I was catching up with some recent Desert Island Discs episodes and the most recent conversation was with Julie Bentley. Ms Bentley is the Chief Executive of the Guide Association and she spent much of the talk with host Kirsty Young defending the concept of Girl Guides. Are they still relevant? Should they be modernising and discussing sex education as they apparently have recently, or rather preserving the youth of today?
I know that if I was a kid now, I probably wouldn’t give the Girl Guides, or Girlguiding as it has been rebranded, a second look because there’s just so much else to do out there. The only part of it that seems particularly interesting anymore is the badges, because hey, getting badges is part of what modern life is all about. Most of the health apps I’ve been testing recently give badges for achievements, and Playstation have an entire eco-system surrounding tasks and trophies for doing particular things in each game.
So, this is an early start for getting kids into that way of life. The podcast made me think about badges, and Bentley discussed how they have been updated for a more modern participant. Instead of homemaker, there’s independent living. Instead of sewing, there is craft. That makes sense to me. The world is changing, and you can’t keep people coming back with birdspotting, insect collecting, etc.
I had a quick look at the badges available to budding collectors these days and whilst many of them look reasonable and actually quite interesting, I was stunned at one in particular. Chocolate. Firstly, chocolate is not a skill. Secondly, is this really the kind of thing the youth of today are interested in? Clearly any sensible person enjoys a bit of chocolate here and there, but how deep do you want to get with your Dairy Milk? The tasks to get this badge are surely not what any chocoholic is going to be interested in.
- Find out about the history of chocolate, including how it first came to the UK. Act out the story with your Patrol.
- Find out about fair trade chocolate products. Compare a fair trade bar with an ordinary bar. How do they compare on price, packaging and taste?
- Do a Patrol or family survey. Keep a record of how much chocolate everyone eats during one week. Discuss your results with your Patrol. What conclusions can you draw?
- Design a wrapper for a 21st century chocolate bar. Invent its name as well as its design. Draw out your design or make a mock chocolate bar.
- Set up a tasting session for your Patrol to try a variety of chocolate products, eg chocolate drinks, bars, mousses or biscuits.
- Make at least two of the following using chocolate: ribbons, curls, leaves, baskets, writing, boxes, cut-outs, ganache.
- Make up a game using chocolates and play it with your Patrol.
- Make a selection of sweets using melted chocolate. Work out how much they cost and compare the price to bought chocolates.
Actually there are a few skills in there that I can see would be useful. Researching. Crafting. Analysing the market. Eating chocolate. Well, maybe not that last one. Is the real trick here that there are useful things hidden behind a simplified idea? Kids wouldn’t want to do a “sweets market research and analysis” badge, but they may be more tempted to sew a chocolate bar on their shoulder?
A similar worrying badge is Party Planner which has only three tasks – choose a theme, plan a party, make stuff for the party. Again, this seems on the surface to be a vague and useless badge, but there are organisational, social and crafty skills required.
So, is this just one of those things where a grown up looks nostalgically back at how things used to be and marvels at how they are now? Or is it a real society change that means the badges have to be bright and colourful and simplistic on the surface, almost tricking people into the real tasks underneath?
I guess it’s probably a bit of both.