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Value of Merit Badge Programs

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Since we're talking pet advancement peeves and most abused MBs for one of them would be Emergency Preparedness MB. I have no objection to this MB but to have it equate to Lifesaving MB as an Eagle requirement is, to be blunt a joke.

 

I don't know when this change was made. But for folks that wonder why some old timers wonder about 13 year old Eagle candidates I believe this change in one reason. When Lifesaving was a required MB there would have been few 13 year olds physically capable of earning this badge.

 

SA

 

 

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>>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?

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scoutingagain,

 

I'm probably talking out of turn since I have not even looked at the Emergency Preparedness MB book. Depending on the kind of information it contains and the work involved, I can see how EP could equate with Life Saving. Living here in Oklahoma with the tornados we have come thru or in an area prone to flooding, hurricanes or forest fires, EP is extremely important and a can be a real life saver.

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As a followup on the list of abused MBs , what about the idea of requiring all Eagle required MBs be earned at home, the others are OK for camp? Too onerous? How bout having the counselor for required MBs sign off on the camp-earned badge to confirm the requirements were met? Would this spark a rebellion??

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More rules would be good if your goal is to improve the purity of the MB system--that is, to ensure that all MB recipients meet a specified high standard. Thus you could eliminate MB days, drop MBs from summer camp, prohibit parental signoffs, limit the number of MBs one person can counsel, stiffen the review process to ensure MBCs are qualified, etc. On the other hand, each time you impose one of these rules, you make the system less flexible, and you make it more difficult for boys to get merit badges. Personally, I'm not too concerned about whether scouts in other troops get their MBs too easily--that's on their conscience, and the conscience of their adult leaders. However, I do take these concerns as a challenge to improve the system for the troop my son is in--to try to recruit good counselors, to encourage boys to seek out MBCs outside the troop, to encourage boys to look for other opportunities for badges, to refuse to compromise when badges are given away at camp, etc. But each of the rules listed above would have eliminated some of MBs boys in my son's troop have earned--and, in my judgment, they really did the work and met the requirements.

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Beav,

 

I agree the Emergency Preparedness MB has value and exposes scouts to potential interesting career choices. However many of the requirements are in the mode of Discuss, Make a chart, Meet with.., Write a plan..., Tell..., Make a Checklist... . Even the requirements that require Show are not that physically challenging.

 

Compare these to some of the Lifesaving MB requirements,

 

Swim 400 yards, Perform a non-equipment rescue on a victim. Escape from a victims' grasp in deep water.

 

There is no comparison in the physical challenge in the requirement.

 

At least in the alternatives to Swimming MB, like Hiking or Cycling, there is a degree of a comparable challenge. There is no such comparabilty between the Emergency Preparedness MB and Lifesaving MB.

 

I see this as just more of the lessening of requirements. Frankly, not all kids would ever be able to earn a properly conducted Lifesaving MB. So, rather than have some scouts be discouraged about the possibility of earning Eagle, we provide an easier, and in my opinion a much easier alternative.

 

Maybe for me this is a pet peeve because Lifesaving was a particular challenge for me. When I first tried to earn the MB at summer camp I new it was a hard one, and was a little intimidated at the prospect of trying to perform a non-equipment rescue on a 180 lbs lifeguard. One who clearly seemed to enjoy making this requirement a particular challenge. The first time I tried this as a 100 lbs 8th grader, I thought he was going to drown me. I failed that summer and was definately dissappointed. I wasn't sure if I could ever meet the requirement. But that Lifeguard wanted to make sure that I or anyone else earning that MB could successfully rescue a drowning victim in the water, as required. To have let me pass, letting me think I could physically do that, could have put me in danger. It took me at least two more attempts to perform that rescue and it wasn't until I had grown another year or more and put on another 20-30 lbs in addition to quite a bit of coaching from the lifequard that I was able to earn that MB and I felt like I had conquered the world.

 

The point is, I don't see that in many of today's MB requirements. I know this sounds like the, "in my day we...." and I suppose it is. There used to be some real tough descriminators in the advancement process, both physical and mental. However, it seems now, instead of challenging scouts, and giving some real meaning to advancement, we tend to want to advance everyone, so advancement seems like it's earned for showing up.

 

But that's my pet peeve on Lifesaving.

 

SA

 

 

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I've got mixed feelings on the Lifesaving vs. EP debate. Back in my day, I believe I tried Lifesaving twice, to no avail. I satisfied the 400 yds and most everything else. But the "rescuing the drowning victim who is doing everything in the world to drown you" was what I always struggled with. I ended up earning EP and made Eagle.

 

Today, they have pretty much eliminated the "fighting the rescuer" part of Lifesaving. As I've seen it taught at Summer Camp, it's just about as easy as EP, except for the 400 yd swim.

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Back to the topic.

IMO the BSA has watered down the merit badge program by allowing Summer Camps to become merit badge mills. And allowing Councils/Districts to have merit badge university, or whatever the council/district calls them.

Leaders see how the council/district/summer camps handle merit badges and think if this is the way the BSA wants it done, we will take it back to the troop and do merit badges at troop meetings. They are just following the program as they see it being done. Tell me and I will remember 10% of what you tell me, show me and I will retain 40% of what I see.

The BSA needs to make summer camps more as a week of camping/hiking/swimming/hanging out with buddies/exploring/fishing than merit badge mills. It will never happen though it would take a lot of work to make a summer camp a place to do a lot of things other than merit badges. We just need to take this as a change to the program, and move on. But less place the change where it belongs on the adult leaders. US,

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We approach merit badges in a variety of ways. Summer camp is one option open to boys.

 

We also attend a couple MB universities each year.

 

We usually don't do MBs at troop meetings, we mostly do activity planning, etc., but maybe we'll do a couple MB classes per year.

 

We have some merit badge opportunities at campouts a couple times per year.

 

We also have boys earn MBs through individual counseling from a list of approved counselors.

 

High adventure does not usually involve advancement work, neither do most camping trips. Much of our program doesn't involve getting badges. Advancement is just one of the 8 methods. We try to keep things balanced.

 

Each boy has to set his own goals and work at his own pace. Some are eager and willing to get on the phone and make appointments, others are less ambitious.

 

We try to impress upon boys that they manage their advancement careers and the troop will provide support and opportunity. They need to choose whether or not they pursue those opportunities. We don't want to be a conveyor belt in an advancement mill.

 

Some boys earn Eagle by age 13, more earn it at age 17, with many never getting past Life.

 

Our goal is to foster Citizenship, Character and Fitness within boys as they become young men.

 

Our job isn't to make Eagles, each boy chooses to seek it and earn it, or not. It has to be their goal, not our's.

 

The value of merit badges is determined by what a boy gets out of it, and that is directly proportional to what he puts into it.

 

 

YIS,

Cliff Golden

Scoutmaster Troop 33

DeKalb, Illinois

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Dan,

 

I don't like the idea of doing merit badges at troop meetings. That isn't what they are designed for. I have no problem with the troop working on a merit badge together on a night or weekend outside of the troop meeting though. I don't like the idea of telling the boys that we are all doing a certain merit badge and not giving them a choice. What if he isn't interested in doing that particular MB? He can opt not to participate, but what if you are using troop meeting time to do it? It short changes the boys who don't want to do it while the others are doing it. If they do participate to just go along with what the troop i doing, how is that better than an MB mill? The one difference is that you might not pass them where they would pass if they went to a mill. But then you have a ticked off scout who attended meetings he didn't want to, took an MB he wasn't interested in and then failed something that was forced on him.

 

I don't totally disagree with you on summer camp. It is a problem that needs fixing. But I don't think getting away from MB's is really the answer. We've had a few camp outs that were deemed "fun" camp outs. Just time to be out in nature with your friends. They get bored and trouble starts brewing. Obviously the answer is to keep it structured, but then it is a planned trip and not a "fun" trip anymore. I don't know that you can take a bunch of 11, 12, 13, etc. year old boys to camp for 7 days and keep them busy enough to stay out of trouble without providing the program that MB's provide. Now I'm all for making some of them 2 hours a day instead of 1 hour and being much more indepth. I'm also all for the 16 year old MBC's having to prove they know their stuff in order to teach the course and get the job.

 

I think I might have expanded on your comments a little to the extreme. My comments are not meant to offend. I'm hoping that when you say do MB's at troop meetings, you mean taking a portion of the meeting to do the work instead of the whole meeting. I do know of troops that spend the whole meeting working on MB's because they don't use the patrol method and don't know what else to do. This troop came and visited our Webelos den when we were checking out troops. The SM told us that they work on MB's and that they were going to play laser tag for this weeks meeting. We steered clear of that troop.

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Several topics ago, I pointed out that things are not the way they used to be, Scout Camp MB Mill, etc. It was pointed out to me by one astute past participant that the number of Eagles is still in a slim minority. We can beat this one with a big stick from now on but the majority never makes it.

 

If the point is that the Eagle badge should be a significant milestone, it remains so from the advent.

 

If the issue is making MB's more meaningful, then we already have several things at our disposal to do so.

 

 

FB

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SR540Beaver

I think you missed my point, or maybe not?

As leaders we watch how merit badges are being done at summer camps. What is the difference in doing merit badges at a troop meeting versus summer camp? I do not see much of a difference. Why couldn't the week long summer camp be used to work on/use scout skills instead of all merit badges? Leave some of the merit badges that the staff can do a really good job with. Have the rest of staff setup stations that the scouts can use scout skills and have fun at. Have other staffers setup other fun stations which the scouts can visit and use. These stations can be games, teamwork skills/games. I am not suggesting that the scouts sit around for a week doing nothing, but if they did, that would be up to the leadership of the troop to handle. Do the leaders of the troop really need someone to setup a week worth of actives for the troop? It seems that the leaders of a troop should be able to do this, and have a great week, with lots of fun. Without working on merit badges for the entire week.

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This is my 2 cents on Merit badges at summer camp. Read on if your interested.

 

The first merit badge I worked on was at summer camp, and a young scout around 1995. This was the first time I had ever stayed away from home and was looking forward to spending the week with some of my best buddies doing scout craft and going on adventures.

 

When I got there, it was totally not what I had expected. Now, after attending many camps as a youth I realize my experience at this camp was not the same as my experiences at other camps later on. My comments on the Merit badge program comes from my first experince, I will refer to the camp as Camp Hell.

 

When I arrived at Camp Hell, a scheduel was put into my hands as to the merit badge classes I would be attending. I was having a rough time as it was adjusting to being far away from home, and now I had a scheduel of not fun and games, but classes?

 

I should have been more prepared as to what THIS summer camp was. To me from day one I could tell it was all about merit badges. That's not a bad thing, but it wasn't about the learning , it was about the taking. It was about who could get the most. By the end of 3 days we were close to ending the first aid merit badge, and I knew nothing about first aid. I thought how could this be? Can it really be this easy?

 

To make a long story short due to a death in my family at home I left Camp Hell after 4 days. They didn't have to pull me away kicking and screaming. I couldn't wait to get out. I felt like I was at school the whole time anyway. There were no big adventures, not a lot of real scouting craft or knowledge, just a bunch of classes.

 

When I got home I decided I would never go to summer camp again with my stubborn 12 year old attitude. I slowly began working on my merit badges with counselors all over Long Island. By the time I was close to reaching Eagle Scout, I had finished every one of my merit badges away from summer camp. I have attended many summer camps during scouting, but never for merit badges, only for adventures, hiking ect...

 

I do not regret not earning my merit badges at summer camp, in fact I believe I have benefited. Instead of being handed a scheduel, I made my own. I got the oppertunity to contact and meet new scouters all throughout the two counties on Long Island.

 

I am not saying that earning merit badges at Summer Camp is of no value. Depending on the the camp, and the scout, it can be great fun! I am just speaking from my own experience and one specific camp. Other summer camps I have attened have run very good merit badge programs and do not let scouts pass by without knowing the material.

 

 

YIS

 

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I have to admit to not being "old school" or "new school" on this issue. In fact, I'm not quite sure where I stand. I must admit to earning many of my Merit Badges as a scout at troop meetings. Most were earned at Summer Camp. I believe I earned 27 badges, of them, probably 5 or less were earned by going out and finding a counselor. Maybe there were more, I simply don't remember (a problem with turning 40). That number (5) seems very low to the "old schoolers" and probably high to the "new schoolers".

 

I would guess that the ratio is pretty close to that in our troop. Most Merit Badges have been earned at Summer Camp. We do a little MB work in troop meetings, but we don't allow it ALL to be done there. We force the boys (and the counselors) to do some of the work outside of the troop meeting setting. I would say that about 1/2 of the boys have taken a blue card to get someone to counsel them in a merit badge.

 

When thinking about this subject, I keep thinking about a document written by our founder. He wrote an article entitled "The Standardization of Badges". In it, he says "I hope that the compilers are not losing sight the aim and spirit of the Movement by making it into a training school of efficiency through curricula marks, and standards. Our aim is merely to help the boys, especially the least scholarly ones, to become personally enthused in subjects that appeal to them individually, and that will be helpful to them. We do this through the fun and jollity of Scouting; by progressive states they can be led on naturally and unconsciously, to develop for themselves their knowledge. But if once we make it into a formal scheme of serious instruction for efficiency, we miss the whole point and value of the Scout training, and we trench the work of the schools without the trained experts for carrying it out."

 

He goes on to say that ""Our standard for badge earning -- as I have frequently said -- is not to attain a certain level of quality of work ( as in school ), but the AMOUNT OF EFFORT EXERCISED BY THE INDIVIDUAL CANDIDATE. This brings the most hopeless case on a footing of equal possibility with his more brilliant or better-off brother."

 

I find this to be very different than the philosophy of MB counselors today. Many of them are just trying to make it easy for the boys (MB Mills). The others are trying to turn boys into young medics, dentists, chemists or atomic scientists. Testing them to the degree that requires a deep and thorough understanding of the subject. The fact is, neither group is correct. The boy should learn - that is a definite. But the emphasis should not be as much on "did the boy become an expert" as it should be "did the boy learn something about this area in a fun an interesting way?".

 

I've known several scouts who developed an interest in their chosen profession while working on Merit Badges. I believe that is what BP was striving for. Not to turn them into experts, but to help cultivate an interest in the subject.

 

Sorry for the LONG post. Here's a link to the whole BP article:

 

http://www.rogerknapp.com/download/Baden%20Merit%20Badges.htm

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>> I have attended many summer camps during scouting, but never for merit badges, only for adventures, hiking ect...

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