Badges? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Badges!

I’m sure you’ve heard the title’s quote many times in your volunteer career when you mention Girl Scout badges to someone.  It’s even the name of one of the tags used for this blog.  (Actually, the correct quote is “Badges? We ain’t got no badges. We don’t need no badges. I don’t have to show you any stinkin’ badges!”)  But recently, it seems that GSUSA is saying it too.  The word is getting out that the Make Your Own Badge website will be shutting down in June, and therefore, this option will no longer be offered. 

Here’s a screenshot of what’s being passed around in various Facebook groups explaining the decision:

To be completely honest, no one in our troop ever used the MYOB.  We looked into it earlier this year to see if we could incorporate the woodburning and whittling activities into one, but the clip art options were limited, and the process itself and shipping were expensive.  We ended up using those activities as steps toward the retired Folk Arts IPA.  I asked about the MYOB in our council’s UNOFFICIAL Facebook group, and only one leader said that their troop had used it.  So to be fair, it’s very possible that the lack of use could have been a factor as stated in the FAQ.  GSUSA’s claim that the Girls’ Choice process is a more effective way of reaching more girls is correct.  But reaching more girls wasn’t the point of the MYOB.  It was to allow a girl to explore a topic that wouldn’t necessarily have been covered by the badge program.  Isn’t that the definition of girl led?  And how much overhead was actually associated with the MYOB website and printing?  I can’t imagine that it would have been that much.  But, I could be wrong.

One hundred and four!!

GSUSA coming out with a Girls’ Choice badge every year is nice.  But spitting out one badge a year isn’t going to make up for the huge void that was left when the badge program was tossed and reworked about 10 years ago.  I have a retired Junior badge book, and there were ONE HUNDRED AND FOUR of them!  And there was even a MYOB option as well!  Now there are twenty-eight.  Is this all about the number of badges?  No – it’s about the lost opportunities to learn new skills and exposure to topics that girls wouldn’t necessarily pick up at school or in their daily lives.  I discuss my rationale for the previous badge program in another blog post.  But Amy, you say, you’re being a little melodramatic when you say “lost opportunities.”  It’s not like girls can’t do them just because it’s not in a badge book!  That’s true, but having that many options opens up ideas to both volunteers and girls when they browse through a badge book, and they’ll most likely have explored the subject matter or skill a little deeper and in more detail than if they had just done a quick activity to earn a fun patch.  And now the MYOB door that was open to somewhat make up for the fact that there are limited badge choices has now been shut.

As a side note, GSUSA is working with NASA to develop six new STEM badges that will be piloted in 10 councils.  It’s still doesn’t come close to filling the void, but I guess it’s something, right?  But – it’s limited to STEM topics.  Girl Scouts does not live by STEM alone.  By the way, where the heck are we supposed to put the requirements for these badges when they come out?  I barely have enough room in the Girls’ Guide to include the new Girls’ Choice ones even after taking out the Handbook and My Girl Scouts sections and placing them in their own separate binder.

Old 96 BodyWIZE Council’s Own Badge

But back to today’s news.  More concerning to me than the closing of the MYOB is the fact that council’s own badges are being phased out in lieu of council patch programs*.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  Some of these patch programs are fantastic.  But why do they have to be patches as opposed to badges?  What was wrong with it being a badge?  Does GSUSA need to have THAT much control over the badge program?  Do they feel like the council’s own badges weren’t providing a consistent program?  Do they not trust councils to rework them into a more current model?  On top of it, when you put an earned patch from one of these programs on the back of a vest or sash, they are completely engulfed by fun patches that some leaders give away like candy.  Did you breathe today?  Here’s a patch for that!  In my opinion, if you do the work for a patch that you normally would have done for a badge, then it should be something that’s highlighted on the front and given more importance than what’s on the back.  Also, I wonder if the fact that it’s a patch program discourages the creators from delving deeper into a subject or topic than what would have been required for a badge.

On the other hand, does it really matter where things are placed on a vest?  Or patch vs. badge?  Isn’t it more about what experiences girls have while doing these things rather than earning something?  Yes, that is true. But I’ve personally found that girls are more interested in putting in the work that’s needed if they know it’s for a badge rather than a patch that you can collect a dime a dozen, and I think they should be recognized for that work.  After all, you wouldn’t put the Bronze Award pin on the back of the vest – it’s on the front and displayed in a prominent position.

When it comes down to it, I don’t know that campaigns such as the current G.I.R.L. one will be truly effective until GSUSA gets the meat and potatoes of the badge program and materials fixed first.  It does no good bringing in girls if there’s not enough there to keep them.  This applies to volunteers as well.  But it’s as if we just keep trying to pound that square block into the round hole over and over again, and it’s maddening.  Truly maddening.

*Per the GSCO Badge website, “GSUSA instructed councils to halt their local Council’s Own programs when the Girl Scout Leadership Experience Badges were introduced in late 2011. Most councils have sold off their stock of Councils’ Owns. Some councils reworked their programs into patches, and a few have adapted to the new Discover, Connect, Take Action model.”

Addendum 3/24/17:  The Orange County council offers two recent council’s own badges rather than patches.

Addendum 4/23/17:  Some on the GSUSA Are You Listening? FB page expressed concern about the screenshot from the Treasure of the Sierra Madre, so I replaced the graphic with the movie poster.


  • We need MANY new badges of all kinds for the girls. And I hope GSUSA will reinstate the Make Your Own Badge, perhaps selling blanks for girls. We also need a fun, more hands-on Outdoor pathway to Girl Scouting’s highest awards.

    I totally agree, one badge per year is NOT enough. Let’s give the girls MORE choices, and not less. I think GSUSA will be hearing a lot about this later, so hopefully they will change their mind about abolishing what is a fun badge program for the girls.

    Scout’s Own badges are a great offering, too. They need to be able to be shared with other councils too, and not made more difficult for Members to make and keep.

    Let’s tell our Delegates to our Annual Meetings and also to the National Council Session about this for sure, so they can talk about it and write GSUSA’s CEO and Board about it too. Let’s Take Action about it!

    Good posting.

  • So, my son just moved up to Boy Scouts. The other day, I looked at some of the merit badges (just to see what we had coming down the pipe eventually) and my daughter happened to look at my computer and said, “Can we earn some of those?” It made me pause and really think about that. She’s an 8th grade Cadette. We purchased the old IP book and the girls looked through it with some interest, with the intent to do the MYOB after modelling it after what we saw in the old IP book. But so far, we are finishing up other activities, including the new Outdoor Art badge, and by the time we get around to the IPs, MYOB will be shut down. I truly don’t understand why they took away all the options of a strong, broad program and left us with a narrow, waterdowned version of a badge program. It’s a real shame and very frustrating for us leaders. My co-leader and I joked that when the new troop camping badge comes out, we bet that the first step will be “talk to someone who has camped before.” UGH.

    • Why did they tear it all down? To sum up, the Nat’l Board (and CEO) at some point prior to 2004 decided to turn GS into a vision they had in their mind about what GS should be and how they wanted it to specifically shape society. Nevermind that up until then, it had been a successful program as evidenced by the GS alumni report. Were there things that needed fixing? Sure – there always is- but this change wasn’t about what was or wasn’t working at the time – it was about reinventing an organization into what the “leadership” wanted it to be. See my blog post: Why they felt the need for this vision and whether it was for self-promotion or sincere reasons is another story. And the execution of their vision had no basis in how the girl-volunteer-council relationships actually worked. But by golly, come hell or high water, they were intent on cramming this vision down everybody’s throats whether you liked it or not. And even though GSUSA has apparently seen the light when it comes to some issues, they are being obstinate about others like the badge & journey material. Apparently they feel the current materials are so wedded to the measurement of the GSLE that they can’t revamp or redesign them – only use add-ons like Girls’ Choice and “remodularization” or whatever the word is for the upcoming Journey changes.

  • Why do they think that we need them to create a bunch of badges for us to have more badges? Why can’t they just bring back all of the badges from the last 105 years of girl scouting? Bring them ALL back, and then get some feedback about which ones don’t work anymore, which ones are duplicates of other badges from other eras, and pare down from there. Then an occasional new badge will be an addition to the riches rather than a tiny plug for a gigantic hole.

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