I have always been a Scoutmaster that encourages advancement and using all of the methods of Scouting. I have always put a priority on the Scouts having fun, seeking new adventures and in the process, rank, merit badges, and other goodies will happen. And for the better part of 8 years, this has seemed to be the status quo of our troop. Good participation at camp outs, doing lots of cool activities and in the process, Scouts earned merit badges and rank. UNTIL NOW.
For some reason, some of which I don’t have a problem with the Council has decided that merit badges should fall in the hands of committees and project teams. In an effort to gain and maintain relationships with big corporations and learning centers in the Portland metro area a premium has been placed on merit badge days and work shops.
Rather than do it the old-fashioned way where as a Scout develops an interest in a subject or understands that he needs the merit badge for advancement, comes to his unit leader and asks for a blue card and the number to the nearest counselor and then he begins work on the badge. Upon completion, the Scout(or the counselor) returns the blue card and the Scout is presented with the badge. The Council has now provided opportunities for a Scout to just sign up on-line for a badge, show up for a day and complete the badge, many times without the parent unit knowing he has plans to work on it. This bugs me a bit.
The other thing that bugs me about this program is that racking up merit badges seems to have taken front seat to other Scouting programs within the unit. Scouts will sign up and pay online to go to a merit badge hand out rather than participate in a troop activity. I think this is wrong.
Like I said, the traditional way of working and earning merit badges has worked just fine for the better part of 8 years. Scouts have shown interest and they have earned the badges without placing too much emphasis on them other than for advancement.
Until Now. It seems that the latest batch of Scouts (Parents) seem to think that merit badges are the end all be all. They are cranking out merit badges at a pace that will land them all in Boy’s Life for setting merit badge records. I don’t know where this comes from and I don’t know exactly when the switch was flicked. What I do know is that I think it is sending the wrong message to the Scout. I think the parents should remove themselves from the merit badge game and allow their son to have fun in Scouting and earn them the right way.
I upset some parents (new parents) last month when I gave the Summer camp speech and told the Scouts to not worry about merit badge but to make sure they had fun at summer camp. Some of the Scouts listened and did have a great time at camp, while others wasted no time in earning merit badges for the sake of earning merit badges. A quick look at the list of merit badges earned at summer camp tell the story, no Eagle required badges earned (they take all week), but many “filler badges were worked and earned.
So our Tenderfoot Scouts will soon have loaded merit badge sashes and no cool stories, no great memories, and will still not be any closer to the next rank. But their parents will be happy that they get to see Tommy Tenderfoot at the Court of Honor get lots of stuff.
What I am afraid of is the council creating a “participation ribbon” environment. Where everyone is a winner and no one has to work hard for what they get. A patch for the patches sake is far less worth having than one earned.
Not every Scout will be an Eagle Scout and not every Eagle Scout earned all 250 or so merit badges.
I asked the Scouts the other night how important the merit badges were to them. My little poll did not tell the story that the amount of merit badges would suggest. Nor the fact that they are all rushing to work merit badges at the Council sponsored events. Which could only lead me to one conclusion. The parents need to get their own sashes.
Merit badges will come when the time and interest is right. They should never take priority over Troop events, and the Council should stay out of it.
My 2 cents, you know I am interested in hearing yours.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
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