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.
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.
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.