The hard-earned merit badges of British Boy Scouts are being turned into commerical billboards, turning the trustworthy and loyal young people into walking advertisements, an American critic said Friday.
The critic, Michael Jacobson of the Center for the Study of Commericalism, has written Queen Elizabeth II and Lord Baden-Powell, vice president of the Scout Association, about the new practice.According to Jacobson, a former Scout himself, the British Scouting movement sells space on merit badges for between $10,000 and $100,000, depending on the badge's popularity among young people.
For the payment, the corporation has its logo or name embroidered on merit badges in the company's area of interest.
"This fund-raising strategy not only enables corporations to target their advertising barrage at Britain's 700,000 Scouts, but it also creates 700,000 trustworthy, walking advertisements," Jacobson said.
"It is a sad day for the Scouts when a fund-raising scheme is allowed to taint the merit badge, Scouting's very symbol of skill and service," he said.
"Scouting," Jacobson said, "should provide an education in public service and civic-mindedness, not in companies and their products. This is a dangerous precedent that we fear might cross the Atlantic."
The Boy Scouts of America has told Jacobson it will not engage in any similar corporate sponsorship program.
In their letter to the Queen, Jacobson and the CSC urged that she "advise the Scout Association to review and reverse its policy that converts Scouts into human hoardings (billboards)."
According to Jacobson, the British badges include, for example, in the area of achievement in athletics a symbol of a runner sprinting above the word Matchstick, a maker of running shoes.
Other sponsors and their badges include Itec, for information technology; Meccano, for craft and model making; Dungeon and Dragons, for hobbies; Grandstand, for the radio technical badge; and Royal Mail, for the international friendship badge.