The first new merit badge for youth in the Scouts BSA program since 2017 officially launches today. Called Citizenship in Society, it provides Scouts with opportunities to learn more about our world by encouraging them to explore information on diversity, equity, inclusion and ethical leadership — and to learn why these qualities are important in society and in Scouting.
To earn the merit badge, Scouts must conduct research; explore resources; have conversations with merit badge counselors, peers, parents and community members; and identify actions they can take to ensure inclusivity and belonging in Scouting and society in general.
The full requirements for the merit badge and materials for merit badge counselors can be found at scouting.org/dei.
How it works
One of the unique features of Citizenship in Society is that there is no merit badge pamphlet with prescribed approaches or ideologies. There also are no requirements meant to drive a particular response or lead a Scout down a path toward a predetermined conclusion.
Instead, Citizenship in Society encourages Scouts to embark on a journey of discovery. In this case, it’s a journey of self-discovery as they explore a variety of topics around diversity, equity and inclusion and belonging, and then discuss how they apply their findings to life as a Scout and as a good citizen in society.
Scouts are encouraged to explore the topics as deeply and broadly as they see fit for their personal learning and growth. While a merit badge counselor may ask the Scout to identify their sources of information, the counselor will not be providing Scouts with answers. Instead, they will help facilitate discussions that aid Scouts in their understanding.
The merit badge will become Eagle required on July 1, 2022. Additional details will be provided by the National Youth Program team in coming weeks.
“The Eagle Scout rank represents the highest achievement in Scouting and embodies a commitment to leadership and service,” says Roger Mosby, Chief Scout Executive / President and Chief Executive Officer. “Learning to respect and understand people with different identities and perspectives is foundational to becoming a good citizen and leader, which is why we have decided to make this merit badge required for our future Eagle Scouts.”
Already Scout approved
Citizenship in Society was developed carefully and thoughtfully by the BSA’s Office of Diversity and Youth Program Development Office with input from a dedicated group of Scouting volunteers, BSA youth and professional staff — including 31 Scout Executives and more than 60 troops across different regions who participated in a pilot program to test out the new merit badge.
Overwhelmingly, Scouts in the pilot say the merit badge is a positive experience. Scouts were open to having conversations around their research and the answers, and they shared personal examples of encountering the concepts and ideals covered in the requirements.
Here’s some of what they had to say:
“This is the most important work I have done in Scouting. The requirements were difficult and satisfying at the same time.”
“I have never felt excluded — now that I hear others’ stories, I feel angry and want to do something about it!”
“It’s important to stand up for one another and ensure everyone’s opinions are heard.”
Part of a broader commitment
“As we have always strived to do in the BSA, we hope to prepare Scouts for life,” says Elizabeth Ramirez-Washka, Chief Diversity Officer and Vice President of Diversity & Inclusion. “As our world evolves, we want to help our Scouts evolve with it in understanding, appreciating and respecting the differences that make us unique.”
A legacy of empathy and respect is already built into the DNA of the BSA as seen in the Scout Oath and Scout Law and other existing merit badges, such as the Citizenship in the Community, Disability Awareness and American Heritage merit badges, which require Scouts to not only learn and grow their understanding of diverse perspectives, but also to take positive action.
More information about the merit badge and the BSA’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion can be found at scouting.org/dei, including the press release.