First I want to thank all the readers of the blog and listeners of the podcast for having the confidence in me or at valuing my opinion.
The reason I write this is because over the last year or so emails flood my inbox asking questions, giving me feed back, and asking for my opinion.
I would like to share an email from a reader regarding the merit badge program.
We are having a debate in our troop about how to do merit badges. We used to do merit badge classes during troop meetings, and lots of the guys got lots of the badges. Some on our committee want to do this again.
When I became scoutmaster a year and a half ago, I de-emphasised merit badges in troop meetings. I saw that different scouts needed different badges, and did not want to fragment our meeting time. Half of the scouts might need communications, for example, and half already had it. We have one meeting room, and so doing something with the half who did not need the badge was difficult. I told the boys to follow the handbook and do the badges outside of the troop meeting. I even showed a video from youtube about doing this.
We got the practice from a former scoutmaster who was a scout in one of our councils huge troops (100+) where it kind of made sense to do merit badge classes in troop meetings. Our troop of 16 boys is kind of small to make it practical. I have told the SPL that if he and the other patrol leaders want to do this, then they had to put it together. They did once, offering Railroading merit badge over two meeting nights, with the scouts being required to do the field work on their own.
Now, some committee members want the troop to do an eagle required merit badge per month as part of troop meetings to give more scouts the opportunity to reach Eagle rank. I am not keen on the idea. I think our time would be better spent promoting the patrol method, which is something that has not caught on, and is one of my goals for the troop this year.
Would you give this subject some thought and perhaps do a podcast show on it. I would very much like to know how you do things, and what your view of the merit badge program is. I can always find opponents and proponents of the practice.
As you always admonish, have a great scouting day.
And so here is my response:
Thanks for the email, I am grateful that you value my opinion.
Having said that, I will share my thoughts, and certainly will make notes to do a podcast on Merit Badges in the meeting place.
The Short answer is NO.. we do not do Merit badges in the meeting place.
The outline of the Merit Badge program is not intended for every Scout to get every Merit Badge. It’s intent is to open opportunities to the Scouts, show career choices, hobbies, and outdoor skills and adventures.
The program also REQUIRES the Scout to be the spark to get the flame hot.
It states on page 187 of the Boy Scout handbook (current edition) “When you [the scout] have decided on a merit badge you would like to earn, following these steps:
Obtain from your Scoutmaster a signed merit badge application [blue card] and the name of a qualified counselor for that merit badge.
Along with another Scout, a relative, or a friend, set up and attend your first appointment with the merit badge counselor. The counselor will explain the requirements for the badge and help you plan way to fulfill them so that you can get the most out of the experience.
Complete the requirements, meeting with your counselor whenever necessary until you have finished working the badge.”
On page 14… which I highly recommend your committee review it states; “ The merit badge program provides you [the scout] the opportunity to meet and work with adult leaders in your community. It also introduces you to potential new hobbies and vocations.”
When we turn our Troop meetings into Merit Badge Mills, we take away from the program. I understand the want of parents to give their Scout the very best opportunity to become an Eagle Scout. But as the program outlines, advancement is an individual effort. The rate of advancement is dictated by the Scout and it depends on the Scouts interest, effort, and ability. The opportunity for earning Merit Badges exists in the normal course of the program year. You need not take away the opportunity of the Scouts development of the other methods for the sake of a badge.
I have seen troops in our District that exercise the “Mill plan” A merit badge a month or a week in some cases. Here is what I have found.First. The Scouts do not learn anything. They show up and get the badge. Counselors (like at Summer Camp) give the badge to who ever shows up for the class. That is also why I shy away from the “Merit Badge Weekends or Merit badge Universities.
Second. The Scouts do not develop the skill that is taught during the working of the badge or have a tendency to short cut the working of the badge in the group setting, feeding off others work or achievement.
Third. We take away the adult interaction and the asking that the Scout take on responsibility for his advancement.While I thank the committee for their dedication to the Scouts and providing “opportunities” in the long run it breaks down the programs intent of Citizenship training, Character development, and Fitness.
I hope that helps, and yes.. I will be doing a show on this issue.
Have a Great Scouting Day!