Homepage Forums Boy Scouts (Scouts BSA) Advancement – Getting Back to Traditional Standards?

This topic contains 3 replies, has 1 voice, and was last updated by  Dan Kurtenbach 4 years, 5 months ago.

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  • #26985 Reply

    Dan Kurtenbach

    In another forum, a Scouter expressed concern about how merit badges are being offered at summer camp. Specifically, he was concerned at what appeared to be camps cutting corners and not quite following the rules, in order to get Scouts completely through merit badges in the rather compressed schedule at camp.

    I have often observed similar advancement corner-cutting in the troop environment as well. I think in part this is a result of changes in society — greater pressure from parents to show that a youth is getting something tangible out of the program, and the general self-esteem, “everyone is a winner” syndrome.

    But it occurred to me that there is another way to look at this. Perhaps this erosion of standards is actually removing something that should never have been in Scouting in the first place — objective standards and rules. In one of his Outlook articles from November, 1921 (see http://usscouts.org/history/bpoutlook4.asp), Baden-Powell wrote:
    Standardisation of Badges

    IN view of a very elaborate curriculum that was recently drawn up by one authority for standardising the tests for badges, I was obliged to criticise it in this sense:

    “I hope that the compilers are not losing sight of the aim and spirit of the Movement by making it into a training school of efficiency through curricula, marks, and standards.

    “Our aim is merely to help the boys, especially the least scholarly ones, to become personally enthused in subjects that appeal to them individually, and that will be helpful to them.

    “We do this through the fun and jollity of Scouting; by progressive stages they can then be led on, naturally and unconsciously, to develop for themselves their knowledge.

    “But if once we make it into a formal scheme of serious instruction for efficiency, we miss the whole point and value of the Scout training, and we trench on the work of the schools without the trained experts for carrying it out.

    “We have to remember that the Scoutmasters are voluntary play leaders in the game of Scouting, and not qualified school teachers, and that to give them a hard-and-fast syllabus is to check their ardour and their originality in dealing with their boys according to local conditions.

    “I could quite imagine it frightening away many Scoutmasters of the right sort.

    “The syllabus as suggested seems to go a good deal beyond what is prescribed as our dose in Scouting for Boys; and if the proportions of the ingredients given in a prescription are not adhered to you cannot well blame the doctor if the medicine doesn’t work.

    “Our standard for badge earning — as I have frequently said — is not the attainment of a certain level of quality of work (as in the school), but the AMOUNT OF EFFORT EXERCISED BY THE INDIVIDUAL CANDIDATE. This brings the most hopeless case on to a footing of equal possibility with his more brilliant or better-off brother.

    “We want to get them ALL along through cheery self-development from within and not through the imposition of formal instruction from without.”

  • #29478 Reply

    Yesterday’s Scout

    I earned about half of my merit badges (total = 41) at summer camp, a few of them with the troop, and the rest individually with a counselor. I think individually is the way to go. However, summer camp is a good time and place to work on merit badges that may not be available elsewhere or “elsewhen”. each boy is an individual and improvement for one may be stagnation for another. I could write a lot more but I think Dan is on to something – standardization is not what we’re aiming for. And please note it was not me this time who quoted BP.

  • #30043 Reply

    Michael Harper

    I have recently been struggling with numerous issues in our troop: “pressure” (really encouragement) from District to recruit (while losing scouts that really didn’t like scouting), a number of generally apathetic scouts that are clearly there because their parent(s) told them to, and stalled Life Scouts that are not really enthusiastic about advancing. Of course, if it weren’t for the parents’ “encouragement” (read that how you wish) they would likely not be in scouts at all.
    We (parents) have cracked the whip to get to Eagle Scout “for their own good” and have turned too many troops into “Eagle Hatcheries” while many scouts simply don’t care.
    I think if we took an approach similar to Lord Baden-Powell’s description, we would “weed out” those that really don’t want to participate but the organization as a whole would decline in numbers and popularity. I am imagining a time when there are so many Eagle Scouts “flooding” the workforce (give it 5 years) that the weight of the accomplishment will diminish.
    Are there examples of boys that really want to succeed and advance to Eagle? Absolutely. I can think of 6-8 in my Troop that I feel really want it. But we have 32 Scouts. Do the math.

    • #30049 Reply

      Dan Kurtenbach

      I think there is another way to look at it. If Scouting wasn’t so much like school, if there was no pressure to advance, just encouragement to do your best while having fun doing activities that you want to explore, I think Scouting could grow by leaps and bounds. The salvation of Scouting is in turning it into a hobby: an activity where one can work hard and play hard without some calculation at the end of it.

      Unfortunately, we as Americans are obsessed with objective measurements and meeting universal, “fair” standards of performance. Even more so with our children. Effort (which cannot be directly measured) is largely irrelevant, particularly when it results in no improvement (which can be measured).

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