Homepage Forums Boy Scouts and Varsity Scouts What’s Happening to the "Merit" in Merit Badges?

This topic contains 3 replies, has 1 voice, and was last updated by  Rodger C 2 weeks, 3 days ago.

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  • #82231 Reply

    John Gaunt

    I am dismayed at the changes that have taken place over time in the implementation of the merit badge program. Although national states that the preferred method is for a Scout to contact a counselor, then meet to discuss how to proceed, then do the work and meet with the counselor (periodically, even) to discuss, the explosion in group “classroom instruction” events (merit badge fairs, merit badge midways, weekend/long-weekend “camping” events with merit badge classes) has, in my opinion, cheapened the concept of merit badges, and is cheating Scouts of a valuable opportunity to learn. I understand that we live in a culture of “participation awards,” but I would hope that BSA is above that, and that national will begin to rein in a runaway system of merit badge giveaways.

    Example 1: I see on the internet a council in a neighboring state advertising a “winter camp” experience over the past MLK holiday weekend. By their own words, “The event is geared around earning merit badges.” Really, why is that? Why should the main thrust of a camping event be “getting” (I shall not use the word “earning”) merit badges. Supposedly, from the start of the first class to the end of the last class, right before dismissal, a period of 52.5 hours during which there are meals, sleep, and other activities, a Scout can “get” up to five merit badges, including Eagle-required badges.

    Example 2: A neighboring council in my state recently held a winter camping event where a main feature was getting merit badges. From the beginning of the first class to the end of the last class, right before dismissal, was a period of 43 hours, during which there were meals, sleep, and other activities – Scouts could get up to four merit badges, including Eagle-required badges. Most telling: the last badge offered, immediately before dismissal (so, no opportunity for follow-up), was a 2-hour class in “Railroading” – take a look at the Railroading merit badge requirements, and then tell me how in a 2-hour group setting a counselor or counselors could ensure that each Scout, personally and individually, completed no less than the exact written requirements.

    If anybody with a pipeline to the head shed in Texas is listening, please forward along this voice crying in the wilderness. You are allowing to be destroyed that which used to be a high-quality program.

  • #82667 Reply

    Roland Roberts

    I’m going to strongly recommend you file the form from here

    Yes, you’re not the only one. It comes up in our district meetings as well where there are multiple cries and reminders about the whole merit part.

    Our boys just came back from the Naval Academy. I won’t name names, but I’m not going to protect the place because, well, they’re guilty. I have scouts who came back after a 3-4 hour session and having no experience in programming with the Programming merit badge. Sorry, that’s my day job. There is no way to get a complete in that. Period. I’ll be sending in the paperwork for that one.

    I’ve already complained about Nuclear Science. I have two boys who got sign-offs as complete on those, too. But they might actually have completes, not because of that class but because I’ve been working with them before they left and they may have finished what was left. But the reports I’ve received indicated everyone in the class was signed off; all they had to do was line up at the end of the class….

    Yes, that will be another form…

    Let me point out, some badges are intrinsically difficult and the counselor needs to figure out how to help a boy get through them. Because of my background, I counsel for several STEM related badges. My favorite is Astronomy, but it’s not easy. Still, when it says “Identify in the sky…” I point out the boys do not have to do this from memory. They can use notes, star charts, etc. (but no smart phones you point at the sky…the scout has to identify the stars and constellations, not the phone!). The point being, sometimes satisfying the badge requirements can be made easier than we first think. But beyond some threshold, they are no longer merit badges.

    So yes, file the form. I am.

  • #83206 Reply


    I agree, and so does my son. In our first year in Boy Scouts, I took him to a museum where he “received” a merit badge, but yes, I don’t think he really “earned” it. He went to resident camp this summer, and said that that’s a “real easy way to earn a lot of merit badges,” because they don’t require you do to all the requirements like our Scoutmaster does. I want my son to earn many merit badges, but not so he can put them on his sash, but so he can learn about the world and possible career opportunities. Sitting in a two-hour class may “get” him the badge, but he doesn’t “learn” much.

  • #84421 Reply

    Rodger C

    Our council offers these merit badge College (one day event) and camps. Some Merit badges are finished at the event, but most (especially Eagle required most of these badges have time restraints in them that would make it impossible to finish at an event like these) are NOT finished at the event. My son started cooking merit badge at summer camp last year, he is still working on completing that. So the fact that the merit badge is being offered does not always mean it will be 100% completed at the event.

  • #84740 Reply


    I do agree with some of this. I have seen both sides of it. My son bridged over into his troop just over a year ago. We have been to a couple of these “camps or colleges”. I have seen amazing instructure that have been doing it long enough that they are organized and are able to discuss things and still teach the scout the info. OH WAIT A MINUTE!!! The scout was to read the book before even coming to the class. There is a lot of the problem also is that the scouts are not reading the books and knowing the information going into the class. My son just went to one for landscape architecture because I was not sure how easy it would be to find a counselor in our area. Unfortunately he was a first time counselor and he covered all the requirements thoroughly except for the hardest one and he did not get to that one. We had 3 1/2 hours in the class. I believe it was taught well. The instructor said in the future he will request a full day. So now he is left with an incomplete merit badge that we drove 2 1/2 hours for him to get. Personally I think the do try to cramp to much into a 3 or 3 1/2 block of time. I wouldn’t mind the classession running longer just so they could learn more and have more discussion. But also the scouts need to read the book! My son was the only one answering questions for awhile til the instructor made the other ones start answering. Then you could tell they didn’t read the book. Personally if the scout is not pa Ying attention and answering questions then they should not get signed off on the badge.

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