You have to admit, the Boy Scouts of America do try to keep up with the times.
Not energetically. Not consistently, even, but local leaders and (to a lesser extent) even the national governing body does try to push forward a bit.
Last year the Boy Scouts added a Robotics merit badge . It is a little dumbed down, of course. The scout can qualify for the badge even if the project robot fails to successfully kill all humans, for example.
The national organization has also tried to distance itself from traditional biases against African Americans and Jews in favor of a much more modern and politically defensible rejection of gay kids and parents.
The main curriculum does spend a lot of its focus on skills that aren't quite as current as the last few hot seconds of pop culture.
Fire-making. Sleeping on dirt. Primitive cooking.
Many troops still teach "Indian skills," that involve woodcraft and tracking, even though modern Native American skills would be just as likely to include Casino Management and Tax Accounting for Gaming Organizations.
But the Boy Scouts are traditional, not uniquely recidivist. Other organizations for kids have the same conflict with tradition.
Despite encouragement (and doing lot of the curricular ahead of time) from MIT engineer, EFF Pioneer and FastCompany Most Influential Women in Technology member and high-tech DIY guru Limor Fried, the Girl Scouts of America haven't adopted all the new skill badges Fried thinks it should. Python. 3D Printing. Laser-cutter skills. Biohacking, open-source hardware engineering, Android hacking, No-Television watching, UAV flying.
The Boy Scouts, on the other hand…the Boy Scouts just announced a merit badge in Game Design.
Sounds cool, right? Very 21 st Century? Very next-generation Skills You Will Need (in your future career designing 3-D slasher games for Xbox 720)?
Not so much.
Scouts can choose to design lots of kinds of games. Not FPS and side-scroller and puzzle/mystery and MMORPG. Nope.
Outdoor/athletic games (like tag). Tabletop games (dice, board games). Pen-and-paper or role-playing games! (BSA is thinking TicTacToe; any self-respecting Scout is thinking The Next D&D).
Those categories will get a lot of merit-badge project work because they're comparatively easy, so Scouts that can't swing a game in the last category will divert to pen-and-paper games rather than…
Electronic Games (for computers, consoles or handhelds).
I guarantee fewer than 1 in 100 games designed for the BSA badge will be actual programs with code and performance specifications.
Most will be in the real-world categories, slapped together to qualify for the badge while trying to incorporate the actual primary activities of scouts (going into the woods to spit, swear, whittle things and then set fire to them).
There will be a lot of mash-ups and mods of Android and iOS games, not a lot of shooters written in real code that makes real calls on real silicon.
Still, it's more modern than Indian Skills (unless they add that casino curriculum) and it's a good way to encourage kids just starting to think realistically about what they might want to do for a career to think about software as something you can write or modify to do what you want, not just something you download and play mindlessly until campout night, when it's time to go out in the woods to chase or wrestle with everything that moves and pee on everything that doesn't.
Somehow, I think Girls Scout campouts must be a lot more refined. I bet they get a lot fewer Robot Gladiatorial Games 'bots from their robotics merit badge than Boy Scout troops get from their campers, though.
Good thing that's the most useful thing you can do with a robot, not just a way to mess around making slick technology play "hit it with a stick" because Scouts aren't allowed to hit things with sticks while they're still inside. That would really be fake modernization. Or something.
Read more of Kevin Fogarty's CoreIT blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Kevin on Twitter at @KevinFogarty. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.