if we all read your post before starting new threads.

Not one bit. 

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13 hours ago, gblotter said:

How many folks think that eliminating merit badges and rank advancement from the Scouting program would be a good thing? I'm actually not trolling - I'm asking a serious question.

Are you sure you're not trolling? Judging from the responses (and your up arrow) it sounds like you are raising the question just to give yourself, and like minded members, an opportunity to attack it.

  • Downvote 1

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I agree with everyone's comments that it's not the MBs and ranks, it's how they are run. That is coming from the expectations of everyone involved. The expectations from national down through the districts, the scouters, and the parents is that advancement is school work with a little bit of outdoors thrown in.

12 hours ago, fred johnson said:

IMHO, the advancement program should be changed to something that is meaningful and interesting to the scouts.

I think there's an easy solution to that. Remove all the describe and discuss stuff. Assume that if the scout is interested then some day he'll go and read about the describe and discuss stuff on his own when he's mature enough. In the meantime just do more. Rather than talk about the food pyramid in cooking MB, cook an omelet, cook soup from scratch, cook pancakes from scratch, cook stir fry from scratch, cook bread from scratch, and cook brownies from scratch. i.e., the cooking MB should involve a lot of cooking and eating good food. Period. That's what the scout will remember. If he has fun doing it then he will seek out more on his own. That's what will get him hooked on it.

But that's just MBs. The real issue is refocusing on the one main method: fun with a purpose.

 

  • Upvote 2

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Some scout associations in he world do not use advancement as a method, especially for their mid teen and later programs. The youth I've met are fine with that.

@gblotter, you may have missed some of my musings on the subject, but  I'm of the opposite perspective. Not only do I favor rank advancement, I favor granting direct-contact adults the privilege of working on rank advancement while they serve our scouts. First class rank should be a goal for all SMs and a requirement for any member of the national advancement team, and no member of that who hasn't earned Star, Life, or Eagle may draft policy regarding that rank.

A lot of us sit in judgement of MB programs, but our only evidence is our boys who go through them. I've actually been quite pleased with the experiences our scouts have had with their various counselors (be it district, camp, or MB pow-wows) - rarely needing to complain about it. But, I do wonder if I missed something that could be caught if adults were motivated to try and master the same skills as the boys.

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IMHO, merit badges were (long ago) more about the Adult Association Method .  Advancement  was secondary and perhaps a misnomer.  In half or more of your merit badges, you were being introduced to new knowledge and skills to advance yourself in life later. 

The scout had to obtain the blue card and contact info from his Scoutmaster. The scout had to contact the Merit Badge Counselor himself, often more than once, and occasionally other more available MBC's.  Council/District had to provide qualified counselors. My Archery MBC competed internationally,  Firemanship was a NJ Fire Chief/Fire Warren, Electricity was a Westinghouse engineer,  Electronics was a design engineer for ENIAC project and RCA.  These men are spending time with me? How cool was that.

My $0.02

Edited by RememberSchiff
  • Upvote 1

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As others have mentioned, it's not the MBs and advancement that is the problem, but the abuse, and what else can you call pencil-whipping, MBCs, etc, that is becoming more and more the norm. Even in my own troop, I am seeing folks earn advancement who should not have the MBs and rank. Examples include folks who have "earned"  say MBs at summer camp, like canoeing but do not have the skills to actually do something as easy and a canoe trip on a slow river. Or the Scout who has passed off on the tent requirement for Tenderfoot, yet must have dad outside the tent until he falls asleep, or he complains he wants to go home.  They may have done something, but they have not "mastered the skill" as the older, Green Bar Bill literature has as the standard. Now it is as if National encourages "one and done." Do they still handout little rank emblems at ITOLs for doing basic S-T-2-1 skills?

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10 hours ago, MattR said:

... Remove all the describe and discuss stuff. Assume that if the scout is interested then some day he'll go and read about the describe and discuss stuff on his own when he's mature enough. In the meantime just do more. Rather than talk about the food pyramid in cooking MB, cook an omelet, cook soup from scratch, cook pancakes from scratch, cook stir fry from scratch, cook bread from scratch, and cook brownies from scratch. i.e., the cooking MB should involve a lot of cooking and eating good food. Period. That's what the scout will remember. If he has fun doing it then he will seek out more on his own. That's what will get him hooked on it. ...

 

I fully agree.  Drop any of the describe and discuss stuff.

  • The passive requirements add the "boring" and introduce advancement abuse.  Plus, they were bored to tears when it was lecture, etc.
  • The discuss and describe should happen naturally while the MBC works with or talks with the scout about how the omelet was cooked or why the soup needed chicken bullion stock.  My sons enjoyed, learned from and wanted to do more.  They enjoyed the "active" merit badges.  Canoe trips.  Camping.  Photographing.  Wood working.  Golfing. 
  • IMHO, boys (and girls) scream to do things.  To get out of their comfort zone and have new experience and learn new skills.  They spend year after year sitting in classrooms reading and listening to lectures.   

The other aspect is the quality of the MBCs.  MBCs should have real expertise.

  • My sons and scouts enjoyed working with MBCs that knew what they were talking about and were experts in their fields.  
  • My sons left MB sessions that were run by generic bodies who signed up to lead the MBC but were not experts.  I remember my sons feeling cheated when they did a MB class that was run by someone that essentially was just reading what was described in the book ... while at the same time the Oceanography session was run two people who were experts.  One was a professional oceanographer.  The other was a navy officer (who if I remember right had time on submarines and on Navy research vessels).

 

Edited by fred johnson
  • Upvote 1

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