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gblotter

Eliminate merit badges, advancement from Scouting

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Perhaps not surprisingly, my son's favorite merit badges have been ... Horsemanship, Small Boat Sailing, Motorboating.

And surprisingly ... Railroading.

His instructor for Railroading was a train buff who sets up a huge train display in his front year every Christmas season. My son has no particular interest in trains, but the instructor's expertise and enthusiasm made the merit badge interesting.

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On 2/24/2018 at 10:23 PM, gblotter said:

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.

great question I think....and some great responses here too it.

My thought...and this is just an initial thought that I recon' could be developed much further....is that no, I don't for a second think that eliminating the stuff would be a good thing.  I think the whole concept of advancement and achievement is somewhat a core of the program....but the focus in all of it, IMO, should change from an EXTERNALLY driven one to an INTERNAL FOCUS.  Each individual scout should be working on "X" because HE wants to, because he's driven to, for whatever reason is his and on his own pace.

Here's where the thought is still developing in my brain....by EXTERNAL, I think I might mean all the adult/program driven stuff.   They are working on such and such merit badge because that's what some adult is offering to teach....or because that's what the merit badge fair is offering and they are doing it at that time because that's when the MB fair is.... it has little or nothing to do with the scout individually deciding he wants to work on "xyz" now.  I suppose this also extends to scout leader corps too.... they are working on "this" topic in the troop meeting because the PLC chose that....(and that may or may not be something that was steered by an adult)

& I do think as others have posted, that pencil whipping leads to empty reward and the scouts feel it.....and also the explain/discuss stuff can be over used for sure.  That too, can make it all so empty.

Now that he's had some distance and time away from scouts, I think I might ask my son why he was never really interested in the advancement and the patches....  Answers before pretty much explained it...."boring", but I guess I'm not fully understanding what that means to him.

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2 hours ago, blw2 said:

...but the focus in all of it, IMO, should change from an EXTERNALLY driven one to an INTERNAL FOCUS.  Each individual scout should be working on "X" because HE wants to, because he's driven to, for whatever reason is his and on his own pace.

Here's where the thought is still developing in my brain....by EXTERNAL, I think I might mean all the adult/program driven stuff.   They are working on such and such merit badge because that's what some adult is offering to teach....or because that's what the merit badge fair is offering and they are doing it at that time because that's when the MB fair is.... it has little or nothing to do with the scout individually deciding he wants to work on "xyz" now.

Analyzing external vs internal motivations is interesting (and complex). I get what you are saying, but I try to reconcile that with my son's experience earning the Railroading merit badge. He took that class only because it was offered at a Merit Badge Midway. It was definitely externally driven. He had no prior interest in trains, but he gained an interest because of the excellent merit badge instructor. He's glad he didn't miss out on that experience, even though he never would have gone down that path from a purely internal motivation. Yes - he has had plenty of externally driven merit badge classes that bored him beyond belief (Chemistry, Digital Technology, Energy, Electricity, Geology, Nuclear Science, Traffic Safety). He stays involved in these classroom merit badges partly because he keeps hoping for more diamonds like Railroading. I let him know when merit badge opportunities surface, but it is entirely his decision to enroll (sometimes he does not).

This weekend my son completed two new merit badges (Medicine and Photography) at yet another Merit Badge Midway. He spent 3 hours in pre-reqs for the Medicine MB helping with a blood drive last month. He spent 8 hours in pre-reqs for the Photography MB preparing a portfolio of various photos. No pencil whipping involved. The Medicine MB was extremely boring (as expected), the Photography MB was not too bad. It was his choice to pursue both and he did the required work for both. His horizons were broadened and he doesn't regret the experience, so where is the foul?

The bad-mouthing here on Scouter.com about Eagle mills and merit badge factories and pencil whipping gets extreme. I do sincerely wonder if some would rather have advancement eliminated from Scouting altogether. Sure - there are bad apples, but it is certainly not the rule for the Scouting experience of my son. He is now an Eagle Scout with 53 merit badges. Even at this stage, he chooses to keep pursuing more merit badges because advancement still matters to him (and it always has from the beginning). Remove the motivation of advancement, and his longevity in Scouting would probably wane (something like the example of Venturing's dwindling numbers where there is little focus on advancement).

I find it annoying as heck that some here would characterize my son as not having a quality Scouting experience because of his focus on advancement. In addition to all his merit badges, he also has 52 nights of camping and 93 miles of hiking/backpacking (thanks Scoutbook for these stats). This spring he will participate in OA Ordeal. He has attended five BSA summer camps plus National Jamboree. This summer he will attend two more BSA summer camps. For 2019, and he is looking at attending a BSA High Adventure Base or maybe working on staff at a BSA summer camp. This boy drinks Scouting from a fire hose. Just because he has a lot of advancement under his belt does not mean my son is missing out on the fun of Scouting. He would laugh at that idea.

I started this thread to solicit feedback, but also to make a point. Quite frankly, the endless negativity on Scouter.com over the topic of advancement gets really tiring. Painting with such a broad brush rarely captures individual experiences with any accuracy. That is my point.

@blw2  Your comments are reasoned and thoughtful. There are other negative nellies in other threads who triggered my rant above - nothing personal directed at you.

Edited by gblotter
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22 minutes ago, gblotter said:

I started this thread to solicit feedback

No, you didn't. You started this thread so you could rant at and insult those who disagree with you. Mission accomplished.

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LOL. I've written about this episode before, but it's worth repeating. But I once did a Tenderfoot or Second Class (can't remember all the particulars) BOR for a 16-year-old who had been in the troop for about 4 years and who also had like over 50 nights camping and 150 miles hiking. He also was excellent hunter and fisherman.

The BOR thought it was a mistake, but the kid confirmed, yes he indeed was just a Scout (or whatever that preceding rank was). Naturally we were a little curious and started asking questions. He just replied he didn't like "all that advancement stuff" and that he just like to hike and camp with his buddies. At summer camp, he would spend every hour at the shooting or archery range or the waterfront. I don't think he ever completed a MB. 

Different strokes for different folks, I guess. 

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18 minutes ago, CherokeeScouter said:

He just replied he didn't like "all that advancement stuff" and that he just like to hike and camp with his buddies.

Yep - my son has a good buddy who fits this description. They were tent-mates during their first year at summer camp, and they remain good friends now. His friend will never reach Eagle and that is just fine with everyone - nobody is bothered that advancement is not his priority. He still enjoys the campouts and friendships as much as anyone. This friend helped quite a bit with my son's Eagle project and was asked to be a presenter at my son's ECOH. From everything I can tell, both boys are having quality Scouting experiences (although obviously very different in some aspects).

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18 minutes ago, gblotter said:

Yep - my son has a good buddy who fits this description. They were tent-mates during their first year at summer camp, and they remain good friends now. His friend will never reach Eagle and that is just fine with everyone - nobody is bothered that advancement is not his priority. He still enjoys the campouts and friendships as much as anyone. This friend helped quite a bit with my son's Eagle project and was asked to be a presenter at my son's ECOH. From everything I can tell, both boys are having quality Scouting experiences (although obviously very different in some aspects).

Our best SPL was the same. He LOVED everything about scouting except advancement. 

Barry

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I was talking to a friend recently who got as far as Star and even though he loved being in scouts he lamented how much he regretted not making a greater effort to go after Eagle.

Not to be facetious...but seriously, what would scouting be without advancement...a group of boys just hanging out, occasionally going camping, hiking, fishing, etc., playing dodgeball...where and when would they learn first aid, ecology, pioneering, orienteering, swimming, civics, lifesaving, emergency preparedness, develop personal fitness, healthy family dynamics...the list goes on

There are actually scouts who do genuinely want to advance and who are very proactive and diligent in working on rank advancement, however, rather than be applauded for their ambition and willingness to go the extra mile to advance, they're chastised as being overly eager or labeled as being "forced" to advance by mom or dad (which may be true in some cases, but hardly all cases), etc. and labeled as 'paper Eagles' or some other nonsense like that.

If a kid wants to just hang out and not do anything towards his advancement, then that's his decision. Conversely those boys who are willing to put in the time, effort and commitment to advancing, shouldn't be denied the opportunity and labeled as someone who isn't in scouts for the right reasons.

Being an Eagle does mean something. To me, it really comes down to being willing to put in the additional time, effort and work needed to earn it. This is why so many Life scouts simply don't achieve the rank. They don't go the extra mile to do the project, complete whatever remaining merit badges they need and just decide that they're content with being Life for life, or Star for Life...or 1C for life.

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, SSF said:

I was talking to a friend recently who got as far as Star and even though he loved being in scouts he lamented how much he regretted not making a greater effort to go after Eagle.

Not to be facetious...but seriously, what would scouting be without advancement...a group of boys just hanging out, occasionally going camping, hiking, fishing, etc., playing dodgeball...where and when would they learn first aid, ecology, pioneering, orienteering, swimming, civics, lifesaving, emergency preparedness, develop personal fitness, healthy family dynamics...the list goes on

There are actually scouts who do genuinely want to advance and who are very proactive and diligent in working on rank advancement, however, rather than be applauded for their ambition and willingness to go the extra mile to advance, they're chastised as being overly eager or labeled as being "forced" to advance by mom or dad (which may be true in some cases, but hardly all cases), etc. and labeled as 'paper Eagles' or some other nonsense like that.

If a kid wants to just hang out and not do anything towards his advancement, then that's his decision. Conversely those boys who are willing to put in the time, effort and commitment to advancing, shouldn't be denied the opportunity and labeled as someone who isn't in scouts for the right reasons.

Being an Eagle does mean something. To me, it really comes down to being willing to put in the additional time, effort and work needed to earn it. This is why so many Life scouts simply don't achieve the rank. They don't go the extra mile to do the project, complete whatever remaining merit badges they need and just decide that they're content with being Life for life, or Star for Life...or 1C for life.

 

 

 

Point well taken.

 

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to the question of where would they learn all the stuff if all they did was go camping, hiking, fishing, etc... I would answer that those activities are where they learn that stuff. To go on a grander adventure and have more fun requires learning how to use a map & compass, eating requires learning how to light a fire and cook over it, packing appropriately, etc... Just about all the requirements for T-FC are accomplished just by camping, hiking, etc... with your buddies. Advancement isn't something separate from those activities, it IS those activities.

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5 hours ago, gblotter said:

Quite frankly, the endless negativity on Scouter.com over the topic of advancement gets really tiring. Painting with such a broad brush rarely captures individual experiences with any accuracy.

I can't thumbs-up your entire post because I think this thread went a little off the rails on the subject of the OP's motivation for starting the thread (which should virtually never be a subject for discussion, in my opinion, and it always leads to trouble.)  But I think the quote above captures the essence of the issue, and I agree with it.  I think we can, and should, keep the advancement program itself separate from the issue of "local variations" on the program that sometimes make it too "easy," and less often make it more difficult.  Quite often the discussions of advancement in this forum throw the baby out with the bathwater, to coin a phrase.

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My problem with merit badges and advancement were reinforced at lunch today.  A fellow dad was complaining to me that summer camp didn't offer many Eagle merit badges.  I mentioned that first aid, swimming, camping, cooking are and he said his son needs the classroom ones like the citizenships.  I said why doesn't he do those outside of camp, lot of opportunity for classroom and just book study for those.   He is at summer camp, shouldn't he be doing things outside?  It is one of those things that dad is pushing kiddo to get Eagle merit badges for advancement with merit badges.  He is also the dad that follows his kid around to stations.

When boys want to push themselves and get the merit badges, heck ya, let's do it!  Camp IMHO is a horrible place to sit inside.  Do something fun at camp!

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1 hour ago, mashmaster said:

My problem with merit badges and advancement were reinforced at lunch today.  A fellow dad was complaining to me that summer camp didn't offer many Eagle merit badges.  I mentioned that first aid, swimming, camping, cooking are and he said his son needs the classroom ones like the citizenships.  I said why doesn't he do those outside of camp, lot of opportunity for classroom and just book study for those.   He is at summer camp, shouldn't he be doing things outside?  It is one of those things that dad is pushing kiddo to get Eagle merit badges for advancement with merit badges.  He is also the dad that follows his kid around to stations.

When boys want to push themselves and get the merit badges, heck ya, let's do it!  Camp IMHO is a horrible place to sit inside.  Do something fun at camp!

I had around 2-3 free periods two years ago at camp. I never expected it to feel so good to just relax. 

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