Back in the Instructor’s Seat

It’s been a few years since I did a merit badge in a classroom setting and arrived early to get the style of the department.There seems to be a critical point where familiarity with a subject matter becomes command of the material and the content goes from being taught to being revealed.  A good instructor has an almost electric excitement about what’s being instructed and in an ideal circumstance the kids are infected and learning flows; before this point instruction is a fight against boredom and confusion.  I watched two sessions roll by led by different instructors and was overwhelmed by the feeling that the instructors were kids playing grown up.  I wonder if I was like that when I was that age or if there’s something about Eagle Department content that makes everyone sound like a parent when they instruct about how the world works.  By and large kids take Eagle Department badges because they’re required for advancement which at its simplest is completing check boxes to get a piece of cloth that fulfills another check box for another piece of cloth but such reductionism only happens without the context of the exigency of the badge’s requirements.

With Personal Management, which misses its second word, financial, the badge has morphed into bludgeoning kids about the risks of debt without informing them of the absolute necessity of leverage to create a dynamic economy.  Innovation is taken as something that takes place “out there” in some sort of inaccessible wild west where bankers shoot interest rate adjustments at one another and borrowers are brave souls ready to undertake the manifold risks of losing someone else’s money.  The badge requires two essential precursor questions that it never answers:

  1. Why do we buy things?  To achieve something we value.
  2. What is the relationship between time and money?  Explaining why time is money is easy as that’s what some jobs seem to be.  Explaining the opposite is a bit trickier where we trade money for conveniences, vacation, and other niceties that allow us the ability to pursue our values.

If I can get those two points across I’ll be happy, except that they can’t be done to the exclusion of the actual requirements.  Subsuming the BSA requirements for “Terry’s requirements” would be somewhere between rogue pedagogy and arrogance that I’d rather avoid but I think I have my first tweak in creating a merit badge futures market.  One requirement goes over the basics of how stocks work but there’s no familiarity with having kids invest fake money in a stock market where they have no expertise so instead kids will buy merit badges at auction that the camp offers and try to get a portfolio where by the end of the week they have the badges with the most completions.  Each day, I’ll reveal a new week worth of data from a previous year to add to the badge holder’s total and the best performing portfolio managers will be showered with praise.  I need to get some data.