The STEM Push

stemThe other night I held a couple Scoutmaster Conferences, both for Scouts earning the Star Rank and both of the Scouts good young men.  During our discussion the subject of merit badges came up as you need them for the Star, Life, and Eagle ranks.
One of the young men asked me why certain merit badges were Eagle required, while others were not.  We looked at the merit badges that were on the Eagle required list and I explained to him that these are important merit badges that support the goals of Scouting.
Citizenship in the Community, Nation, and World focus not on teaching you about citizenship, but what your obligations are as a Citizen.
First Aid, Camping, Life Saving, Hiking, Emergency Preparedness, Swimming, Cycling, Personal Fitness and Cooking all focus on the Scout being fit and self-reliant.  Communication, Family life and Personal Management focus on how he acts in the world.  These are important.
Finger printing, art, music, basketry, and astronomy are just cool things that spark interest in the Scout.
I have noticed that there is a big push on the STEM programs in Scouting.  As if Scouting was becoming a vocational arm of the education system.  Now before I get hate mail, I am all for the Science and technology stuff,  I am fascinated by what engineers can do.  But this is Scouting dang it.  I don’t want to take my Scouts to Summer camp and have them sit in class all day learning about how to split an atom.  I want them out there enjoying the outdoors.  The go to School from September to June… July and August are times for them to be boys!
The STEM push has taken over and I want it to back off a bit.  Even in our Council STEM is all over the place.  We have great STEM partners in our areas that are assisting young men in cranking out merit badges.  But are they learning anything?  My guess is no.
I asked this young man in our conference which merit badges he had earned (looking at his history I knew the answer).  He had really not got much out of the “filler badges”.  He did talk about First Aid and the Citizenship badges though.
I am not against the STEM Program, but I personally do not want Scouting to become the math club.  Scouts get enough School.  They join Scouts to get adventure and that is what we need to give them.
Sit a Scout down for an hour and teach them about anything.. they want to get up and run.. give them an adventure and in the process teach them life skills and appreciation for the outdoors and you have captured them for life long Scouting.
STEM is not going away.. this is the world we live in, but let’s do more Scouting!
Just my opinion and thoughts.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

One comment

  1. Hi Jerry,

    Scouts Canada is also in a push for STEM programming too. This is on top of a (much needed IMO) Program revitalization that is now underway. Any one that I’ve spoken to proudly tells you that it will be 100% supportive of the new programming, but I can help but wonder how a “Adventure” based program can be supported by science.

    Please don’t get me wrong, I think that some of the STEM stuff is very cool and there will be some youth that might be exposed to opportunities they wouldn’t have gotten elsewhere. Still it seems unfocused or trying to be everything to everybody. If we’re adventure then lets be adventure! Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, John Glen, and Steve MacLean (Canadian) all managed to become astronauts without STEM in Scouting (thought I’m sure the sense of adventure and self-reliance skills Scouting taught them helped).

    Some parents complaint that with Scouting there is no visible improvement? A child in minor sports will usually show improvement with practice. In Scouting, unless they are with the Troop they don’t get to see the skills being learned in the “backwoods” classroom that the Scouters do. Maybe the STEM push is an attempt to give parents that visible factor?

    Any which way though, the focus needs to stay on the “out” in Scouting.

    Great post as always! I enjoy reading them and learning more about BSA.


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