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My Two Cents: Does the BSA offer too many merit badges?

Whenever a new merit badge comes out, a handful of well-meaning volunteers usually ask that question.

“If you’re adding Welding merit badge,” they write, “which one will you take away?”

For me, though, the beauty of the BSA’s merit badge program lies in its diverse selection. Too many choices? No such thing.

Walk into any bookstore, and consider the thousands of books on display. The store knows that no two readers are alike.

No two boys are the same, either. And the Boy Scouts of America understands that.

Yin and Yang

The BSA must balance two forces: The diverse interests of a boy and the desire to ensure that anyone who earns Eagle is “Prepared. For Life.”

To complete the Eagle Scout Award, a boy must earn 21 merit badges, including 12 from a required list. Those required merit badges guarantee that every Eagle Scout has the essential skills to guide him through life. Scouts learn first aid, communications, camping, citizenship, and skills that will make them better husbands, fathers, employees, students, and leaders.

Beyond that, a Scout must earn at least nine “elective” merit badges. The possibilities are vast, and these days, the number of options expands by a rate of two or three new merit badges every year.

That’s a good thing.

Freedom of Choice

Think of the Scouts in your troop. Are some super-athletic? At home on the water? Computer-savvy? Bookworms? Collectors? Fishermen? Tree-huggers? Animal lovers? Writers? Artists? Photographers? Future scientists? Amateur inventors?

I think you see my point.

Think of the merit badge program as a low-risk, high-reward test drive of some of the most popular careers and hobbies in the United States.

Before you spend $20,000 a year sending your son to college to study landscape architecture, spend $4.49 to buy him the pamphlet for Landscape Architecture merit badge. If he loves it, great. But if not, it’s on to the next merit badge with no harm done.

Lowering that college loan bill isn’t the sole motivator, though.

Trying out a wide range of merit badges opens doors to new challenges.

In one week at summer camp, a boy can learn to shoot a rifle, create a woodcarving, and practice saving a person from drowning. And he’ll leave with three merit badges to show his folks when he gets home. Show me another program where that’s possible.

More Is More

Really, though, the key argument is this: Too many available merit badges beats too few.

Just because nobody in your troop will earn Plumbing merit badge this year, for example, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t exist. And even if just a handful of Scouts earn Plumbing in your entire council, the merit badge has done its job for the Scouts who do earn it by giving them hands-on experience in a real-world career.

I’m wowed when I hear about the handful of Scouts who earn every single merit badge, but they’re the exception. By design, the BSA doesn’t expect every Scout to earn every merit badge. Heck, the BSA doesn’t expect Scouts to earn even a quarter of the available merit badges — just like a bookstore doesn’t expect you’ll buy every book.

As it should be, the BSA is most concerned with casting a wide net. Nobody is harmed when a new merit badge is introduced. Everybody wins.

But if one is removed, some Scouts miss out.

As the number of available merit badges grows, the selection becomes even greater. That’s why I applaud Janice Downey and the Innovation Team for their constant push to survey Scouts and add new merit badges based on the boys’ interests. Speaking of, remember to keep up with all the updates on my New Merit Badge calendar.

When it comes to deciding how many merit badges the BSA should offer, more is always more.

What do you think?

Do you agree with me? Does the BSA have too many merit badges or not enough? If you could add one new merit badge tomorrow that you’re sure Scouts would love, what would it be? Let’s continue the discussion in the comments section.


Photo by Flickr user Zen

60 Comments on My Two Cents: Does the BSA offer too many merit badges?

  1. I agree. More selection doesn’t hurt anything except the Scout shops that have to stock the patch! And yet, when a large group of people presents the BSA with a ready-made MB (Kiting) the first and only excuse for not even considering it is that they will “have to take a MB away to add it”. Explain that one.

  2. I agree. The more selection the better especially since there are some merit badges where the boys need to be older scouts.

  3. The other side of more merit badges is more merit badge counselors which (hopefully) means more involved adults. More MB’s can only help the program grow.

  4. Jack Ablon // June 27, 2012 at 10:27 am // Reply

    The Merit Badge I would add is Model Kit Building. It is avocational and vocational. Model Building Merit badge is based upon “Scratch Building” and very few modelers start with scratch building and many modelers rarely, if ever do so. Kit building is a big hobby and there are international organizations for nearly every segment of the hobby. I have a suggested description and suggested requirements avail able for those who might help progress this badge.

    • Gary Wilson // June 27, 2012 at 1:05 pm // Reply

      I agree. As a kid, I was an avid plastic model airplane maker, but found the Model Design and Building merit badge something only someone working at GM would want to do. I don’t think a new badge is needed, but the merit badge should have two tracks.

      • Jack Ablon // June 27, 2012 at 1:19 pm // Reply

        The problem with an inclusive badge would be the behind the scenes arrangements. In the back of MB pamphlets is a list of the organizations that certify, update and support the badge to make sure it is accurate and up to date. The Kit Building MB would require a whole new list of organizations and individuals for the resposibilities as there is little crossover with the current Model Design group.

  5. I think your points are very valid. As a Scoutmaster I would much rather see more variety than less. I also have have the opportunity to see it from a different angle. My son Sam Patrick is an Eagle Scout who does happen to be one of those “handful of scouts” that has currently earned all available merit badges. He just completed the Kayaking merit badge and currently has earned 133. He appreciates the information on your new merit badge list, as it allows him to gear up for the next challange. When he started in the Troop there were 121 badges offered and it continues to grow. That is the beauty of it – to him, it does not matter if the BSA comes out with one a year or ten a year – his goal is to get them all – that is diversity at its best! He has eaned the Venturing Silver Award and most of the advancements that are available. He is active in the O/A and currently searves as the Lodge chief of our council. He staffs at summer camps and goes on O/A high adventure trips … but, earning all the merit badges continues to be one of his favorite goals. My hat is off to the BSA for keeping those merit badges coming and providing an outlet for keeping his interest up for the next two years, before he reaches age 18.

    We enjoy your postings – please keep those coming too!

    Mark Hooper
    Scoutmaster
    Buffalo Trail Council, TX

    • Thanks, Mark. And congrats to your son — very impressive!

      Bryan

  6. I agree that the variety of merit badges offered makes sense. From your example, you may have scouts who are already involved in certain activities, and the eagle requirements reflect that where boys have the option of earning Swimming OR Hiking OR Cycling. A boy may not have access to someone who can help them with Robotics, but there is very likely a parent or relative connected to them or the troop who is a Plumber, or a Welder, or a Landscape Architect. The more opportunities, the better.

  7. Agreed. Keep ‘em coming!

  8. William Sheridan // June 27, 2012 at 10:52 am // Reply

    I have only one concern with many of the specific merit badges which are coming out. While I agree that more variety of merit badges is good, I think they should continue to issue merit badges which fall into a larger category. For example: Home Repairs Merit Badge rather then individual things like Plumbing.

    I think a categorical approach to merit badges of things helps broaden the scouts. If you were to break down all Home Repairs into individual merit badges, a scout could theoretically fill up his 9 other merit badges with only one general category, rather then broadening his skills. I know I’m picking on Home Repairs a bit, but it was one of the merit badges I used for my Eagle, and I learned a lot about my house at the time and I feel prepared to fix things in my own house when I own one.

  9. I have always loved that Scouting provides so many opportunities to explore different interests. So I hope they keep them coming.

  10. Only question about “too many” merit badges might be a check that they are being kept relevant. Filmmaking rarely if ever involves “film” anymore. Also, sound is a huge component of making a video and should be touched on. On the other hand, it’s good that the Photography merit badge still has film as an option. The number and wide range of merit badges offered is impressive, just keep them up to date, too. Thanks, Bryan!

    • I don’t think that is a problem these days. By the way, there is no Filmmaking merit badge. Is that a former name for the Cinematography merit badge? Stephen Spielberg helped develop that one, having earned Photography merit badge on his way to Eagle, and it has been updated regularly along with the rest of the MB catalog.

      • Scott Looney // July 12, 2014 at 6:53 pm // Reply

        The Cinematography Merit Badge has been Re-named the “Movie Making” Merit Badge. The patch didn’t change, and neither did the requirements (yet).

  11. Michael M. // June 27, 2012 at 11:18 am // Reply

    I agree 100%. You can never have too many merit badges. Like I always say go big or go home. The more merit badges there are the more prepared our scouts will be for whatever the future has in store for them.

  12. Peter H. Lapchak // June 27, 2012 at 11:35 am // Reply

    The more the better. There are the required 21 and the remaining are up to the Scouts’ interest. The more they do, they better they are, the better they are, the better everyone is! I think doing particular merit badges open up a new world for the Scouts to explore and this may translate into what they may become in the future. For instance, do the “science” merit badges may lead them to become scientists. It’s exploratory and I would rather have them do the merit badge and decide if that area is of interest or not instead of spending a year in college and decide that the field of study is not for them.

  13. I agree, wholeheartedly, that there can never be too many merit badges, as Scoutmaster I try to encourage the troop to take advantage of the merit badge system for the reason it was designed, to explore various possible career paths and interests that may lead to a lifetime devotion, either through career or hobby and not just as an obstacle to obtaining Eagle. The goal of Eagle is admirable, I would never take away the inspiring achievement that it is, however there is more to Scouting than Eagle…it is the journey that defines the Scout, not the destination, for the destination should be the same, but that journey…that is the summer camp experiences, the outings, the activities, and the merit badges. No two Scouts will have the same journey, and as such the Merit Badge System should reflect that by being as diverse as possible covering careers, hobbies, and I would go a step further and suggest the reinstatement of the Historic Merit Badges from the Centennial and permanently reinstate several Historic Merit Badges, that a Scout could earn but that would not count toward Eagle, for those interested in keeping our History alive.

  14. Eric Gaston // June 27, 2012 at 11:43 am // Reply

    As an Eagle Scout who earned all the merit badges as a youth (121 at the time), I have mixed feelings on the addition of new merit badges. I agree completely the more diversity, the better. Scouting needs to keep kids interested and engaged. At the same time I feel like some subjects are artificially inflated. Why have shotgun shooting AND rifle shooting? Why Fly fishing AND fishing? Why Canoeing AND Rowing AND Kayaking. Why not take a chapter out of the Skating merit badge and offer them as alternative paths of the same MB? Yet they discontinue General Science and Consumer Buying MB – probably two of the most educational merit badges I have. In the end if kids are enjoying them, keep them. If there is a subject we aren’t emphasizing, we need to add it. I just don’t want to see them added just to be added. A kid still only needs 21 to get eagle…. Maybe that should change too….

    • Gary Wilson // June 27, 2012 at 1:15 pm // Reply

      Eric: I agree about some of them. I feel that some separate merit badges only developed because some outside group came along with funding or advertising in Scouting magazine. I never understood why Fly Fishing is simply not a track within Fishing, while Snowboarding, Alpine Skiing and Nordic skiing are all rightfully separate tracks within what was once Skiing.

      And Consumer Buying should be part of an “Independent Living” badge that also includes sewing, laundry, housekeeping, etiquette, etc.

  15. CharterRepBSA // June 27, 2012 at 12:04 pm // Reply

    Personally, I think there are too many badges. We have lost our focus. Wilderness Survival, Camping, Hiking, Fishing outdoor badges to teach skills that a lot of kids these day will never get exposed to except in scouts. Plumbing is great badge but not for an outdoor, service organization. Scouting and it’s full meaning are getting side lined but what people think their not so outdoorsy kid needs to learn. Maybe we should consider adding 21 electronic gaming badges and they can begin earning them from their computers in their bedrooms without ever leaving the house or experience what Scouts is meant to be…..the great outdoors and serving others. I love Scouting and what it provides our boys, but we lose more kids over merit badges than we ever do over hiking, camping and serving those in needs.

    • Merit Badge Dean // June 28, 2012 at 12:18 pm // Reply

      On the other hand, you cannot earn rank without significant outdoor and service activities. These core elements of Scouting are kept where they belong – as requirements for all Scouts at every level. Many of the required Merit Badges reinforce this. But shouldn’t a Scout also be well-rounded? curious ho

    • I feel that there’s a good balance between “outdoor” (camping, hiking, bicycling, swimming, etc..etc…), “vocational” (plumbing, photography, graphic arts, computers, engineering, etc. etc.), “personal growth” (just about any merit badge can go into that catagory), “nature and environmental quality” (fish and wildlife management, energy, envirormental science, forestry, etc. etc.) and personal fitness and health (public health, sports, althetics, personal fitness, etc. etc.) with some civics and personal management (the three citizenships, personal management, public speaking, reading, etc. etc.) tossed in.

      The Eagle Scout is a well-rounded person who has interested in several areas, are familiar with at least 21 topics including several which may or may not become his life’s work, and all which require him to be in contact with and work alongside qualified adults interested in sharing his or her skill or interest with that Scout.

      Do we have too many topics? Not as long as there’s Scouts out there interested in those topics!

    • Maybe the requirements just need to be restructured. Cooking and Wilderness Survival ought to be Eagle-required, imho. Then require the boys to choose one from each Category to round out their total.

    • You forget about the required for Eagle grouping, these are outdoor centered and are what scouting is centrally about. The nine elective are what the individual boy wants to do.

  16. I agree that there should be no limit to the number of Merit Badges offered. Merit badges are exactly what they say they are: Badges representing Merit for achieving goals. They show that the Scout has met a given level of knowledge and ability on one topic, whether it is Leatherwork or Aviation or Cycling. Merit Badges offer a way for a Scout to investigate a topic. Are the “topics” in Life limited? Keep ‘rm coming! Sure, someone will set a goal to earn every single Badge offered. There should be no BSA award or recognition for that, but on the other hand, don’t discourage any one from making that a personal goal.

  17. Andrew Marks // June 27, 2012 at 12:36 pm // Reply

    The release of the 4 historic merit badges was a big hit in 2010. My son was a new scout in that year fresh from Webelos and earned 2 of them. I am an Eagle and earned 33 in my day and that was a bunch. I think the more diverse the better. Hit all the possible options and expose the boys and leaders to a plethora of topics to explore.

  18. More choice is good as we have more interests today then we had in the past. I would like to see one of the original merit badges, Mining, return to the list because mining is fundamental to everyday life.

    • Mining came back this year as Mining in Society.

  19. Keith Westergaard // June 27, 2012 at 3:43 pm // Reply

    No there not too many merit badges being offered…merit badges are one of several reasons why I tell scouts and parents to stay in the program. What better way to explore possible career opportunities without spending a fortune on tuition fees at the college level.

  20. Dan Kurtenbach // June 27, 2012 at 3:47 pm // Reply

    I think a wide variety of merit badges is great. What concerns me are the Scouts who work on merit badges not because they are interested in the subject or want to learn more about it, but because they want to collect a large number of awards. In other words, badge hunting. Lots of parents and Scout leaders think that way too.

    • A boy might first approach a merit badge with a badge-hunting attitude and still end up learning a great deal. Awards are one of the valuable “methods” given to us, like lures in our fishing tackle box, to lead on the boys where they might not otherwise go. When this happens, I am thankful for the wise leaders who came before us and made this wonderful organization!

      • Dan Kurtenbach // June 27, 2012 at 7:05 pm // Reply

        I would certainly hope that even the greediest badge-hunting Scout would learn something from working on a merit badge. Otherwise, the merit badge counselor should not approve the award. But learning something worthwhile doesn’t excuse the “badge-hunting attitude,” which springs from a fundamental error: the notion that the goal of the Advancement method is to earn lots of badges. BSA offers an ever-increasing number of merit badges and other awards so that Scouts have more options and will explore new areas, not to jack up award totals.

        • I have always found it surprising that scouts who set personal goals to earn more than the 21 meit badges necessary for Eagle are characterized is such terms as “badge hunters” or “greedy”. Our troop attends three summer camps a year, one winter camp and from 5-6 merit badge acadamies a year. This gives our scouts ample opportunity to be exposed to many merit badge opportunities and most of the troop members have well over 60 MB’s apiece. Did they do this because they were
          greedy badge hunters or because they were interested in the topics being offered? None of these boys are forced or compelled to complete merit badges, but they are encouraged to take advantage of the exposure to careers, hobbies and personal interests that this type of advancement offers. Our Troop also happens to have two scouts who have set personal goals to obtain all of the merit badges that are offered
          (and one has done so) … this is a goal these scouts have set for themselves, just as one might set a goal to earn Eagle Rank or a siver palm, or the Venturing Silver Award or the National Outdoor Medal. However, unlike these other goals, earning a large number of merit badges seems to evoke bad connotations from some … why, I have no idea. Goal setting and realization of those goals, or at least learning along the trail toward those goals, is one of the things I always thought was a basic idea of scouting.

          To those scouts who set the lofty goals my hat is off to them and to the BSA for continuing to make available MB’s to keep their interest keen and stretch those goals which they have set … my personal THANKS.

          By the way, should you be interested in reading more about those scouts who do earn all of the merit badges you might check out the site http://www.meritbadgeknot.com to learn more.

          Mark Hooper
          SM – Buffalo Trails Council, TX

        • Dan Kurtenbach // June 28, 2012 at 11:20 am //

          Setting challenging long-term goals and then pursuing those goal is certainly commendable. That is not what I’m talking about. I’ve met many Scouts, leaders, and parents who think that merit badges are like good grades — the more you get (regardless of subject), the better Scout you are. And there are some who extend that to unit programs — the more awards the troop generates, the better it must be. But we know such a notion is a mistaken view of what Scouting is and how it works. You can’t measure a boy’s personal growth in character, citizenship, and fitness by counting up bits of colored cloth.

    • Dan, Scouts who think they are “better” than others because they have more merit badges are missing the point. An Eagle Scout is an Eagle Scout. THAT’S what matters — do they have what it takes to be an Eagle. But setting a goal to earn 50, 100, or all is not necessarily badge-hunting. For many boys, they don’t know they’re interested in a subject until they try it out. The problem is not with the number of badges, but with pencil-whipped 15 minute art badges given out at camp. Boys who EARN them will have done something that they can be proud of for a lifetime.

    • Brent Mair // July 10, 2012 at 4:30 pm // Reply

      I encourage my scouts to explore the world through merit badges and I often need to remind them about specific badges that are available. The danger to the scout isn’t in the pursuit of more merit badges, regardless of motivation, but in apathy or ignorance. I’d much rather have boys strive to earn merit badges than decide that 21 is enough. I’ve seen too many scouts stop exploring the world because of this count.

      This is the first time I have heard the dysphemism “badge hunting”. It is unfortunate that we ascribe motivations to boys or label them negatively when they have goals and positive action.

      The merit badge program is a great part of what makes scouting great and I will continue to work with boys to let them know what is available out there, encourage them to move forward, and hopefully get a better understanding of what interests them and what they enjoy

      • Dan Kurtenbach // July 10, 2012 at 11:25 pm // Reply

        Julie, as I said, “I think a wide variety of merit badges is great. What concerns me are the Scouts who work on merit badges NOT BECAUSE THEY ARE INTERESTED IN THE SUBJECT OR WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT IT, but because they want to collect a large number of awards. ” (All caps for emphasis only, not to shout.)

      • Dan Kurtenbach // July 10, 2012 at 11:41 pm // Reply

        And let’s please be clear that I am NOT “ascrib[ing] motivations to boys or label[ing] them negatively when they have goals and positive action.” As I said, “Setting challenging long-term goals and then pursuing those goal is certainly commendable. That is not what I’m talking about.” And again, “What concerns me are the Scouts who work on merit badges not because they are interested in the subject or want to learn more about it, but because they want to collect a large number of awards.” The motivation behind working on an award DOES matter. If a Scout is really “exploring the world,” great! If a Scout is earning badges just to rack up award numbers and add rows to his sash, not great.

  21. My son is excited about every new merit badge that’s coming out over the next few years. However he would like to see beekeeping reintroduced as well!

  22. John Norkus // June 27, 2012 at 6:41 pm // Reply

    I think its great that we offer as many merit badges as possible. We need to make sure that that is a “core” of essential knowledge that each Eagle scout is exposed to with respect to citizenship, personal fitness, outdoor skills and emergency skills. Beyond that, lets have more. I think that in our STEM effort that we need some badges related to mathematics. Also, more badges connected to history and geography. All in all, I think our merit badge program is one of the best educational tools available for young men to explore new interests with adults who “know their stuff.”

  23. As a Council President, I believe your comments are right on… perfectly stated.

  24. Only in Scouting are young folks given the opportunity and guidance to try so many things that they would otherwise never experience. Now there is something to be said for that. If a dedicated MB Counselor can foster an interest/passion in a youth and that passion gives that youth some direction, then we have done great service to that young person. It broadens their horizons and possibilities. Listen to the Scouts and find out what new MBs they would like to see.

  25. As someone who as asked a variant of this question when recent badges were released… it was mostly based on the historical pattern. For several decades, the BSA was adding and deleting merit badges at roughly the same rate, keeping the number of MBs consistently near 120. Since 2010, new MBs have been released regularly and as far as I can recall no badges have been dropped. This represents a change in the BSA’s philosophy which to my knowledge was never publicly announced.

  26. I worry not so much about the current quantity as I do the quality of requirements. There seems to be an effort to dumb down requirements and councilors so as to make it easier for a scout to obtain the merit badge. Just calling it as I, a merit badge councilor of over 25 years, sees it.

    • I agree with you, Mike. I would like to see a minimum hour requirement on the badges. Let Scouts show that they have put in the time. It doesn’t have to be burdensome, but taking the time to do the online fingerprinting course and then heading to your local police station for prints makes a lot more sense than 30 minutes of pencil graphite and scotch tape.

  27. personally, i see no reason to limit the scope of merit badges available. i do find it puzzling, however, that there has been the suggestion that one merit badge would have to be taken away to make room for a new one, as has been indicated in the past.

    my question… why no martial arts? my son has been studying karate since he was 7 and this would be a logical choice for BSA. it teaches physical fitness, self confidence and discipline. he has never been much for team sports.

    • Jack Ablon // July 3, 2012 at 5:12 pm // Reply

      Beth
      The answer to your question lies in your question. “Martial” is defined as:
      1. Martial — (Roman poet noted for epigrams (first century BC))

      Overview of adj martial
      1. soldierly, soldierlike, warriorlike, martial — ((of persons) befitting a warrior; “a military bearing”)
      2. warlike, martial — (suggesting war or military life)
      3. martial — (of or relating to the armed forces; “martial law”)

      It indicates inculcation of combat, violence, fighting; ergo injury.
      Contact football is not a part of Scouting for the same reason and it has way less combat, violence, fighting involved.

      I am guessing that Scouting’s Board felt the very same benefits you propose Martial Arts provide to kids can be found in other activities that have a less combative image.

      • The Merit Badge gives the scout only a basic understanding and ability. Activities such as Martial Arts require many hours of practice and discipline. In fact my Sencei taught us the best defense is to run. Lacking that, one must be willing to end the confrontation using whatever force is necessary to whatever end is necessary. There is no such thing as basics in martial arts.

  28. I love the selection of merit badges. I think the BSA should look to Royal Rangers for some fantastic badge ideas. They have quite a few that blow BSA badges out of the water. Our troop is going to start doing those badges for Troop Meeting Activities… we will find somewhere to put them.

    Just another thought…. Some people have expertise in a wide variety of fields… why limit them to being a merit badge counselor for only 10?? If they have the knowledge and are willing to take on that many badges, why limit them??

    Have a great summer everyone!!!

  29. I completely agree! This is incredibly similar what I posted for an upper-division course on “Language, Texts, and Technology.”

    http://mikkoindtc.blogspot.com/2012/02/education-and-scouting.html

  30. Orange-Cat // July 21, 2012 at 11:32 pm // Reply

    I think that it is a shame that some, if not all merit badges, are visited only once by scouts. I see a huge difference in the way in which senior (16+) scouts approach a merit badge compare to those fresh to scouting. This is particularly relevant in core subjects such as first aid and camping, where maturity brings a far more serious approach to skill acquisition. In such ‘core’ subject areas, why not have different skill levels – with level 1 showing a basic understanding, level 2 showing a good level of understanding (and the required level for Eagle scout qualification) and level 3 showing advanced knowledge in a subject area?

  31. larrygeiger // August 22, 2012 at 3:48 pm // Reply

    Good grief! How could you have too many? You only have too many if the Scout Shop can’t hold them all :-)

  32. Can you give me and idea how many merit badges my son should be earning in order to achieve Eagle, since that is his goal? Also how can I support him in this goal without doing too much for him? Right now I feel like I am really doing nothing.

    • I meant earning per year…

      • I don’t know if you’ll still see this, or maybe you’ve already found an answer. I don’t think it’s so much a matter of how many per year, but of doing it logically and economically (with regard to time.) How old is your son (how close to 18?) Does he work or have other activities he’s involved in?

        The one thing I would stress is not to save the badges with long-term requirements for last. Camping, hiking and cycling, for example, require a number of trips be completed. Personal Fitness, Personal Management, and Family Life have requirements where the scout must work a plan for about 3 consecutive months. Cooking requires a certain number of camping meals; Communications requires that he serve as MC for a court of honor or campfire program.

        I would suggest looking at the requirements for the Eagle required badges, and planning where and when he’ll be able to fit them into his schedule. In our troop, we recommend that scouts take out cards for the long-term ones early on, because if they’re going on camping trips or troop hikes, they can work on these badges gradually over the term of their scout experience.

        If your son is able to go to summer camp, that’s a great place to complete some of the Eagle badges like Environmental Science or Emergency Preparedness.

        It’s also good to encourage him to explore badges he’s interested in, so he doesn’t lose sight of the fun factor of scouts in his quest for Eagle. It’s not about getting there fastest, but enjoying the journey.

        Sorry for a long answer to a short question! Hope it helps.

  33. I would like to see fingerprinting retired and replaced with Forensics.

  34. Tim Gaffron (TimGinMN) // July 12, 2014 at 6:53 pm // Reply

    Generally I agree: The more the merrier, But, somewhere (maybe in this blog?) not too long ago there was a list published of how many of each merit badge were earned nationally over the past year(s). A few of them had very few or no takers. If there is not sufficient interest to justify creating and stocking badges and books, then a badge should probably be considered for discontinuation.

  35. I also agree and is why I find it surprising that BSA is doing away with the belt loops (Academic and Sports program in it’s current form), which mirror the merit badge program. While the belt loops will still be around in a different form/process. The way the program is now mirrors Boy Scouts. The new program takes away some of the flexibility by restricting earning the certain belt loops at certain ranks. I estimate my son would have about half the belt loops he currently has under the new program. I think that is too inhibiting. But I digress…
    I am firmly on the more the merrier bandwagon. In fact, I have searched out badges for my Cub Scout to work on from other Scouting organizations in other countries. For example, Scouts camp a lot, but Cub Scouts doesn’t have a Camping belt loop. However, the Canadian Cub Scouts do. So, we worked on that badge. He also worked on a couple so far from the British Cub Scouts equivalent and one from Australia whose topics aren’t offered (so far) in US Cub Scouts. While not official US Cub Scout awards, they can be fun to work on and provide an insight to what other Scouts around the world work on for their equivalent to belt loops.

  36. The great variety of Merit Badges available is a terrific problem to have. Availability of Merit Badge counselors and the tracking and management of MB Counselor records seems to leave a lot to be desired. Let’s focus on cleaning that up rather than paying too much attention to “angels on the head of a pin” complaints about “too many” merit badge offerings. ;)

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