Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Merit Badges

Remember earning merit badges in the Boy Scouts?

I don't. I never got past Tenderfoot, the equivalent rank in Scouting to "maggot" in the Marines. Something about not being able to start a campfire with two wet matches. But I did earn a nifty Bowman patch at the archery range at Camp Boyhaven one summer, and one winter at the Deep Freeze Jamboree (they use words like "Jamboree" in the Scouts), my Deer Patrol teammates earned us another patch, exhausting themselves pulling me on a sled around a timed obstacle course and successfully cheating at the signals checkpoint. Way to go, guys!

Professional certifications are the merit badges of the corporate workplace. I recently took the ITIL V3 Foundation exam following a six-month contract that lasted two months. If the Deer Patrol were to decode "ITIL V3" on the signal range, with or without deploying a runner from the send station to the receive station -- I'm not saying that's what happened -- we would report that it's a stilted, U.K.-originated IT management jargon used by IT departments at budget-justification time to promise that they will, for a small investment this year, say a 10% cost increase, disentangle and standardize (er, standardise) their various functions and processes so that costs can be reduced the year after next; by which time, it is hoped, this year's budget cycle will be largely forgotten. When I passed the ITIL V3 exam at one of those ubiquitous computerized testing centers, the certifying organization, EXEL, sent me a certificate and a pin. A pin! For me! I put it on my sash, right next to my other merit...oh, wait. Never mind.

Merit badges come in all shapes and sizes. I'm reminded of this whenever they trot out a flag rank military leader to go before Congress or the cameras at budget-justification time, his or her dress uniform festooned with about a hundred colorful insignia, each representing some courageous or meritorious accomplishment. Once in a while, the press catches some ex-military political appointee sporting a merit badge that he didn't earn, and then all hell breaks loose. We former Scouts who have passed the ITIL V3 exam recognize the public procedure that follows: in ITIL V3 terms, it's referred to as the "Service Operations: Gang-Wedgie" process.

Modern life is full of merit badges that you can earn: high school diplomas, sports trophies, driver's licenses, college degrees, letters of recognition, paychecks and promotions, perp walks. I think there should be additional awards for the intangible accomplishments in life. When you figure out a new commuting route across town that avoids the construction in rush hour, you should get a merit badge in transportation. When you get your kids to eat their vegetables, both you and they should get a merit badge on the spot. When you 'fess up to transgressions from your youth -- I'm not saying that's what happened -- you should get a badge, too.

In this spirit of generosity, I am pleased to announce that I hereby award myself the Fire Starter merit badge. On several occasions this past winter, at long last, I successfully built a wood fire from scratch, using only two matches. It turns out, the trick is to build it indoors.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...