Paradoxical MB Development?

A recent article titled “Boy Scout Merit Badges and the Paradoxical Digital Future of Being Prepared” appeared online which made the bold statement;

So, for all the talk about getting kids away from computers, BSA isn’t committed to making digital detox its core mission. Fundamentally, the organization craves relevance.

The article takes a blunt look at the apparent paradox of an outdoor adventure program that is pouring much of it’s time and effort into being relevant in a modern world by developing new curriculum that brings the boys inside to work with technology.

Where the organization got it’s start over 100 years ago by stating;

There was once a boy who…wanted to learn to camp out, to live again the life of his hunter grandfather who knew all the tricks of winning comfort from the relentless wilderness the foster-mother so rude to those who fear her, so kind to the stout of heart. (1911 BSA Handbook)

It is now proffering “Animation,” “Digital Technology,” “Programming,” “Robotics,” “Game Design” and soon to be released “Advanced Computing,” “Biometrics,” “Computer Aided Design (CAD),” and “Multi Media” merit badge unit studies to captivate its youth members imaginations.

new desk

There is nothing wrong with enabling boys to learn relevant skills to explore potential hobbies or occupations — in fact, that’s a great aspect to most youth leadership programs.  However, is the continued development of tech-oriented curriculum a way to popularize the program at the expense of the underlying mission

…to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law?

Perhaps this is nothing more than a tempest in a teacup – the addition of popular badges doesn’t change underlying requirements for personal growth and advancement.  It merely adds options, choices and customization to the program.

On the other hand, why not add some glamor to wilderness survival, pioneering, and backpacking the way Bear Grylls does in his TV show “Man Vs. Wild”?

132One of the troop’s most favored camporee events was the “Buckskin Games” where everything was a throwback to the most basic and fun scouting skills.  Most boys were completely fascinated by the blacksmith demonstration — beating the living daylights out of glowing iron rod to fashion a coat hook had them lined up for hours waiting their turn.

We still need to know how to survive following a hurricane, tornado, or other natural disaster.  These skills are far from outdated — just lose power for more than a day and most people start to go crazy.

Let us hope that the powers to be won’t merely take the easy way, but instead reinvigorate the core of the scouting movement to build character, wisdom and true scout-craft.

Go, go, go!


Can I learn more about other youth program’s advancement criteria?

Trail Life USA

Royal Rangers

Christian Service Brigade

Federation North American Explorers



About Troop113

Our Troop # comes from Psalm 1:1-3 - describing the men we want our scouts to become
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6 Responses to Paradoxical MB Development?

  1. Darryl says:

    Thank you for continuing to post, two full years after shutting down your troop, but why?

    • Troop113 says:

      “Once an Eagle, Always an Eagle” – Just because I disagree with the tactics, politics and methods employed in the BSA during the start of it’s second century, doesn’t mean that I would stop having or expressing an opinion about the scouting movement in general. Family is family even if we don’t see eye to eye on many issues, and like many folk who are moving on, the key is to realize that we’ll never be fully removed from the sphere of influence – as long as we have breath, we’ll also have a voice and there’s no reason to be silent. Look at it another way – would a retired athlete have no voice, no opinion about the sport he/she no longer competes in? Sure they’re on to new phases of their life, but they still have insights to offer as a “pundit” (someone who has amassed expertise in an area through first hand knowledge). This is why I’m still a MBC, maintain contact with district contacts and am involved in other youth development programs, too. I trust that seems reasonable.

    • Troop113 says:

      Perhaps the bigger question is why do 10-30 people per day still visit this blog, two full years after the troop shut down? Not great statistics, but enough that I felt removing the blog would be counter-productive to those who continue to find value in what we’ve had to say and had to share over the years.

      • Darryl Alder says:

        I am sure the reason people visit it that often, is your content is thoughtful and useful. I read nearly every post you make and enjoyed your thinking on many subjects. I manage two independent blogs”The Boy Scout” and “The Voice of Scouting” the first has 100,000 reader who focus on christian values in Scouting the second had 250,000 readers with a more general reading audience. If you were inclined to contribute to either, we would welcome your input. Darryl >

  2. Peregrinator says:


    I saw this post some time ago but kept forgetting to respond. As I am trying to avoid social media this week, I have a bit of time.

    The vast majority of badges offered by FNE for both Timber Wolves and Explorers are traditional. There is a badge Explorers can earn for video and another for computer science, but those are the only two, I think, that would have been unheard-of in Baden-Powell’s time. In a sense, though, skill and proficiency badges are the icing on the cake — the real skills are acquired for second class and then first class Explorer. There are other qualifications that one can attain beyond first class, but a first class Explorer should be an all-around “scout” as B-P would say. To the best of my knowledge only a couple of boys in North America have earned this rank. Part of that is because of the difficulty involved, while part of it is because building up an advancement program takes time — generations even — and FNE has only existed since 1999.

    On the subject of “digital detox,” generally we do not allow Timber Wolves and Explorers to bring electronics with them while camping. Leaders have them for emergencies, and also — since smart phone cameras are getting so good — taking pictures.

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