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