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Young Boy Scouts of America can now earn awards for sitting indoors and playing video games.

That’s right, the Cub Scouts–the junior 8 to 11 ages subset of the Boy Scouts of America–are adding a new “ability badge” to their arsenal of earnable merits for the Tiger, Cub, and Webelos troops. But here’s the catch: The awards aren’t for how many bonus lives you’ve earned, or stars you’ve collected–you have to do stuff like bone up on the ESRB’s rating system and be able to describe why it’s important.

I know what some of you are thinking. Just a trend-driven ploy to bolster recruitment, right? Maybe, but look at it this way: At least these kids get a look at the video games ratings system early on, and under the supervision of trained adults.

Good point: here’s the list of requirements, and they are a blend of wholesome values like media awareness, critical thinking and deference to parents. But what I was actually “thinking” when I read this was about Peter Singer‘s recent work on the relationship between video games and military recruitment, and Cynthia Enloe‘s work on the militarization of our civil society institutions through things as simple (and wholesome) as Campbell’s Soup.

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  • Jason

    I wonder if this will trickle up to the Boy Scouts (or at least something similar). If the Digital Age had arrived when I was doing my Eagle Scout project I would have done something other than spray paint house numbers on curbs for emergency response vehicles, lame.

    • Ed

      At least painting numbers on curbs got you out of the house and doing something constructive for the community, not to mention getting a small taste of what manual labor is like.

  • DrDick

    The Boy Scouts has always been about militarization of the population. Baden Powell was also a bit fond of fascism.

  • Charles

    Heck, I’d of gotten a lot more out of a gaming merit badge that I ever did out of basket weaving or orienteering, past time for Scouting to enter the 20th century, let along the 21st, both socially and substantively.

    Like this:

  • Ginger Yellow

    Personally I think it would make more sense if their parents had to describe the ESRB system and why it’s important. They’re the ones buying the games and they’re the ones who tend to have no clue about the classification systems.

    The “academics pin”, however, seems more like a trend driven ploy. I mean, there’s a few things in there that I suppose might make children more sensible consumers (is that really what the Scouts is supposed to be doing?), but basically it’s just a “buy and play games” badge.

  • M. Showperson

    Doubtful that BSA would create a video gaming merit badge–far more likely, they’d fold such requirements into the existing Computers merit badge.

    Actually, BSA is on a huge rebranding drive to bring the organization into the 21st century–and staving off the oft-ascribed (& erroneously so, I’d add) ‘paramilitary organization’ is definitely a goal.

    • DrDick

      Wasn’t so erroneous when I was in the scouts (admittedly more than 40 years ago). My scout leader was even a retired Marine top sergeant (and the reason I dropped out).

  • Halloween Jack

    M. Showperson is incorrect; the Boy Scouts are a paramilitary organization in every meaningful sense of the word, at least in my experience of them (which, granted, was back in the 70s). Baden-Powell may have created the Scouting movement to partially demilitarize certain aspects of his original manual, Aids to Scouting, which was a real military manual that he wrote based on his experiences in South Africa, but the culture that Boy Scouts promoted was one of a hierarchical command structure, deference to authority (which helped give cover to the pedophiles which have been exposed in recent years), emphasis on ritual and uniforms, and so on, things that would make the corresponding structures and activities of military service more familiar.

    For that matter, I wonder how much of the current opposition to LGBTs serving in the military has to do with former Scouts having been indoctrinated in the BSA’s lack of tolerance for openly gay members. That would be a more meaningful question to explore than, for example, the idea that Campbell’s soup is somehow “militarized” because it had a Star Wars tie-in once; I really think that it was a tie-in to the movies, given that Reagan’s SDI program never deployed a single satellite.

  • Teri

    as a local scout leader, it is dependent upon the troop you join, the boys in the troop, the chartered organization that supports it, the trend direction of the troop. Our troop, for example is a diverse group of boys interested in theater, music, computers, track, football, soccer, hiking, camping, fishing etc. We as troop leaders try to provide safety, guidance and a safe place for these young men to learn leadership, self reliance, planning, preparation and skills in various real world applications. Adapting to real world situations, such as video games, is a way to stay engaged in what is actually of interest to the boys and teaching them that moderation in all things tends to lead to the healthy lifestyles. Of course your mileage and experience may vary depending upon the influences of the troop and leadership. As with any organization what you put into it is what you will get out of it.

  • jon

    A long time ago there was an editorial in Boys Life magazine debunking a Pravda article which claimed that the Boy Scouts was a paramilitary training organization. The editorial essentially proved Pravda’s point.

    Too bad the Scouts seem focused on turning out weenies now.

  • CoinOperatedBoy

    Am I the only one who finds it a bit creepy that to earn the badge, the kids are expected to be able to recite what they shouldn’t be allowed to look at yet and why?

    When I was a kid, there were definitely things we weren’t allowed to watch/read/play, probably rightly. But nobody expected us to like it.

  • Frank

    As a Scout (Cub & Boy), a Scout leader (Cub and Boy) and dad to two Scouts I always saw what I felt was a gradual familiarization with the military as well as a strong emphasis on nationalism and community order.

    With my boys I figured out the key is to shop around a bit & find the pack or troop that de-emphasizes the worst aspects and emphasizes the learning, fun & adventure parts. It can be a great experience but if you get into a group that demands adherence to the “Higher Being” shtick and the militarism then the kids may miss out on the good parts.

    • Halloween Jack

      Good points. I should point out (maybe to balance out what I wrote above) that I belonged to two troops in Wisconsin, which I had a lot of fun with, and one in Chicago, which I didn’t.

  • witless chum

    I still get dissonance on this. Where I grew up, a tiny town in Upper Michigan, you’d get ostracized, teased and possibly beaten for joining the Boy Scouts or especially appearing in public in that uniform. But that apparently wasn’t the caes most places.

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