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Does BSA DISCOURAGE Merit Badge Universities/Midways/Fairs?

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2 minutes ago, Navybone said:

I could not disagree more.   Scouting should encourage the scout to develop a lifelong interest in learning.  That is exponentially valuable to the scout and the community.   And will continue to be of value for the lifetime of that scout.  So long as scouts are learning, and it is about learning, not just getting a patch.  There is goodness in all of this.

i guess if you look at it from a cost perspective, then why encourage scouts to do more.  Although what is the cost?  A buck to two for the badge and blue card?  Continued involvement in scouts?  No, cannot see your point on this at all.  

What you are saying is that anything that encourages the Scout to develop a lifelong interest in learning belongs in Scouting, and we should support it with our Scouting resources.

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3 hours ago, dkurtenbach said:

So there are boundaries to the Scouting program and what we should support:  "the context of the Scouting type activities - merit badges, camping, leadership opportunities, patrol activities."  Math problems, maybe not . . . but if there was a Mathematics merit badge, that would be okay?
 

Certainly - if there is a mathematics merit badge and a Scout is working on it, then yes - support that Scout in working on those math problems.  Since you're trying to define boundaries here, I'd say that supporting Scout's interest in earning merit badges is good because it's a core part of the program.  Doing math problems with your scouts is out because it is not part of the program.  While you could make a case that there is a role for math problems in the context of earning a badge, I'd argue that there is a difference.  Forcing a scout to do work on a specific Merit Badges should not be mandatory.  

I get the sense you're leading up to a bigger argument here.

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6 hours ago, dkurtenbach said:

What you are saying is that anything that encourages the Scout to develop a lifelong interest in learning belongs in Scouting, and we should support it with our Scouting resources.

seriously, Within reason. If a scout has his eight elective badges, and wants to earn another one, and there is a willing MB counselor, why not.  What is the scarce resource being expended?   if the scout wants to go to sea base and has already been, well common sense is to give another scout the opportunity.  But that is not they same as saying that the scout has meet the minimum, so no more.  And that is exactly how I read the intent of your comments.   

imthink we should encourage the scouts to learn and explore as much as possible.  The idea of using a MB to expose scouts to a new ability or possible career is so very powerful and gives scouts an edge that other, non-scouts, do not have.  

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9 hours ago, ParkMan said:

I get the sense you're leading up to a bigger argument here.

Yes.  And if I could summarize it one word, it would be “patrols.”

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BRYAN ON SCOUTING:  A BLOG FOR THE BSA'S ADULT LEADERS

 April 23, 2013

  

"The most- and least-popular merit badges of 2012, and what that info tells us"

 "Four lessons learned

          . . .

       Most, but not all, of the badges in the top 30 are offered at council summer camps, meaning it’s easier for a Scout to earn one even if there isn’t a qualified counselor in his troop."

 

 

 

"A Scout is Trustworthy."  👀

 

["Hold on, this is waiting to be approved by Bryan on Scouting."    Indeed.       Run, don't walk.]

 

 

Edited by TAHAWK

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Point of order: there is a mathematics badge. It's called Orienteering. Or maybe it's Woodwork. Or maybe one of dozens of other badges that throw down constant mathematical challenges.

Carry on.

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Happy holidays, everyone!

So, let's consider some aspects of the merit badge program.

  • A Scout works on a merit badges individually; it is not a group or team effort.
  • Any registered Scout can work on merit badges; no rank is necessary.
  • While a unit leader may have a concern about a Scout working on a merit badge, it is the Scout's decision.
  • A Scout must be allowed to work with the counselor of his or her choice, so long as the counselor is registered and has been approved by the council advancement committee.
  • There is no time limit between starting and completing a merit badge, except that all requirements must be completed before the Scout turns 18.
  • Many units, districts, and outside organizations offer merit badge fairs, clinics, or universities in which Scouts can complete many merit badge requirements in a single day, and often for more than one merit badge.
  • Merit badges are standard offerings at council summer camps, and Scouts in attendance can often complete multiple merit badges during the summer camp session.
  • Other than summer camp, Scouts usually work with merit badge counselors in their local area, with meetings at mutually agreeable dates and time.
  • Many unit Scouters also serve as merit badge counselors for Scouts in the troop, sometimes offering merit badge sessions during regular troop meetings.
  • Most merit badges do not include a service requirement.
  • Merit badges do not require a Board of Review.
  • There are currently 137 merit badges; a Scout could earn an average of one per month since joining Scouts BSA and still only complete about 2/3 of the badges available.
  • Upon completing a merit badge, a Scout receives the badge, which can be worn on a merit badge sash as part of his or her uniform.

What we have is a system that offers fun, excitement, adventure, knowledge, skills, and the potential for new hobbies and even careers, in more subject areas than most Scouts could ever hope to experience.  The system offers the individual Scout almost total control over planning, direction, and timing of his or her work.  The system offers a high degree of convenience for Scouts (and the parents who need to get them to merit badge sessions). A Scout using the system doesn't have to participate in any camping or outdoor activities at all unless the Scout wants to work on an outdoor merit badge (or a merit badge being offered at summer camp). A Scout using the system doesn't have to work with, cooperate with, or rely on any other Scouts. A Scout using the system doesn't have to take on any responsibility in the patrol or troop.  A Scout using the system doesn't have to bother with ancillary requirements like service hours, Scout spirit, or a Board of Review. And yet the Scout is as much a Scouts BSA member as any Scout in the troop participating in those old-fashioned patrols and that so-last-century rank advancement. A Scout using the system will still receive a lot of badges awarded at Courts of Honor. Mom and dad will still be proud.

In other words, we have come up with a system for a Scout's personal growth and achievement that can operate almost entirely independently of the rank advancement process, the patrol system, the troop's youth leadership hierarchy, the troop's adult leadership, and pretty much all of the troop's program. All a Scout has to do is stay registered and meet with the Scoutmaster to get counselors and get blue cards signed. 

So what we have created with the merit badge program is either No-Responsibility Scouting for the 21st Century (genius!), or a program that undermines patrols, and outdoor adventure, and leadership, and rank advancement, and the other stuff we're trying to accomplish within the troop program.

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When I was a SM, my goal for all the scouts was to develop moral and ethical decision makers. The more a often a scout makes a decision, the more likely they will grow into an ethical moral decision maker. Done properly, the MB process is almost entirely the practice of making decisions. The MB process only looses integrity when the adults make some of the decisions for the scouts.

Barry

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12 hours ago, dkurtenbach said:

In other words, we have come up with a system for a Scout's personal growth and achievement that can operate almost entirely independently of the rank advancement process, the patrol system, the troop's youth leadership hierarchy, the troop's adult leadership, and pretty much all of the troop's program. All a Scout has to do is stay registered and meet with the Scoutmaster to get counselors and get blue cards signed. 

Why is this a bad thing?  

The merit badge program adds to the richness of Scouting.  For 99% of Scouts (and maybe more) it serves as another approach to learning and growth.  In a setting where most everything else is patrol or troop based, here's a part of the program that is individually driven.  What you learn is driven by you.  What skills you add is driven by you.

I think this is a health mirror to the rest of the program.  It's important in life to be able to work as a team to accomplish things.  It's just as important in life to recognize that you need to take responsibility for your own intellectual and skills growth.

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@dkurtenbach while we're in the holidays, we would do well to consider the words of one who urged against straining at gnats only to swallow a camel.

You assert that in earning two MBs a month, an ambitious scout undermines his/her troop and patrol. But, in the same reply you say ...

13 hours ago, dkurtenbach said:

...

  • Many units, districts, and outside organizations offer merit badge fairs, clinics, or universities in which Scouts can complete many merit badge requirements in a single day, and often for more than one merit badge.

In other words, by your own admission, the merit badge program enhances the life of many units.

13 hours ago, dkurtenbach said:

...

  • Most merit badges do not include a service requirement. 

In other words, some MBs include a service requirement. Therefore, in the process of earning all badges, the scout will necessarily perform some service. I would argue that in the process of earning all MB's a scout could discover skills that enable him/her to perform a wide variety of service.

Furthermore, in earning all MBs, a scout must show leadership in a variety of ways: e.g., meeting other scouts earning MBs, contacting scouts around the world (Cit. World, req 7c), leading a court of honor (Comm, req 8), teaching scouts in his/her "patrol, troop or crew" (Orienteering, 8), etc ...

13 hours ago, dkurtenbach said:

...

  • Upon completing a merit badge, a Scout receives the badge, which can be worn on a merit badge sash as part of his or her uniform.

In other words MBs contribute to the uniforming method. I've seen scouts look at each other's sashes for the badge they don't recognize. They ask questions like "What's that one?" "How hard was it?" "Who was the counselor?" Arguing that a program is self-promoting via scouts with loaded sashes is not an argument against that program.

You go on about scouts working independently, as if dangerous to his patrol is the scout who might go off and, say, draw butterflies with maps of fortresses in their scales. If such is your rant, don't use arguments that disprove your points.

But let's grant your assumption and assume scouts who earn 2 MBs a month are no asset, but rather a detriment, to their patrol, their troop, and their nation. What is magnitude of the problem? Folks who are interested in counting such things, say that 450 scouts have earned every MB -- not yearly ... over the past century! That means across the nation this year maybe 5 to 10 scouts have achieved this goal. Multiply that by 7 years, that's up to 70 scouts earning on average 2 MB's a month. Let's quadruple that to account for all those scouts who are trying to do that, but eventually back off. So out there in the scouterverse there might be 480 scouts on track to earn every MB. There's a 1 in 100 chance that an MB-grubbing scout is wrecking your troop at this very moment. And how many of those scouts are holding at Scout rank and refusing to hold any position of responsibility? How many of them are going camping exactly 20 nights and making sure their troop only backpacks and hikes the requisite miles and learns to canoe but never takes his/her crew on a canoe trip? What? I bet there are fewer than two such Shylocks exacting their pound of flesh!

Now there are certainly program where one person doing things wrongly could derail the thing in spite of a million other people doing it rightly. (Nuclear power plants come to mind.) In such cases maybe dismantling the whole industry is a good idea. I find no evidence that the MB "industry" -- even badly regulated as it is -- is such a program. The best solution for the MB program: do it rightly and do it frequently.

Edited by qwazse
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I can't recall witnessing a situation where a scout was solely focused on earning MBs.  Usually, if they are determined to collect a ton of badges, Eagle is also on their "to earn" list.

 

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8 hours ago, ParkMan said:

Why is this a bad thing?  

The merit badge program adds to the richness of Scouting.  For 99% of Scouts (and maybe more) it serves as another approach to learning and growth.  In a setting where most everything else is patrol or troop based, here's a part of the program that is individually driven.  What you learn is driven by you.  What skills you add is driven by you.

I think this is a health mirror to the rest of the program.  It's important in life to be able to work as a team to accomplish things.  It's just as important in life to recognize that you need to take responsibility for your own intellectual and skills growth.

It is problematic to the extent that Scouts put their own merit badge program before their obligation to their patrol or troop.

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13 hours ago, dkurtenbach said:

It is problematic to the extent that Scouts put their own merit badge program before their obligation to their patrol or troop.

What is a scout's obligation to his/her patrol?

  • To fulfill the pinnacle scouting experience of hiking and camping independently with his/her mates.
    • New scouts do this by obtaining first class skills.
    • Patrol leaders do this by qualifying (i.e., mastering 1st Class skills) to take their patrol hiking and camping.
    • First class scouts (the concept, not the patch) do this by availing themselves of the MB program according to their needs and interests.

What is a scout's obligation to his/her troop?

  • To develop leadership through responsibility based on present skills. Where do those skills come from? Well in general, there is a huge difference between ...
    • a Bugler who's earned Bugling and Music MB's vs. one who's not,
    • a Historian or Scribe who's earned Journalism vs. one who's not,
    • a Librarian who's earned Reading and Scholarship vs. one who's not,
    • a QM who's earned Backpacking, Woodwork, and Welding vs. one who's not,
    • a PL who's earned Signs Signals and Codes vs. one whose not,
    • an SPL who's earned Orienteering and Hiking and one who's not,
    • a JASM who's earned Wilderness Survival and Search and Rescue and one who's not.

Thinking along those lines, maybe a scout should not be assigned a PoR or a Star/Life service project until he or she has rightly earned a dozen elective MBs and has some hint of how they could best serve their troop or patrol. It would not look great as a requirement, but I would admire the SM and SPL who announce that scouts who've earned the most MBs in the past year will have first choice of PoR.

Edited by qwazse

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1 hour ago, qwazse said:
    • a Bugler who's earned Bugling and Music MB's vs. one who's not,
    • a Historian or Scribe who's earned Journalism vs. one who's not,
    • a Librarian who's earned Reading and Scholarship vs. one who's not,
    • a QM who's earned Backpacking, Woodwork, and Welding vs. one who's not,
    • a PL who's earned Signs Signals and Codes vs. one whose not,
    • an SPL who's earned Orienteering and Hiking and one who's not,
    • a JASM who's earned Wilderness Survival and Search and Rescue and one who's not.

Thinking along those lines, maybe a scout should not be assigned a PoR or a Star/Life service project until he or she has rightly earned a dozen elective MBs and has some hint of how they could best serve their troop or patrol. It would not look great as a requirement, but I would admire the SM and SPL who announce that scouts who've earned the most MBs in the past year will have first choice of PoR.

I think it makes sense for a Scout holding a PoR to get some training directly relevant to that area, so the first three sort of make sense:  Bugler - Bugling, Music MBs; Historian, Scribe - Journalism MB; Librarian - Reading, Scholarship MBs.  But I don't really see the relevance of the merit badges suggested for the other jobs, or the relevance of the raw number of merit badges earned to qualifications for holding a PoR.

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5 minutes ago, dkurtenbach said:

I think it makes sense for a Scout holding a PoR to get some training directly relevant to that area, so the first three sort of make sense:  Bugler - Bugling, Music MBs; Historian, Scribe - Journalism MB; Librarian - Reading, Scholarship MBs.  But I don't really see the relevance of the merit badges suggested for the other jobs, or the relevance of the raw number of merit badges earned to qualifications for holding a PoR.

They aren't qualifications, per se. They are means by which a scout can discover what his unique contribution to a troop should be. For example an SPL's election speech might be: "Hello, my name is __, I've been in troop __ for four years, and have obtained Second Class rank. Last year I took Trucking, Railroading, and American Business MB's, among others. But the reason I mentioned those, is because thanks to some counselors who offered to help us, I've come up with a great summer activity that will involve combining these activities, and if you elect me, we will plan a trip where each patrol gets some time behind some serious engines, and culminates with a contest in which the winning patrol gets to ring the opening bell at the stock exchange. I took my patrol to visit the rail yard last month, and we had so much fun that I wanted the chance to help the whole troop try this ..."

We could imagine other scouts applying for a PoR to the SPL and saying that they've earned a several MBs that made them think they could do the PoR of their choice well. The one's who've earned a lot of MBs could argue "This year, I've shown that I can get things done. Please give me a chance to do more, sir."

I might be biased because our best QM was an MB-grubbing scout. So much so, that he would look for idle scouts at camp and drag them along to whatever MB he was about to try to earn in a day. Yes, he tried to cut corners. Yes, he butted up against us sticklers constantly. But his variety of accomplishments was very useful to the troop. How? Well, by the time he took office, he had mastered organization and sequencing. He had a sense of what scouts would need for which activity. He also knew what we could build into our trailer and how. Then, he focused on advancement, got Eagle and JROTC sucked his time away from us.  IMHO, the kid provided more for the troop when he was obsessed with MBs than when he completed (in his mind) rank advancement.

Compared to what can be gained from earning about 20 MBs in a year or so, going through trail-to-first class really does not do much in terms of preparing a scout to hold a PoR. I simply think personal growth vs. leadership development is a false-dichotomy.

One final thought experiment: if we reduced the number of MBs to 49, would that in any way improve our patrols? I just don't see it. Take away the time the MB-grubbing scout "wastes" on requirements, and it's unlikely you'll get it back in contributions to his/her patrol unit. That's especially true if we take away the MBs that explicitly require the scout to contribute to patrol/troop life.

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