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Eagledad

Value of Merit Badge Programs

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Hi All

 

>>A list of counselors was posted, with the MBs they were counseling, and the scouts (not the parents) had to call the counselor to sign up.

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You are old school, Barry. That's neither bad, nor good, just a statement of fact. (BTW, I am old school too.)

 

There was an interesting 60 minutes program recently on the current very young adults and late teenagers who are in a group called "Echo Boomers." Some of their characteristics are:

 

1) They are used to "new games" where everybody gets a prize just for participating. They expect to be a winner just by participating

2) They are very good team members and are very comfortable in teams. They are not particularly comfortable being stand alone leaders.

3) They are comfortable following orders and doing what they are told. They are not rebellious.

4) They are very good at multitasking. They are comfortable sitting and absorbing information (the Sesame Street experience). The "What do you think" approach of LD Woodbadge is not comfortable for them.

 

 

There were several other characteristics mentioned too.

 

They mentioned that some of these characteristics are driving employers crazy. They said that the Echo Boomers show up for work and expect to be All Stars the first day (as they always have been) and don't like competition, particularly if the competition has one winner and many non-winners.

 

We can like this or not like it, but it is, to some extent, the characteristics and needs of the youth group we now serve. We can address that incrementally through our unit culture, but if our unit operation is too out of line with their comfort zone, then many will leave and not return for reasons that even they may not be able to verbalize other than "I just didn't like it."

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The success of the merit badge program is entirely dependent on the quality of the counselors.

 

Scouting is a reflection of society, as a result, you will have good counselors who take a real interest in a scout's learning and you will have bad counselors that are not competent, not interested, too busy, etc. And of course, you have the full spectrum in between.

 

Our troop puts forth a lot of effort in providing an annual merit badge counselor training session for both new and experienced counselors designed to not only cover the basics, but to also motivate them to seek a greater mentoring relationship. Our district and council provides no such training opportunities. Counselors that go through this training are typically sought after by our scouts because they know it will be a quality experience.

 

For the most part, our troop considers the merit badge programs at summer camps to be a joke. While every camp advertizes that badge requirements are upheld and strictly followed, I have rarely seen it in practice (and we go to a different camp each year). The same goes for Counsel-wide merit badge weekends. In my mind, it is these merit-badge factories that have spoiled many scouts to simply wait for such opportunities where they know the counselors are lax and the amount of effort required is minimal.

 

The average boy will certainly choose the path of least resistance if two options are presented to him. Environmental Science covering multiple meetings and significant projects with Dr XXXX (a scientist associated with our troop) or 5 hours of sitting in a class with 20 other scouts listening to a 16 year old and doing goofy experiments. I think the choice is obvious to a boy.

 

 

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I guess I'm old school too.....and I have not been in this scouting game all that long. I don't want the program so hard that it frustrates a boy, but I don't want it so easy that they can buzz thru it on auto-pilot. We were not pleased with our summer camp experience last year. About mid-week, it came to our attention that the young man "teaching" fly fishing was playing card games with the boys in his class. He'd tell them where the fishing poles were if they wanted to go fish as he played games. The problem was rectified after a visit to the camp leadership. When we got the report on our boys at the end of camp, each one who had taken the class had been signed as completed. We told them that we couldn't take the badge away since it had been signed off. Each one of them gave it a couple of minutes thought and said, "I didn't do the work and I didn't earn it". I was proud of them. I was ticked that their money had been wasted though. I have similar feelings towards the merit badge fairs.

 

I think one of the major problems with MB's is that we make them to readily accessable in summer camp and at fairs. The boy never has to lift a finger to actually make contact and set up meetings with someone and do the work over a period of time. As someone said, the path of least resistance. With all the "demands" (real or imagined) on today's youth, they are going to go the easiest route they can. Especiaaly if everyone else does it and it is sanctioned by the district and council.

 

My son was the one who decided to get into scouting and dragged me into it with him. I know what it should be and try to make it that way for our troop. I am however disheartened by how it really is sometimes.

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hi ho fellow misfits and the rest of you do gooders!

 

I am trying to make this one of my shortest posts.

 

Our district Has a little list (about 25 pages) through round table and SM/CM fundimentals, woodbadge connections and District merit badge "days"... we have developed our own list of 'out-side' the troop M-B 'good guys'(girls?) These are folks we know/think make the 'process' a worth while experience and not an 'auto sign-off or on the other side a 'grind' (have I got a Citizen/nation S(on)o(f)B(adguy) for you)...THIS IS THE LIST WE POST!

We also have 'in troop' folks but we would rather not use them unless we have no good choice...

We would rather other troops use ours...what the boys don't know does not seem to hurt them...and after the 'brownsea' year we encourage summer camp for unusual activities rather that merit badge mills for their camp experiences (one -two are enough)...do things you like!

learn to live!

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Barry,

 

I appreciate your appreciation.

 

I tend to be a bit old school myself. Just maybe a little less ambitious in the amount of change I'm willing to try and initiate. With my son still active in the troop, that's where most of my focus has been.

 

For the most part, I think the program as planned and intended works pretty well. I don't have an issue with some MBs earned at summer camp or at MB days or whatever you want to call them. I would like to see at least some MBs earned individually though. It seems like some adults have interpreted the G2SS requirements as meaning scouts can't earn MBs individually because they can't meet one on one with a Counselor so everyone wants to offer a class of some kind. The scouts go along because no one has ever told them there are other ways to earn MBs and why bother if they're pre-programed classes by well meaning adults. As SemperPar said, why not wait until the next MB University or summer camp?

 

 

 

 

Now getting the program back on track? Baby steps, I keep telling myself. Baby steps in the right direction. Among other things, scouting taught me patience. Baby steps from me, others.... ..What did Arlo say it took to start a movement?

 

SA

 

 

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If I may join y'all on the Group W bench, I have to say this is one of the best discussions we have had here...and nails a point that has been in my craw for years. Today's average 12 year old has been raised to think that his self-esteem is sacrosanct and woe be unto anyone who hurts his feelings by "requiring" him to do something at which he may not succeed, or doesn't want to do because it may require some discomfort or sweat. I fear for the future as these young people, used to doing just enough to "get by" rise into positions of power and responsibility.

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As of yet, I haven't seen a MB University or anything like that in our area. The problem we are having, is that MBC's are not returning phone calls that the boys in our troop are making. We have 3 Scouts that are calling to set up appointments to work on Merit Badges, and since before December, not one has had a phone call returned. This is very discouraging to our Scouts. Has anyone else encountered this problem? Any ideas?

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As SM of an overseas Troop we see indirect effects of MB mills. American scouts go to summer camp, earn a fist full of MBs, while Indian and other scouts have to earn them one at a time because they don't go to summer camp. It's unfair. What to do? Would some of you please post your list of "most abused" MBs, like Environmental Science? Do any of you have a list of MBs that kids must earn with a local counselor, not a mill, and how do you enforce it? We would adopt

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JohnD

 

Most abused merit badges? I would consider the following badges as suspect if earned during a week-long summer camp:

 

Environmental Science

Citizenship in the World

Personal Management

Family Life

 

I know there are exceptions and others can surely add to the list. But unless the scout has already basically done all of the work in advance, no way these badges can be earned over the course of 5 hours of 'instruction'.

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My story first: This sounds like a 'slogging through the snow to get to school' yarn but Irving was the MB counselor for First Aid and I was the young upstart. He failed me the first time I went to his house for class and he told me to read the MB book. This failing routine went on for weeks. For the first time in my life, I was challenged to know (memorize) important data that could possibly save a life. He finally passed me but I knew the material. Moral of the story: I am still a good First Aider today even after 40 years. (* I have updated my knowledge since, so don't worry.)

 

Irving knew that I needed to be pushed and that I was willing to endure to succeed. I don't know how he knew it but he did. He knew people. He knew his subject material and the importance of it. All of my aquatics instructors were similar. You either demonstrated proficiency or you did not pass. One's life depended on it.

 

I had other Counselors that knew something about the material but they allowed me to slide without much effort. I met the requirements but I learned the minimum. Some of those MB's were of interest to me and having a person with knowledge teach them would have met the requirements that I wanted.

 

So, the elements of a good MB counselor have to do first with the knowledge of the badge. The next has to do with how it is taught, which is to learn by reading, hearing, and doing. I also believe the Scout should do no more than the requirements to pass the badge. The great thing about having a knowledgeable person teach a MB is that the Scout will learn the reasons behind the requirements and will experience a broader view of the badge. Knowledge and ability to teach is not limited to certain ages but it generally helps.

 

FB

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"As of yet, I haven't seen a MB University or anything like that in our area. The problem we are having, is that MBC's are not returning phone calls that the boys in our troop are making. We have 3 Scouts that are calling to set up appointments to work on Merit Badges, and since before December, not one has had a phone call returned. This is very discouraging to our Scouts. Has anyone else encountered this problem? Any ideas?"

 

In our council, we have an excellent MBU run by Harvard University (written up in Boy's Life In January 2004). They have two rules which make it a lot more palatable in my opinion:

 

1) They do not offer Eagle required merit badges. In fact, they try to offer the ones that are rarely seen like Oceanography, Journalism, Geology and Indian Lore. It's rather neat to have Chemistry offered by a Nobel Prize winner or American Business offered by a former National Chief of the OA>

2) They hold the MBU on two weekends about a month apart. The Scout comes to the first one, meets the counselor and learns what is needed. They they go home to do the work. If it is completed, they get the MB on the second weekend. Otherwise, they get a partial.

 

As far as MB counselors being hard to reach and not calling back, if this were the old school, I'd say "Welcome to the challenge of becoming an Eagle Scout." That used to be part of the game. You sometimes needed to bug the counselor and, more than once, I had the counselor finally tell me "I've stopped doing that! Stop bothering me."

 

But this isn't the old school :) The counselors are expected to cater to the Scouts, not the other way around.

 

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I continually observed, both as a counselor and a parent, that many scouts seem to think the role of a counselor is to sign off on blue cards - certainly not to teach or mentor the skill. IMHO, it has a lot to do with how, over that past ten years, American society has over-emphasized self esteem at the expense of self motiviation. The question for BSA is: should it change how merit badges are incorporated into the program? What do you think?

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The Merit Badge program has seemeingly worked for 95 years now (with varying levels of success depending on the time, locality, individual scout, etc., etc.). I, for one, would not look to revamp the program to fit the current perceived societal makeup, since that will likely change again with the next generation. Falling into the trap of making wholesale changes to fit current societal needs will result in the BSA looking like a dog constantly chasing its tail.

 

Absent strict guidelines from the BSA on these matters (which I hope never come), the troop leadership needs to decide the best means for administering the merit badge program for its own scouts. Once the troop leadership decides on its approach, it needs to effectively communicate to and MOTIVATE its scouts within the framework adopted.

 

Our troop has adopted the approach that a scout should avail himself of many different menas of merit badge work - from individual pursuits, class environments, summer camps and MB weekends. Each person learns in different ways and should not be 'shut out' because only one way is deemed the only way.

 

 

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