Merit badges should be awarded for life experiences

By Kevin Wilson: Freedom Newspapers

It took a scrolling headline this morning to let me know I’d accomplished nothing in my life.

The headline was about James Calderwood, an 18-year-old resident of Chevy Chase, Md. Other than living in a town whose name peaked 15 years ago, Calderwood is famous for completing merit badge requirements of Boy Scouts – all 121 of them.

That number is 100 more than the required 21 badges to earn the organization’s highest rank of Eagle Scout. The badges are categorized into 14 specific areas, including conservation, personal communication and arts and crafts. Calderwood’s final merit badge was earned in the arts and crafts department – bugling, to be exact.

I could be bitter and retort the list doesn’t have a merit badge for talking to girls. However, that would be petty, and I’m above that.

I never earned any merit badges of my own, having quit scouting just after completing Cub Scouts. I figured I’d had enough of field trips to places I didn’t care about and weekend camping trips with the same guys who didn’t talk to me during the weekdays.

Still, I decided to take a gander through the list and see if there was anything I would be able to earn on life experiences. Let’s see, journalism and photography are both merit badges in the communications division – got that taken care of. Since I’m using my laptop to type this, I probably earn the computers merit badge as well. I know how to read and I know how to talk, so that knocks out reading and public speaking. If I listen to some music on the way to work and manage to not get into an accident, I earn radio and traffic safety badges. Just 14 to go, folks.

Then again, maybe I should aim higher. Why complete the tasks of a Boy Scout when I’m no longer a boy? I was thinking of starting the Man Scouts, but a quick Google search revealed manscouts.com and manscouts.org beat me to it (side note: Don’t go to the .com site). That’s no way to earn an originality merit badge, so I’m going to settle on Guy Scouts.

Guy Scout merit badges will be different. While Boy Scout merit badges are based on skills to benefit the world, Guy Scouts will work toward their own self-improvement and celebrate American excess. I’ve considered the following general categories, with appropriate merit badges.

Sports: The gambling badge is given to the winner of an NCAA basketball tournament pool, with the amount of money won noted on the badge. The horse badge is given for winning 50 games of H-O-R-S-E.

Interaction with Society: A persona non grata badge goes to a Guy Scout kicked out of a bar or restaurant. I earned that badge during a game of pool when I was 15, as my friend Adrian misjudged a trick shot and landed the cue ball into the kitchen of our local pizza place.

Entertainment: A phone police merit badge is earned when you tell off the cell-phone talker in the movie theater. A serial watcher badge is awarded when you successfully watch an entire television series, whether on DVD or through syndication.

I have more ideas, like a cooking merit badge for somebody who prepares a meal entirely out of condiments, or playing a video game for seven straight hours. E-mail any merit badge ideas you have, and we’ll see what ranks our lives earn.

And trust me, there will be no bugling involved.