The Citizenship in Society Merit Badge: Your Ultimate Guide In 2022


Citizenship in Society is an Eagle-required merit badge that’ll help you to broaden your sense of ethics and become an upstander in your community! In earning the Citizenship in Society merit badge, you’ll complete historical research, think through important scenarios, and learn the qualities of ethical, inclusive leadership.

As of November 1, 2021, the Citizenship in Society Merit badge has been available to be earned by all BSA scouts. However, only on July 1, 2022, will the Citizenship in Society merit badge be officially required for earning your Eagle Scout rank.

Source: BSA

As someone who studied 3 quarters of ethics and DEI in college (see req 1!), I can tell you firsthand that what you’re learning here will make you a better, more socially-intelligent person in the real world. Being an upstander isn’t easy, but by helping make others feel welcome and respected, you’ll be a great citizen who’s on the path to success! 🙂

If you have other Eagle-required merit badges to earn, you should definitely check out my Difficulty Ranking Guide to Every Eagle-required Badge. There, you’ll also find the links to my other merit badge guides, as well as a description and summary of each badge’s requirements. I know this resource will be helpful to scouts on their road to Eagle!

Also, remember that ScoutSmarts should just serve as your starting point for merit badge research. In school, we’re taught not to plagiarize, and the same is true for Scouting worksheets. Answer these questions in your own words, do further research, and I promise you’ll gain much more from every merit badge you earn!

Now, it’s time to get started! Take a few minutes to thoroughly read through each of the Citizenship in Society requirements. Then, I’ll help you to answer each question and earn your next merit badge!

What Are The Citizenship in Society Merit Badge Requirements?

(“Discussion” requirements will be either with a counselor and another individual (in accordance with Youth Protection Guidelines https://www. scouting.org/health-and-safety/gss/gss01/), or with your counselor and a small group (of Scouts), depending upon your preference.)

  1. Before beginning work on other requirements for this merit badge
    • a. Research the following terms and then explain to your merit badge counselor how you feel they relate to the Scout Oath and Scout Law:
      • a. Identities
        b. Inclusion
        c. Diversity
        d. Discrimination
        e. Equity
        f. Ethical Leadership
        g. Equality
        h. Upstander
  2. Document and discuss with your counselor what leadership means to you. Share what it means to make ethical decisions.
    • a. Research and share with your counselor an individual you feel has demonstrated positive leadership while having to make an ethical decision. (It could be someone in history, a family member, a teacher, a coach, a counselor, a clergy member, a Scoutmaster, etc.)
    • b. Explain what decision and/or options that leader had, why you believe they chose their final course of action, and the outcome of that action.
  3. Consider ethical decision-making.
    • a. Think about a time you faced an ethical decision.
      — Discuss the situation, what you did, and how it made you feel.
      — Share if you would do anything differently in the future and if so, what that would be.
    • b. List three examples of ethical decisions you might have to make in the future at school, at home, in the workplace, or in your community, and what you would do.
      — Share how your actions represent alignment with the Scout Oath and Scout Law
    • c. Explain to your counselor how you plan to use what you have learned to assist you when that time comes, and what action(s) you can take to serve as an upstander and help other people at all times.
  4. Repeat the Scout Oath and Scout Law for your counselor. Choose two of the three following scenarios and discuss what you could do as a Scout to demonstrate leadership and your understanding of what it means to help others who may seem different from you:
    • a. Scenario 1: While at camp, a youth accidentally spills food on another camper. The camper who gets spilled on gets angry and says something that is offensive to people with disabilities; their friends laugh. What could/should you do?
    • b. Scenario 2: Your friend confides in you that some students in school are making insulting comments about one of their identities, and that those same students created a fake social media account to impersonate your friend online and post messages. What could/should you do?
    • c. Scenario 3: A new student in your class was born in another country (or has a parent who was born in another country). Your friends make rude comments to the student about their speech or clothes and tell the student to “go back home where you came from.” What could/should you do?
  5. Document and discuss with your counselor:
    • a. Ideas on what you personally can do to create a welcoming environment in your Scouting unit.
    • b. An experience you had in which you went out of your way to include another Scout(s) and what you did to make them feel included and welcomed.
    • c. Things you can do to help ensure all Scouts in your unit are given an opportunity to be heard and included in decision-making and planning.
  6. With your parent’s or guardian’s approval, connect with another Scout or youth your own age who has an identity that’s different from yours. (This means a trait, belief, or characteristic different from you.)
    • a. Share with each other what makes the different aspect of your identity meaningful/special to you.
    • b. Share with each other either one of the following:
      • i. A time you felt excluded from a group.
        — What was the situation?
        — How did it make you feel?
        — What did you do?
        — Did anyone stand up for you?
        — What did you learn?
        — Would you do anything differently today?
      • ii. This imaginary situation: You’re attending a new school and don’t know anyone there yet. You notice they dress very differently than you do. At lunchtime, you decide you’ll try to sit with a group to get to know other students. People at two tables tell you there is someone sitting at the currently empty seat at their table, so you end up eating by yourself.
        — How would that make you feel?
        — What could the students have done?
        — If that happened at your school, what would you do?
    • c. Discuss with your counselor what you learned from the discussion with the other Scout or youth.
  7. Identify and interview an individual in your community, school, and/or Scouting who has had a significant positive impact in promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion. If you feel your community, school, or local Scouting group does not have such an individual, then research a historical figure who meets these criteria, and discuss that person with your counselor.
    • a. Discover what inspired the individual, learn about the challenges they faced, and share what you feel attributed to their success.
    • b. Discuss with your counselor what you learned and how you can apply it in your life.
  8. With the help of your parent or guardian, study an event that had a positive outcome on how society viewed a group of people and made them feel more welcome. Describe to your counselor the event and what you learned.
  9. Document and discuss with your counselor three or more areas in your life outside of Scouting where you feel you can actively provide stronger leadership in.
    • a. Making others feel included.
    • b. Practicing active listening.
    • c. Creating an environment where others feel comfortable to share their ideas and perspectives.
    • d. Helping others feel valued for their input and suggestions.
    • e. Standing up for others
  10. Discuss with your counselor how stereotyping people can be harmful, and how stereotypes can lead to prejudice and discrimination. Share ideas you have for challenging assumptions and celebrating individuality.
  11. Scouting strives to develop young people to be future leaders in their workplaces, schools, and community environments. As you look at your current involvement in school, your family, Scouting, your job, and/or community, think about how you can have a positive impact in diversity, equity, and inclusion.
    • a. Describe your ideas on how you can and will support others with different identities to feel included and heard at your school, workplace, and/or social settings in your community.
    • b. Explain how including diverse thoughts and opinions from others with
      different identities can:
      — Make your interactions more positive.
      — Help everyone benefit by considering different opinions.
    • c. Give three examples of how limiting diverse input can be harmful.
    • d. Give three examples of how considering diverse opinions can lead to
      innovation and success.

Before beginning work on other requirements for this merit badge…
1a) Research the following terms and then explain to your merit badge counselor how you feel they relate to the Scout Oath and Scout Law:
— a. Identities
b. Inclusion
— c. Diversity
— d. Discrimination
— e. Equity
— f. Equality
— g. Ethical Leadership
— h. Upstander

Citizenship in Society is based around the principles of DEI, which stands for diversity, equity, and inclusion. Before we dive into learning some important definitions, let’s quickly take a second to review the BSA’s DEI Statement.

The Boy Scouts of America promotes a culture where each youth, volunteer, and employee feels a sense of belonging and builds communities where every person feels respected and valued.

Leading by example and encouraging each other to live by the values expressed by the Scout Oath and Scout Law, we welcome families of all backgrounds to help prepare young people to serve as successful members and leaders of our nation’s increasingly diverse communities.

The BSA’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Statement

Basically, the purpose of DEI and the Citizenship in Society merit badge is to cultivate a culture of acceptance and mutual respect, in order to build stronger, more collaborative communities. To do that, we need to expand our understanding of the diverse peoples and cultures around us! 😀

Identities

One’s identity lies in everything that they believe defines them. You might have many identities such as being a scout, a good student, and maybe even a person who always tries to do the right thing.

You might also have identities that lie in your race, faith, sexual orientation, and upbringing, as many others do. Take the time now to consider a few of your own identities. Do you care about them? Most likely! That’s how the people around you feel about their identities too.

Inclusion

But people can have very different identities. I’m Asian and often celebrate the Lunar New Year, but someone who’s from Mexico might not celebrate that holiday and instead might celebrate Cinco de Mayo. Inclusion is respecting each other’s beliefs and even welcoming each other to participate!

The fact is, no people share all of the same identities. We are all unique. However, in groups where most people share a similar identity, it’s easy to think of the people outside of your group as “different.” Unfortunately, that seemingly harmless mindset is often the cause of racism and prejudiced beliefs.

Instead, work to be inclusive. Learn about the identities of others, and welcome in those people who might at first seem different. You’ll learn much more about the world from your interactions with them, and will surely grow as a person along the way!

Diversity

When you make an effort to be inclusive of others, and fill your circle of friends with people who have very different identities, you’ll unlock new angles to life that you never knew existed! This is what diversity is.

Diversity is thinking outside of the box and seeing that we humans are all in this together. While we may have different journeys and different upbringings, we all have something important to learn from each other. With diversity, the goal is to see past appearances and welcome new perspectives; To include everyone else in the way you’d like to be included.

Discrimination

Unfortunately, not every person learns that what’s different isn’t out to get them. When someone’s fearful or bitter, they can create incorrect beliefs to help them make sense of the world. But, sometimes these false beliefs cause harm to innocent people just because of their race, religion, or appearance.

When you judge a group of people based solely on their identity, that’s called discrimination. Fewer than 100 years ago in the US, we discriminated against all black children in this way and forced them to attend segregated schools. Discrimination is a part of history, but we must create the changes we want to see in the world.

Equity

To create a better, more fair world we need to think carefully about how best to help others. This is where equity comes in. Equity is about trying to achieve an equal outcome in society while acknowledging that individuals share different struggles and needs based on their identity. For example:

  • Someone who’s handicapped and uses a wheelchair might need financial support to be able to cover medical bills. Or, they may need a job where they can work on a computer while sitting.
  • A very smart student from a minority community may not have had as good an education as someone growing up in a rich area. If the minority student is smarter, equity involves giving them the same access to top-tier colleges through affirmative action.

For more info, check out this great video (2:25) below on equity vs equality.

Equality

Equity is often contrasted with equality, as they have similar meanings. However, while equality means everyone has the same opportunities, equity takes into account that some people have more disadvantages than others and tries to give resources to the neediest members of our society.

Personally, I think that equality within society should be the bare minimum that we strive for. We should do our best to eliminate systemic disadvantages for all identities so that every person can reach their full potential (equity). When relating things back to you and me though, our takeaway is that we should treat others the way that we’d want to be treated — equally — with kindness and respect.

Ethical Leadership

Ethical leadership is all about acting with integrity and leading others to follow suit. By showing respect for those who follow you, and inspiring them to be their best most ethical selves, you demonstrate ethical leadership. Here are, in my opinion, 3 key qualities to being an ethical leader:

  • Trustworthiness: When you make a promise, you keep it. Trust is the foundation of every human relationship, so as a leader it’s vital that you are honest and fair. This means if you make a mistake you take accountability.
  • Leadership Through Example: You can’t just talk the talk, you also need to walk the walk. An ethical leader should never ask a follower to do something that they, themselves would not do. In fact, one of the best ways to lead is to serve as an exceptional role model!
  • Humility: Ethical leaders know that they aren’t superior to those who follow them. Instead, they act in the opposite way by lifting others up and sharing the credit. Humility means caring deeply about the thoughts and feelings of those who follow you, instead of believing that you know all the answers.

By acting as an ethical leader, you not only get the job done — you get it done in a way that empowers your followers! Now, take a second to consider what other qualities you’d add to the list. Then, try to live those values out by being an ethical leader in all you do. 🙂

Upstander

Like an ethical leader, an upstander is an individual who always does their best to do the right thing, especially when it’s scary or difficult. Often, upstanders are the ones who side with individuals who are being discriminated against, and are the first to speak up when something isn’t ethical.

When talking about Citizenship in Society, upstanders are the types of people who don’t tolerate discrimination. They indicate to the racist/sexist/prejudiced person that what they’re saying isn’t okay while working to deescalate the situation.

If you notice discrimination or bullying at school, simply say something like, “Yo, stop. I don’t know if you’re joking but you sound super racist/like a bully and no one likes that.”

Or if it’s a smaller issue in a group situation you could be like, “Whoa, whaaat? (Person’s name) you’ve gotta be kidding?” to help others realize that those sorts of comments aren’t okay.

Basically, to become an upstander, be the kind of person who knows what they stand for. Trust your instincts, know your values, and be willing to put yourself in a difficult situation to help others (while keeping your safety top of mind). If you see something, say something!

2) Document and discuss with your counselor what leadership means to you. Share what it means to make ethical decisions.

Leadership can mean different things to different people, based on their values and past experiences. To some, leadership can mean telling others what to do so that the job gets done their way (not recommended 😛 ). To others, leadership could mean working as a team and building each other up to accomplish a shared goal. So consider, what does leadership mean to you?

Here are some questions to consider that will get you started down the right path (and also help with the next requirements!):

  • What are the qualities of a bad leader?
  • What are the qualities of a good leader?
  • What are the qualities of the best leader you can imagine, and how do they go beyond “good”?
  • How should a leader act when facing a difficult decision?
  • How will a great leader know they made the best, most ethical choice?

Have you answered each of these questions in your mind? Great! The final 3 tie back to ethical decision-making, so you should already have a good idea of what it means to make ethical decisions. I want you to answer this question yourself, but know that ethics are about doing the right thing for the right reasons. All the info you need is already inside of you! 😀

2a) Research and share with your counselor an individual you feel has demonstrated positive leadership while having to make an ethical decision. (It could be someone in history, a family member, a teacher, a coach, a counselor, a clergy member, a Scoutmaster, etc.)

If possible, I’d urge you to speak with someone in your community whom you feel is an upstanding individual. Asking them about a time they needed to make an ethical decision and hearing their story directly will inspire and uplift you! However, if you’d like to research an honorable historical figure instead, here are a few suggestions:

  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Nelson Mandela
  • The Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatso)
  • Martin Luther King Jr.
  • Mother Teresa
  • Marcus Aurelius
  • Mahatma Gandhi
  • Antonio de Montesinos

As an example, I’ll be telling you about Nelson Mandela. Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was a former president of South Africa who dedicated his life to fighting racial inequality. His biggest claim to fame was ending the Apartheid — a system of racial segregation and discrimination — after spending 27 years imprisoned.

“Apartheid policies prohibited Black people from entering urban areas without immediately finding a job. It was illegal for a Black person not to carry a passbook. Black people could not marry white people. They could not set up businesses in white areas. Everywhere from hospitals to beaches was segregated. Education was restricted.”

Source: History.com

So, how did Nelson Mandela help end the Apartheid? During the time he was imprisoned for demonstrating against the unjust regime, he continued writing about the injustices he saw in South African society, never wavering in his belief for equality. To learn more about his legacy, check out the video (4:19) below:

2b) Explain what decision and/or options that leader had, why you believe they chose their final course of action, and the outcome of that action.

Now that you know Nelson Mandela’s legacy, consider some of the ethical decisions he needed to make. While imprisoned for way longer than you and I have been alive, he could’ve easily made the choice to give up and become bitter. But he didn’t. He made the decision to continue writing and fighting for justice!

Then, after Mandela was democratically elected as the first president of South Africa in 1994, he and his family could’ve lived an easy life. Instead, he preached forgiveness and spent every day working to move South Africa past the hatred of the Apartheid and into better times! Throughout his life, Mandela’s values drove him to never take the easy way out, and instead drove him to lead with ethics and conviction.

If you want to become an impactful and ethical leader in your own troop, check out my Ultimate Guide to Scouting Leadership where you’ll learn my best tips for being an effective and kind troop leader!

Consider ethical decision-making.
3a) Think about a time you faced an ethical decision.
— Discuss the situation, what you did, and how it made you feel.
— Share if you would do anything differently in the future and if so, what that would be.

Everyone has moments in their lives where they’re faced with making an ethical decision. Maybe you find someone’s wallet on the ground and you’re really in need of money, but you decide to mail it back to its rightful owner. Or maybe you damage something and have the choice to fess up or avoid the consequences. What will you do?

To make an ethical decision, you should put your own interests second to doing the right thing. In your own life, here are some examples of ethical decisions you might need to make:

  • You buy snacks from a tired-looking cashier. You pay with cash and she accidentally gives you change for a greater amount. You only realize you have an extra $100 in the parking lot. What do you do?
  • When hanging out with your friends, you notice one of them is pestering a group of younger students and casually being rude. What do you do?
  • You need to earn a merit badge but are pressed for time. You find ScoutSmarts and see that I’ve written a guide that’d be easy to copy/paste. 😛 You know plagiarism is wrong. What do you do?
  • A friend emails you the answer key to an upcoming exam. You don’t feel too confident about the subject and are really tempted to cheat. What do you do?
  • You’ve applied for college and gotten into your early-decision pick (basically, you’re committed to enrolling). However, you get accepted to your dream school at the last minute! What do you do?
  • At work and you notice some unethical practices taking place. No one else seems to care, but what’s going on is clearly illegal. However, losing the job could make you homeless. What do you do?

Now, consider some of the ethical decisions you’ve made in your own life. When have you acted against your own self-interest to do the right thing? Or, when could you have been more ethical, but weren’t? Discuss what you come up with with your merit badge counselor! 🙂

3b) List three examples of ethical decisions you might have to make in the future at school, at home, in the workplace, or in your community, and what you would do.
— Share how your actions represent alignment with the Scout Oath and Scout Law

For this requirement, you can borrow my above examples of common ethical decisions or come up with your own! Remember, that not every ethical decision is black and white. In fact, having some empathy and honest communication can go a long way towards reducing the consequences of a difficult ethical decision.

As an example, consider the ethical decision to report a friend’s cheating to your teacher.

You could say, “Bob and his friends took your answer key and were cheating!!” However, you could also keep the people involved anonymous, and use the opportunity to explain to your teacher that much of the class is struggling with the current material.

By having a conversation and expressing your needs, you may find that the people you interact with are much more understanding than you’d expect! People value honestly and strong ethics, so always be an upstander and make an effort to communicate your feelings (in a kind way).

Whatever you decide to do, make sure to keep your values front of mind. The Scout Oath and Law are your roadmaps here. They represent values that will help you to act in an ethical, constructive way if followed. Use the Scout Oath and Law in all your important ethical decisions, moving forward!

3c) Explain to your counselor how you plan to use what you have learned to assist you when that time comes, and what action(s) you can take to serve as an upstander and help other people at all times.

As a scout, much of your time is spent preparing to be an upstander in difficult situations. By learning useful lifesaving techniques, helpful skills, and important values, you become even more capable of helping other people out at all times!

Now that you’ve mentally reviewed many of the ethical decisions you could face, you’re more ready and prepared to do the right thing! In terms of the actions you could take to serve as an upstander, always try to uplift others and act with kindness. By noticing injustice and speaking out against it, you’ll surely serve as a great upstander throughout your life!

Repeat the Scout Oath and Scout Law for your counselor. Choose two of the three following scenarios and discuss what you could do as a Scout to demonstrate leadership and your understanding of what it means to help others who may seem different from you:

4a) Scenario 1: While at camp, a youth accidentally spills food on another camper. The camper who gets spilled on gets angry and says something that is offensive to people with disabilities; their friends laugh. What could/should you do?

In situations where an ignorant comment is made, it’s generally best to assume good intentions and give a gentle reminder that society doesn’t tolerate that kind of talk. For example, to respond to rude jokes made about disabled people, you could chime in:

“Whoa! I don’t like having food spilled on me either, but we know better than to talk like that. C’mon, it’s 2022. We should never make people with disabilities the butt of jokes by using that kind of language.”

The same statement can work for racist, sexist, or downright mean comments as well. Just gently let the offender know that most people have a higher standard, and that those sorts of comments are beneath them. They should get the hint, and will likely think twice the next time they’re about to say something ignorant. 🙂

To learn more of my best methods of ethical leadership for disagreeable scouts, you should check out my article on 5 Helpful Ways To Lead Difficult Scouts (Without Acting Like A Jerk!).


4b) Scenario 2: Your friend confides in you that some students in school are making insulting comments about one of their identities, and that those same students created a fake social media account to impersonate your friend online and post messages. What could/should you do?

Sometimes, it’s best to report situations to your teacher, parents, and other trustworthy adults. Cyberbullying (really, any kind of bullying) is one of those instances. Since your friend has all of the evidence, you should encourage them to speak with someone trusted so that the bullying can be stopped.

4c) Scenario 3: A new student in your class was born in another country (or has a parent who was born in another country). Your friends make rude comments to the student about their speech or clothes and tell the student to “go back home where you came from.” What could/should you do?

Since all 3 of these scenarios are ones you’ll likely encounter, I’ll share some suggestions here too! If you encounter someone new who is being excluded and mocked because they come from a different cultural background, try to put yourself in their shoes. Have some empathy, and consider how you would feel if you were in that situation.

When deciding whether or not to do the right thing, always try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. What would you want you to do if you were them? Here are a few ideas…

  • Speak up for them. Tell your friends that those kinds of comments are pretty racist and not okay.
  • Become friends with them, and introduce them to more people. Hype up their best qualities.
  • Let them know to not pay attention to the mean comments. Be kind and welcoming to them.

The hardest part of all of these scenarios will likely be standing up to your peers. However, being an upstander isn’t about looking cool or being accepted — it’s about doing the right thing and changing society for the better. Your actions have ripple effects, so always do your best to do the right thing (especially if it scares you). 🙂

Document and discuss with your counselor:
5a) Ideas on what you personally can do to create a welcoming environment in your Scouting unit.

Creating a welcoming environment within your unit is a great way to encourage more scouts to join! Plus, the visitors you do get will be much more likely to stick around and make Scouting a part of their lifestyle. This is called troop retention (check out my full article for details)! Here are a few more ideas for creating a welcoming troop environment:

  • Ensure that every new scout has a “buddy” in charge of answering their questions and helping them participate in activities.
  • Try to remember every new person’s name, and make an effort to introduce them to your fellow scouts.
  • Help new scouts to complete basic requirements and learn skills so that they have something to be proud of right off the bat!
  • Find similarities outside of Scouting. Talk about school, sports, or other things you’re both interested in, and encourage them to open up.
  • Share your own stories of fun troop experiences or tell them hilarious Scouting jokes to help them feel included.

If you can create a more friendly and welcoming atmosphere in your Scouting unit, you can certainly do so in the real world as well! Use this opportunity to practice being kind and open, and I’m sure the people around you will really appreciate you for it. 🙂

5b) An experience you had in which you went out of your way to include another Scout(s) and what you did to make them feel included and welcomed.

Hopefully, you can think of a few experiences like this off the top of your head. If not though, there’s no time like the present! Use one or two of the ideas I listed above to help a fellow scout feel more welcome in your troop. If you act in kindness, you’ll often feel better than if you’d received that kindness yourself!

5c) Things you can do to help ensure all Scouts in your unit are given an opportunity to be heard and included in decision-making and planning.

If you’re a leader, it’s important to help the people around you feel heard and included. To do this, encourage other scouts to speak up, and listen respectfully whenever someone else is speaking. If you agree with something said, be sure to say so and compliment the person on their idea!

It’s easy to imagine that leaders should do all the talking, but in reality, great leaders are the ones who listen well and encourage others to participate in the planning process. By having people in your group take turns speaking and discussing ideas, you’ll ensure that everyone has the chance to speak and be included!

Congrats on Finishing The First Half of the Citizenship In Society Merit Badge!

Great work!! Are you starting to see how important it is to always try to do the right thing? Being an ethical leader and upstander doesn’t come naturally to most people, but it is a quality that can 100% be learned. I hope you’re learning a ton here, and am looking forward to helping you in the next section! 😀

Once you’re ready to continue on to part 2 of the Citizenship In Society merit badge
(Requirements 6-11) click here!
(You can also subscribe to the ScoutSmarts Scribe Newsletter for regular updates!)

Also, if you’re interested in the difficulty rankings for every Eagle-required merit badge, you can check out my full guide here! PS: The article also links to my other ultimate badge guides that’ll help you to complete your merit badge worksheets.

Cole

I'm constantly writing new content because I believe in Scouts like you! Thanks so much for reading, and for making our world a better place. Until next time, I'm wishing you all the best on your journey to Eagle and beyond!

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