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December 7, 2010 10:26 AM   Subscribe

In honor of it's 100th anniversary, the Boy Scouts of America is offering 4 original merit badges that were offered 99 years ago: Carpentry (pdf of original pamphlet), Signaling (pdf of original pamphlet), Pathfinding (pdf of original pamphlet), and Tracking (pdf of original pamphlet).

Even if you can't get the actual merit badge, the scans of the old-school merit badge pamphlets are fascinating glimpses of American culture and boyhood.
posted by Barry B. Palindromer (41 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Darnit! Not it's, its. There is no grammar merit badge.
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 10:27 AM on December 7, 2010


Here's the corrected link for the Signaling link. They still had that badge when I was a scout and I'm surprised that they discontinued it. I wonder how many times it was awarded in those later years...
posted by Jugwine at 10:30 AM on December 7, 2010


I would have been a shitty Boy Scout 35 years ago. Based on those pamphlets, I would have been a really shitty Boy Scout 100 years ago.
posted by marxchivist at 10:32 AM on December 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Okay, this is actually pretty cool. But I'm surprised that the page about Pathfinding doesn't mention anything about how there's no way they'd make a new badge that looks like that.
posted by roll truck roll at 10:34 AM on December 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Now if only the BSA would start offering badges for not being a bigot...
posted by kmz at 10:34 AM on December 7, 2010 [16 favorites]


I sometimes wish there were a way to get merit badges as an adult.
posted by crunchland at 10:34 AM on December 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Playstation 3 medals are the modern equivalent of merit badges, as far as I'm concerned.
posted by elder18 at 10:38 AM on December 7, 2010


Now if only the BSA would start offering badges for not being a bigot...
posted by kmz at 10:34 AM on December 7 [+] [!]


Congratulations on waiting until the 5th comment.
posted by proj at 10:38 AM on December 7, 2010 [13 favorites]


crunchland, you can get Nerd Merit Badges.
posted by Jugwine at 10:38 AM on December 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Jugwine: "Here's the corrected link for the Signaling link. They still had that badge when I was a scout and I'm surprised that they discontinued it. I wonder how many times it was awarded in those later years..."

Thanks for the correction.
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 10:45 AM on December 7, 2010


Congratulations on waiting until the 5th comment.

In a modern world, the BSA's institutional bigotry is pretty much their defining factor, no matter how much I enjoyed Boy's Life as a kid.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 10:50 AM on December 7, 2010 [24 favorites]


If it is yukking someone's yum about these (admittedly gorgeous exemplars of Edwardian graphic design) badges to be reminded that the BSA is an organization which clings to homophobic policies and discriminates against atheists and members of non-oath-taking religious traditions, consider how much it yuks someone's yum to hear that he can't go on the camp-o-ree because he's gay, or because he's a Quaker, or an atheist. Or a gay Quaker atheist.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:55 AM on December 7, 2010 [10 favorites]


Jugwine: "crunchland, you can get Nerd Merit Badges."

Okay, those are pretty cool, but it would be cool to take it a step further, and less specifically computer nerdy. How about a site where people could submit their own training courses to earn a badge? You could have a little profile with your badges, but you could also order physical badges, like from a Zazzle-like service.
posted by roll truck roll at 10:57 AM on December 7, 2010


I don't disagree. I'm merely thinking of the recent MetaTalk thread where many basically agreed (including Jessamyn) that we didn't need to immediately jump to putting everything in an inflammatory political context, especially when the post is not about said context.
posted by proj at 10:58 AM on December 7, 2010



I sometimes wish there were a way to get merit badges as an adult.


I call em favorites.
posted by The Whelk at 11:00 AM on December 7, 2010 [8 favorites]


Wait, the original pamphlet for Tracking refers to it as Stalking? That is funny to me, which it definitely should not be.
posted by joe lisboa at 11:03 AM on December 7, 2010


[few comments removed - folks, it really is pervasive threadshitting to continue to GRAR about the Boy Scouts' bigotry. If you'd like to make that post in the future, though not today, please feel free to. In the meantime if you need to holler "Boy Scouts are bigots!" might I suggest MetaTalk? I am not disagreeing, I am saying this is what we would like. Not every thread about meat should become a "meat is murder" debate, not every thread about the holidays needs to turn into LOLXIANS. Thank you.]
posted by jessamyn at 11:08 AM on December 7, 2010 [7 favorites]


Okay, those are pretty cool, but it would be cool to take it a step further, and less specifically computer nerdy. How about a site where people could submit their own training courses to earn a badge? You could have a little profile with your badges, but you could also order physical badges, like from a Zazzle-like service.

No physical badges or anything, but I've seen sites that offer basically an achievement system for "real life" tasks. Of course, now I'm totally blanking on all of their names.
posted by kmz at 11:10 AM on December 7, 2010


(Sincere apologies jessamyn.)
posted by kmz at 11:11 AM on December 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


kmz: " No physical badges or anything, but I've seen sites that offer basically an achievement system for "real life" tasks. Of course, now I'm totally blanking on all of their names."

I know of SF0. And it's pretty cool. I'd love to know about others.
posted by roll truck roll at 11:14 AM on December 7, 2010


Ah, remembered one of them: Mindbloom. Never used it but some of my FB friends seem to like it OK. That SF0 actually looks pretty neat.
posted by kmz at 11:22 AM on December 7, 2010


Adafruit has some plus links to others.
posted by DU at 11:47 AM on December 7, 2010


I'm working on my Gay Quaker Atheist merit badge. Two down, one to go.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:48 AM on December 7, 2010


A friend of mine uses GetGlue, which I think sends you stickers for "achievements." Not sure how cool they are. But hey, stickers.
posted by Pickman's Next Top Model at 11:52 AM on December 7, 2010


There's a fantasy-game version of it called Epic Win for the iPhone.
posted by rifflesby at 11:55 AM on December 7, 2010


No physical badges or anything, but I've seen sites that offer basically an achievement system for "real life" tasks. Of course, now I'm totally blanking on all of their names.

I actually built a small one a couple of years ago for my wife. It scraped the Microsoft site for my genuine xbox live achievements and displayed these back along with ones she could create herself and assign to me (e.g. "take rubbish out").

When I thought i'd gained one of her achievements I could then make a "completed this!" request which she could then confirm via email (and which would mean i was greeted with an "achievement unlocked" when I next logged in).

I meant to build it out as a more general access site and to add more functionality, but got too busy.


although thinking about it, it's her fault really. She should have added a "maintain website" achievement.
posted by garius at 11:55 AM on December 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


WTF? That link again: Adafruit merit badges and links to others
posted by DU at 11:57 AM on December 7, 2010


*give DU a demerit for link failure*
posted by rtha at 12:09 PM on December 7, 2010


Science Scout badges
posted by backseatpilot at 12:35 PM on December 7, 2010


Would be cooler if they reverted to the original merit badge designs. The new colors they introduced - the all-beige, beige background, beige borders, etc. - is boring as hell, and was every bit as boring when they first started implementing the changeover back in the early 90s.

Damn am I glad I finished my Eagle before they switched to the new stupid badge design.
posted by caution live frogs at 12:37 PM on December 7, 2010



:/
As an ex-boy scout [I quit before the second rank], I was initially happy when I read the headline because I hoped that the BSA had realized that some* of these skills are still useful in society [*mainly carpentry - try fixing things around your house on your own, and pathfinding, which before reading the links, I thought would be more related to a geo-caching badge or asking other people in an unfamiliar area for directions]

However by not updating the badges, BSA are just tapping into nostalgia in the previous boy scouts and scout leaders. Looking back, my 13 year old self probably wouldn't care that much about how scouts earned merit badges 100 years ago, and I don't think most ones now won't.

If the BSA were to update them, the kids would find that the badges to be more useful. Looking back, I thought most of the badges were just about jumping through hoops, figuratively.
posted by fizzix at 12:58 PM on December 7, 2010


garius, your story is delightful. When your main trackable achievements are winning video games and making your wife happy, you've got a pretty good life.
posted by roll truck roll at 1:09 PM on December 7, 2010


When I was in the Boy Scouts 45 years ago (am I THAT old?) they still had the Signaling Merit Badge. And one of the signals we learned was "You fag!"
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:22 PM on December 7, 2010


If you want sorta-cheesy physical badges for achievements (and you're not in the BSA or GSA or other official scouting group you can order them from PatchSales.com. the designs have a bit of a cheesy '70s vibe so they're perfect for the 40-50 year old ex-scout. And a bargain starting at $.69 each!
posted by vespabelle at 1:28 PM on December 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


garius, your story is delightful. When your main trackable achievements are winning video games and making your wife happy, you've got a pretty good life.

To be fair, I tend to find that its only through doing the second that you're allowed to do the first.

That said, maybe the desire to collect is just all an extension of my own time in the Scouts. Done well, Scouting is basically Pokemon for kids who like knives and fire.
posted by garius at 1:45 PM on December 7, 2010


fizzix: "I thought would be more related to a geo-caching badge or asking other people in an unfamiliar area for directions]"

There were four new merit badges released this year including a geocaching badge. The others including Robotics, Scouting Heritage, and Scuba.
posted by Deflagro at 1:50 PM on December 7, 2010


There's a ton of great spoof badges at boyscoutstore.com. I'm pretty sure they have normal patches, too. Choice: Pyro; Dumpster Diving; Finger Carving; Goth; Incendiaries

I wasn't sure if they were going to be what I expected but I took a chance on it to get the cat herding badge for my boss and they were indeed embroidered patches.
posted by nTeleKy at 2:09 PM on December 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm a Scoutmaster with a local troop. These badges have been available since late-April or early-May. They were brought back as part of the BSA centennial and can only be earned in 2010 (which means only three weeks to complete those requirements and get the advancement sheets turned in!). Badges can count towards rank advancement and can be work on merit badge sashes. They are distinct from the standard badges with a shiny gold border.

< begin rant > National announced the historical badge program in, like February, but took a couple extra months to get the requirements out to units. They didn't really change anything, so why they delayed and cut into the amount of time scouts could work on them mystifies me. Also, they weren't offered at the National Jamboree back in July, which also seems like a huge oversight. < / end rant >

Surprisingly, most of the kids in my troop have taken to the badges; pathfinding and tracking being the easiest, followed by carpentry and then signaling. We offered special classes to allow the kids a change to earn the badges, and they were all well attended. We actually have one more session this weekend to get the scouts out into the field to look for animal tracks and see if they can sneak up and observe local wildlife in its national environment.
posted by jazon at 3:25 PM on December 7, 2010


Y'know, belonging to and participating in the BSA doesn't necessarily mean you agree with the bigotry espoused by some (most?) of its leaders. My father was heavily involved in scouting for decades and lead many troops, despite the fact we moved all over the world. I quit scouting when I was 12, shortly after he died, because it was too painful. But I vividly remember that for him (and by extension, me) scouting was about camaraderie, sportsmanship, integrity, woodcrafts, and practical skills-building. It was never about the distasteful bigotry and Christian-centric message that's been coming down from national leaders for the last decade or two.

In fact, if you study the history of scouting, you'll see that this schism has been evident since its beginning. Ernest Thompson Seton is the true originator of the scouting movement with his Woodcraft Indians and popular books for boys like "The Birch Bark Roll". When Baden-Powell met Seton in 1906, he heavily borrowed from Seton many of the concepts that we think of today as belonging to scouting. The two of them worked for years to popularize the Boy Scouts, but finally had a falling out in 1915. Their disagreement was about many things, including whether the Boy Scouts should have any connections to religion, or whether it should be focused primarily on naturalism.

[P.S. I am currently in Santa Fe installing a network at some new buildings at the Seton Castle, which will exist in part to continue Seton's legacy and vision; so this topic is very timely for me. If you're in the area, you absolutely need to see the current exhibit about Seton at the New Mexico History Museum, just off the plaza.]

In short, scouting is what you make of it. If you can ignore the religious nonsense and re-inforce in your troop the idea of acceptance and tolerance, then the myopic bigotry flowing down from the top will have no purchase, and the world will be a better place, just as Seton envisioned.
posted by mrbarrett.com at 5:23 PM on December 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


mrbarret.com, I couldn't agree more. Seton's vision, as well as Baden-Powell ideas, emphasized self-reliance, citizenship, peace, and camaraderie.
In short, scouting is what you make of it. If you can ignore the religious nonsense and re-inforce in your troop the idea of acceptance and tolerance, then the myopic bigotry flowing down from the top will have no purchase, and the world will be a better place, just as Seton envisioned.
QFT.
posted by jazon at 6:32 PM on December 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Perhaps, but it's still true that the money you pay to be a member flows right back up to the top, paying for the lobbying, lawyers, etc. that make that myopic bigotry possible, and not seeing yourself as part of that system is just as myopic.

You can take your kids to the woods, start a local group of wilderness activity, instill in children the values of good citizenship, and even teach carpentry, signaling, pathfinding, and tracking without supporting institutionalized bigotry, and when you choose not to, then please do not pretend you aren't making an active choice of convenience over justice.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 8:46 PM on December 7, 2010


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