Merit Badges for Grown-Ups

When kids are little, we want them to try a lot of things. “How will you know what you like unless you try it?” We say this about foods, clothes, places, and people. 

In fact, some activities are engineered toward sampling lots of different things, for example in the Scouts programs. You are encouraged to try out everything from cooking to fishing to coding, and you even get a badge of achievement for successfully completing the prescribed introductory activities. 

I looked up the requirements to get a merit badge in Bugling from the Boy Scouts. Here is what it says:

1. Give a brief history of the bugle. 

2. Do the following: (a) Explain and demonstrate how the bugle makes sound, and explain how the bugle is related to other brass wind instruments. (b) Compose a bugle call for your troop or patrol to signal a common group activity, such as assembling for mealtime or striking a campsite. Play the call that you have composed before your unit or patrol. 

3. Sound 10 of the following bugle calls: “First Call,” “Reveille,” “Assembly,” “Mess,” “Drill,” “Fatigue,” “Officers,” “Recall,” “Church,” “Swimming,” “Fire,” “Retreat,” “To the Colors,” “Call to Quarters,” and “Taps.” 

4. Explain the use of each of the calls you performed. 

5. Explain how to care for, clean, and maintain a bugle. 

6. Serve as bugler in your troop for three months.

If you did all of these steps, you’d have a pretty good idea of whether you enjoyed bugling or not, I think. And best of all, you’ve tried it out in a format that is specifically formulated to be low stakes. You’re learning about the bugle, pure and simple.

As we get older, it can get harder to just try something out. Even older kids are urged to specialize, to narrow their focus. By the time you’re in middle school, it’s tough to try to out a sport just for the fun of it because all the other kids have been playing for five years.

But what if we could just try something out? What if we signed up for a cooking class, or to learn a language, not because we had to but because it might…be fun? What’s something that interests you that you could sample?

You may not be issued an official merit badge for your new interest, but you’ll learn if you like it enough to continue. There’s merit in that, as well.

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