Re: MB requirements and standards
Bruce E. Cobern (bec@PIPELINE.COM)
Mon, 4 Aug 1997 10:00:20 -0400
> From: Roman J. Smith <roman.j.smith.13@ND.EDU>
> Date: Monday, August 04, 1997 8:19 AM
> Bruce Cobern writes:
> >And, while it might not seem so, I am a very strong believer in
> > For the last 20 years I have preached to all the troops in my district
> >that the way to improve advancement in their troops is to INCREASE the
> >performance levels they demand from the boys. Knowing a skill not
> >enough, knowing it WELL being required.
> "Baden-Powell emphasizes in the second edition [Scouting for Boys] 1909
> The mistake usually made is for scoutmasters and examiners to require
> high a standard of proficiency before awarding a badge. Our real object
> to instill into every boy and encourage an idea of self-improvement. A
> average standard of proficiency is therefore is all that is required.
> try higher than that you get a few brilliant boys qualified, but you
> dishearten a large number of others who fail, and you teach them the
> of hopelessness and helplessness, which is exactly what we want to
> Here is where, trying your best is sufficient for the performance of a
> badge. The role of the SM and MB counselor is to help the scout work on
> merit badges that are appropriate for their level of scouting. The
> Business MB should not be the first one obtained by a Tenderfoot.
> when a Scout does do that badge, a college level of proficiency is not
> required, but as long as the requirements are met, and the scout has
> his best, he has grown and learned about a possible future choice of
> and he then should be given the badge.
Allow me a couple of clarifications and comments.
First, when I talk about "raising the standards" I am not talking about
demanding perfection. What I AM talking about is making sure that a
Scout, for example, really knows how to tie a bandage properly and when it
is used. What I have found is that there are always Scouts who will try
to skate by with minimum performance, as well as those who truthfully want
to do their best to achieve. The first group is not likely to succeed and
stay in the program over the long haul.
If the second group sees the first group receive the same recognition as
they do, with far less effort, work, and quality performance, they will
either reduce their performance level to the lower level of the first
group (lowest common denominator) or they will get disenchanted and leave
the program. The end result is that NEITHER group succeeds in the
If, on the other hand, we constantly CHALLENGE all of our Scouts to do
their best and require a quality of performance above that lowest common
denominator the second group will remain challenged, interested, and
productive, and we MIGHT actually convince some of the first group to do
the same and come along over the long haul. Either way, a winning
My only other comment is that, despite BP's "do your best" standard, that
is not the standard that has been incorporated into the American Boy Scout
program. It is in the Cub Scouts, but, possibly unfortunately, in Boy
Scouting in the US the standard has become "do exactly as required, no
more, no less." This is delineated numerous times in the literature, even
when discussing the performance requirements of "special needs" Scouts.
Thus, in the BSA, it is clearly NOT adequate for the Scout, in my example,
to do his best to tie the bandage, he must actually tie it. In most cases
I think that is a good thing, but in some cases I think that there might
need to be more latitude and discretion.
Bruce E. Cobern
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City