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Does BSA DISCOURAGE Merit Badge Universities/Midways/Fairs?

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4 minutes ago, Eagledad said:

Is that like asking if more than 1 camp outs a month are a waste of time and money? :unsure:

No.  It is more like asking if more than 20 nights camping is a waste of time and money.  But the difference is this:  Camping more than 20 nights is still directly relevant to the core Scouts BSA Method of Outdoors, even if it no longer applies to the Scouts BSA Method of Advancement.  So, theoretically, that additional camping continues to promote the Aims of Scouts BSA.  Some elective merit badges are clearly relevant to Scouts BSA Methods other than Advancement, such as Bird Study or Astronomy being relevant to the Outdoors Method.  But some are not -- Pulp and Paper, Automotive Maintenance, and Moviemaking, for example.    

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On 11/6/2019 at 7:29 AM, ParkMan said:

 

So, in short.  Let's not throw out these popular sessions, but let's find a way to better integrate them so Scouts extract maximum value.

This pretty much illustrates the way we might best approach many of the opportunities offered that tend to raise so much turmoil on these boards.  

 

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7 hours ago, dkurtenbach said:

Interesting discussion, but I would take a step back:  Why do we have merit badge fairs at all?  I see lots of Scouts who have earned 30, 40, 60 or more merit badges before reaching Eagle Scout rank.  Why on earth would any Scout be interested in earning more than the minimum number of merit badges necessary for each particular rank?  The required merit badges represent areas that BSA thinks are important for a well-rounded Eagle Scout.  A Scout already has the opportunity to explore eight additional personal interest areas via elective merit badges; so that "personal interest" role for merit badges is adequately covered within the twenty-one total badges required for Eagle Scout rank.  Aside from earning Eagle Palms, which confer no status, BSA offers no incentives for earning more merit badges than the number required.  So what is the magic of merit badges that has created a huge infrastructure of merit badge fairs and merit badge counselors to support the program?

I think that the answer is that adults (Scout leaders and parents) teach Scouts that the cumulative number of merit badges received confers a status of its own that is separate from rank.  But where does that come from, since most of the merit badge topics are unrelated to the core skills and knowledge of the BSA program?  Why isn't all that energy being directed toward accomplishments that are closer to the core of the BSA program, like nights camped, miles hiked, or service hours completed?

It's probably worth restating the aims: character development, citizenship training, personal fitness, and leadership.

I see that merit badges accomplish a few things:

  • they help a scout explore an area of interest
  • they provide some adult/youth interaction
  • they are (can be) fun

The more areas you learn about as a kid, the more prepared you are as a citizen.  Along the way, you get to interact with more adults which might help you in developing your own character (aka adult association).  Oh yeah, you get to have some fun too.

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A puzzling discussion, as if freedom to explore 100+ merit badge topic areas and associate with adult experts was contrary to aims of Scouting. :confused:

What of those scouts who earn elective merit badges and have no interest in rank advancement as they find  some of those required merit badges a waste of time and money? I have a few of those, they have found their joy in scouting. My older son was one.  He didn't earn Eagle or even Star, so what, the aims of Scouting were more than fulfilled with him without the Advancement Method.

In my misspent youth in Scouting, I earned Woodwork, Chemistry,  Home Repairs (should be required), Metalwork, Metallurgy, Marksmanship,  Archery, Electricity, Electronics (first year offered), Atomic Energy (no I'm not that guy),  Geology, Coin Collecting, Stamp Collecting (don't judge). None of these were earned at summer camp or Merit badge universities, rather MBC home, front porch, garage, sportsman club, or place of business over 3-6 meetings. Later, one of these counselors, wrote a college recommendation for me.

The number is not 8 but 18, as in age 18.

My $0.02,

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From the Boy Scout Handbook, seventh edition, seventh printing, January 1971, page 357:

"Your advancement through Second and First Class ranks was a natural outgrowth of your patrol and troop experiences.  In merit badge advancement you are on your own [italics added].

"Why do we have merit badges in Scouting?  For two main reasons:  to encourage you to increase your skill in things you like to do and to give you a chance to try out new activities that may result in new interests....

"Many men who were once Scouts feel that their entire lives were influenced by their merit badge work.  Dr. Paul Siple, who was a Scout went with Admiral Richard E. Byrd on his expedition to the South Pole, first became interested in science through his merit badges...Hundreds of doctors, engineers, forest rangers, and naturalists had their ambitions kindled while earning merit badges as Scouts.  You, too, may start on your lifework by working on a merit badge."

And in the spirit of the holidays, I'll even give the anemic ISP a little recognition.  Scout Handbook, eighth edition, first printing, 1972, pages 72 - 73, re merit badges:

- Pick a Subject: "...Find out from your Scoutmaster who the counselor is for that badge...."

- Call the Counselor:  "Get a signed merit badge application from your Scoutmaster.  Phone the merit badge counselor and tell him you want to earn the badge.  He may ask you to come and see him so he can tell you what he expects...."

- Show your Stuff:  "When you are ready, call the counselor again to make an appointment...Most counselors like to meet with Scouts more than once...."

- Get the Badge:  "When the counselor is satisfied, he will sign your application...."

 

Edited by desertrat77
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6 hours ago, dkurtenbach said:

The important number is eight:  Why isn't earning more than eight elective merit badges considered a waste of time and money?

Eight elective merit badges is the minimum - are your espousing that scouts should learn that the minimum in life is what they shoot for.  Regardless of if there is more they are interested. The purpose for merit badges is not to simply meet the minimum, but to explore subjects to determine if they would like to further pursue them as a career.  Or am misreading your post?  

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MBs are fun. The benefit of lots of MBs is not learning more stuff. It's the practicing of association with more adults. An MB Pow Wow should indeed be more like a college class (in fact ours was on the local college campus ... loved walking through the halls of the science building ... with all those displays). This interaction with adults enables a scout to confidently and clearly communicate so as to freely exchange knowledge and skills.

That was of immediate benefit to me in college. I knew how much more I could gain from classes if I met professors during their office hours -- even if only one or two problems were tripping me up. Other students preferred to live in ignorance and only associate with their peers. One-on-one contact .... for all it's risks, the benefits are huge.

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There is no question that giving youth significant exposure to real expertise in a variety of subject areas is a very good thing.  I agree with @ParkMan's statement that "The more areas you learn about as a kid, the more prepared you are as a citizen."  Likewise, meaningful interaction with adults that a youth doesn't really know is also very beneficial.  But if everything works the way it should, Scouts who seek to earn Eagle Scout rank will have eight opportunities for studying non-core subjects (elective merit badges) and twenty-one opportunities for meaningful interaction with adults that they don't know.

So, a Scout gets to the point where he or she already has their eight elective merit badges for Eagle Scout rank.  Presumably all of those badges were in areas of career or hobby (fun) interest or in useful life skills.  And presumably all of those badges were counseled by adult experts over enough sessions that there was significant and meaningful interaction with each adult expert (in addition to the meaningful interactions with adult experts in the thirteen required merit badge subjects).  So, a Scout gets a lot of value from the twenty-one merit badges needed for Eagle Scout rank.  And there is value to the troop and to Scouting generally and to the community in getting a well-rounded Scout.  But once we get past that point, what value is there in a Scout pursuing non-advancement merit badges (elective merit badges beyond the eight needed for Eagle Scout rank)? 

Because the non-advancement merit badge program serves the individual Scout only, and includes many subject areas that have nothing to do with Scouting's core program, neither the troop nor Scouting generally nor the community get any benefit from the non-advancement merit badge program.  Couldn't the time and resources devoted to earning non-core non-advancement merit badges be put to better use?  Uses that provide value not only to the individual Scout, but to the troop and Scouting generally and the community: service projects or patrol campouts or leadership training? 

Note to @Navybone:  I'm not advocating that Scouts shoot for the minimum number of merit badges; I'm suggesting that more than the minimum number has little added value to the individual Scout and no value to his or her troop or to Scouting generally, or to the community. 

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9 hours ago, dkurtenbach said:

But once we get past that point, what value is there in a Scout pursuing non-advancement merit badges (elective merit badges beyond the eight needed for Eagle Scout rank)? 

Because the non-advancement merit badge program serves the individual Scout only, and includes many subject areas that have nothing to do with Scouting's core program, neither the troop nor Scouting generally nor the community get any benefit from the non-advancement merit badge program.  Couldn't the time and resources devoted to earning non-core non-advancement merit badges be put to better use?  Uses that provide value not only to the individual Scout, but to the troop and Scouting generally and the community: service projects or patrol campouts or leadership training? 

In our results oriented world  of today, I think we have to be careful how much we try to find the "value" in what Scouts do.

Scouting is a youth development activity with four aims.  All of those aims are targeted at developing the individual - they don't worry about how much value that individual then adds to the group.  I think this is the right model.  Since development of youth is the point, helping them develop along the four aims is the purpose.  So, if a youth earns 8, 18, or 80 merit badges and it helps the scout to grow then we're succeeding.

So, I wouldn't try to stop a Scout who's enjoying earning merit badges.  If all they ever do is earn merit badges (an extreme case), then we should suggest that there are other parts of Scouting to explore.  But, I would not suggest that they stop earning merit badges.

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9 hours ago, dkurtenbach said:

...  So, a Scout gets a lot of value from the twenty-one merit badges needed for Eagle Scout rank.  And there is value to the troop and to Scouting generally and to the community in getting a well-rounded Scout.  But once we get past that point, what value is there in a Scout pursuing non-advancement merit badges (elective merit badges beyond the eight needed for Eagle Scout rank)? 

Because the non-advancement merit badge program serves the individual Scout only, and includes many subject areas that have nothing to do with Scouting's core program, neither the troop nor Scouting generally nor the community get any benefit from the non-advancement merit badge program.  Couldn't the time and resources devoted to earning non-core non-advancement merit badges be put to better use?  ...

I think your assumption that the elective MB #9 etc ... serve "the individual Scout only" is flawed. They are the specific tool that I use to guide the PLC in bringing the most enjoyable program to a troop. I routinely ask them to think back on the year and determine what their favorite merit MB was. Then I ask them how they can incorporate it into troop activities. They might also have a favorite MBC, and I suggest they invite him/her to come speak at a meeting or visit at a campout.

They also inspire Eagle projects, new locations to camp, etc ...

If scouts aren't working on elective MBs -- even when they don't need them for rank advancement -- those ideas aren't being given thorough consideration, and meetings become rather dull.

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26 minutes ago, ParkMan said:

In our results oriented world  of today, I think we have to be careful how much we try to find the "value" in what Scouts do.

Scouting is a youth development activity with four aims.  All of those aims are targeted at developing the individual - they don't worry about how much value that individual then adds to the group.  I think this is the right model.  Since development of youth is the point, helping them develop along the four aims is the purpose.  So, if a youth earns 8, 18, or 80 merit badges and it helps the scout to grow then we're succeeding.

So, I wouldn't try to stop a Scout who's enjoying earning merit badges.  If all they ever do is earn merit badges (an extreme case), then we should suggest that there are other parts of Scouting to explore.  But, I would not suggest that they stop earning merit badges.

What you are saying is that anything that helps the Scout to grow belongs in Scouting, and we should support it with our Scouting resources.

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1 minute ago, dkurtenbach said:

What you are saying is that anything that helps the Scout to grow belongs in Scouting, and we should support it with our Scouting resources.

Well - to an extent.  Math problems help my daughter to grow, but I wouldn't subject Scouts to that.

Within the context of the Scouting type activities - merit badges, camping, leadership opportunities, patrol activities, etc.  Yes - even if they don't bring specific value to the troop or community, yes - we should support them.

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1 minute ago, ParkMan said:

Well - to an extent.  Math problems help my daughter to grow, but I wouldn't subject Scouts to that.

Within the context of the Scouting type activities - merit badges, camping, leadership opportunities, patrol activities, etc.  Yes - even if they don't bring specific value to the troop or community, yes - we should support them.

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?
 

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While it is not the norm, I would suggest that there may be a few youth that earn a multitude of merit badges and yet never go beyond the lower ranks.  Eagle IS NOT the goal of the program, as has been noted over and over.  How much are we disenchanting a boy from simply enjoying the breadth of options in the merit badge program if we push too hard for rank?  Most of us that have been around a while likely have stories of very successful young people that stayed with us through high school, and maybe even beyond.  Yet they never became Eagle.  When you have the privilege of simply visiting with them twenty plus years later, they all still talk about how this or that skill or merit badge had a particular impact.  A few will say that their adult work started with the introduction of a lesser earned merit badge.  Of course, the history of the program shows vignettes of First Class Scout as being the pinnacle, especially in England.  Even the BSA early merit badge books focused differently with their titles; "Be Prepared for" 

Type 1 MB.jpg

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11 hours ago, dkurtenbach said:

Note to @Navybone:  I'm not advocating that Scouts shoot for the minimum number of merit badges; I'm suggesting that more than the minimum number has little added value to the individual Scout and no value to his or her troop or to Scouting generally, or to the community

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.  

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