The national Board of Directors of the Boy Scouts of America recently announced that girls will be welcomed into all programs sponsored by that organization. Previously the Sea Scouts and Venturing programs allowed young women 14 years of age or older to participate. The new decision will allow girls to participate in all programs of all ages.
The historic decision was apparently made without meaningful and representative consultation with subordinate components of the Scouting program, including volunteer leaders and professional program directors. Of course, the press release issued by the national organization claimed otherwise. However, an email I received from the CEO of a BSA Council, noted, in part,
“…On Wednesday, October 11, 2017 the National Executive Board of the Boy Scouts of America voted to expand Scouting Programs to allow Girls. The xxx Council Executive Board, Staff and National Council Representatives were given no advance notice that this would be an agenda item for resolution at the National Executive Board meeting. In fact, I learned of the outcome of the decision just as everyone else did via news sources outside of the BSA…”
The decision was made in the face of strong opposition by the national Girl Scout Organization. This puts the two organizations “at war,” with each other. Is that really necessary, or in the overall best interests of America’s Youth?
The decision by the national Board of Directors reflects the views of a very small group of arguably out of touch decision-makers, and on the basis of unspecified data and/or counsel. The extent to which the need for additional funding at the national level was a major factor in the decision, is not known. Many suspect that the national organization’s need for funding was the basis for the highly controversial decision.
Based on postings observed in a wide variety of social media, the decision is anathema to a majority of longtime Scouters, and the latest example of a long trend of watering down the formerly rigorous requirements for core values, moral straightness, and “Scout craft.” If the decision was made to generate additional revenue, it may be problematic.
A frequent expression of reaction to the decision was “RIP,” seen on a variety of social media and shared emails. Clearly, the thousands of writers using this abbreviation see the decision as amounting to the death throes of a once iconic youth development and character-forming organization.
These writers did not seem to base their RIP conclusions on simply admitting girls to a previously boy-focused organization. Instead, they seem to understand what likely lay ahead for the formerly rigorous requirements for conduct, merit badges, and advancement. Over the years, the Boy Scouts has steadily reduced the rigor that had earlier been built into the requirements for merit badges and advancement.
Many years ago, as a Boy Scout, I devoted most of my free time to Scouting activities from age 12 as I pursued the “Eagle Trail.” At that time, it took me four years – until age 16 – to earn the coveted Eagle award. Not long ago, we read of an 11-year-old boy Scout in California “earning,” his Eagle Scout award. Is that what the Eagle Award is fast becoming, a parent-directed-organized scramble for cloth badges. What happened to learning; what happened to real personal and character growth; how can an 11-year old have absorbed the core values and leadership experiences formerly offered through Scouting?
Once upon a time, earning a merit badge took a great deal of time to study the material, learn the material, complete whatever project might be included in the merit badge requirements, and then present yourself – having made your own appointment – before the merit badge counselor to be grilled and quizzed thoroughly on your knowledge and what you had done. Today, many, if not most, merit badges are earned during lecture sessions conducted during troop meetings which are never as rigorous as had previously been the case, and many boys are simply given the merit badge for sitting through the lectures.
Once upon a time, our troop was run largely by the boys themselves, with some input and recommendations from the Scoutmaster. Today, too often, we see so many troops that are run by adults, thus undermining or compromising entirely the ability of the youth to learn leadership and management skills within the troop.
The decision to admit girls completes the process of integrating the formerly Boy Scouts of America. The ramifications of that decision will be huge.
Already, there are surely hundreds, if not many thousands, of parents who are “doing the math” and trying to plan how their beautiful, talented, intelligent – and ambitious – daughter can become the first (Female) Eagle Scout. Surely, if an 11-year-old boy can do it, then that “apple of Daddy’s eye” daughter can do so much sooner. It won’t be long before the would-be girl Eagle Scouts are counting days, weeks, months, since birth to prove THEY were the youngest. Those dedicated to Scouting core values, not to mention merit badge requirements, who try to hold the line will be demonized as bigots, chauvinists, and worse.
In the 100 years since the Eagle badge and its requirements were established, the more than 2 million young men since 1912 who have earned it have established it as one of the most well-known – and well-deserved – brands in history. That brand, and all of the hard work and effort that went into establishing it, are in grave jeopardy with this decision.
In coming months changes and compromises will be made – probably very quietly – to accommodate within a variety of requirements for merit badges and advancements, the inherent differences between boys and girls. Some of these changes might “favor” one sex or the other. Arguments will be made both ways. However, it will be true that these changes mean that the Eagle Award of 2020 is certainly not the Eagle Award of previous years. Eventually, boys that earn the Eagle award prior to the first such award earned by a girl, will think of themselves as having earned one of the last “real” Eagle Awards.
This decision will also have ramifications at the troop level. Scoutmasters are already openly worried about a wide range of challenging and vexing issues that will present themselves, ranging from rules of conduct, behavior, camping and other activities in remote areas, up to and including the risks of personal liability that adult leaders would need to be prepared to assume. Many parents as troop adult leaders will be unwilling to undergo the additional training that will be required, the additional administrative burdens that will be carried, and the liability issues that will present themselves.
One already hears talk within the troops of present adult leaders working together to ensure that as many boys as are willing to complete the requirements for Eagle will be encouraged and allowed to do so. However, once these young men have “Eagled out,” they and their adult leaders will end their scouting participation. Further, if the “we’ve been betrayed” reactions by adult leaders are any guide to future action, donations can be expected to suffer.
In short, this decision, made for reasons that were not really shared, and without broad-based participation by even professional Scout executives with management careers in the organization, completes a fundamental reorientation of this national organization. It remains to be seen whether the new face of the formerly Boy Scouts – now surely to be simply, Scouts – represents a healthy new direction rooted in the realities of our contemporary society; or, the death throes of an organization that has been unable to resist the cultural attacks of anarchistic movements that have grown in recent years.
Several things are for sure, however:
The decision will add considerable complexity – and some chaos – to Council, District, and individual unit management and administration.
There will be considerable loss of donated income by those disaffected by the decision. Whether that loss will be offset by that of new members to the organization, remains to be seen.
The decision will change public perceptions surrounding the “Eagle Brand.” It is doubtful that these perceptions will see future Eagles as having earned the award with the same rigor and demanding requirements as was previously the case. A perception of “Before and After” Eagles may result.
I doubt that the RIP sendoff is really what’s going to happen. The immediate future for this organization is not likely to be restful or peaceful. Instead, I see this weakening giant staggering along, steadily failing from self-inflicted wounds suffered while appeasing strident social forces whose ultimate goal is the death of our nation, and indeed of all democratic governments. By increasingly standing for less and less, the organization is finding it difficult to stand at all.
We who love (the former) Scouting are sad for this befuddled, defeatist institution. However, I am saddest for the losses this decision will bring to so many boys trying to find their way through chaotic times and to grow into men with meaningful lives and futures. We have already seen the damage that political correctness is doing to our youngest boys and girls who are being introduced to social and biological complexities for which they are unprepared – and do not need to be prematurely exposed.
Why can’t we see the prudence of having social and learning environments that do not require understandings, behaviors, or perspectives that are beyond the years of our children at this stage in their lives.
What in the world is wrong with having wholesome, leadership and character-forming organizations where both girls can be girls and boys can be boys?
Why have Scouting’s national leaders seen fit to starve so many futures on some politically correct altar of appeasement?
© Copyright 2017 Tracy D. Connors
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