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  • The Future of the BSA?

    Since paste doesn't work for me anymore and the editor kicks me out everytime I hit Return, I'm going to ask you to search for the article in the Wall Street Journal titled "Dessention and fiscal woes beset the Girl Scouts". It's pretty interesting. Barry

  • #2
    Looks like an AP article. Here is a link from the Houston Chronicle:

    http://www.chron.com/news/us/article...ts-4617295.php

    Comment


    • #3
      From my perspective, the GSUSA's big problem is the way they're "organized." There's no continuity in units. Mrs. Jones starts a unit, but it's not like a BSA unit where all comers are welcome, rather, it's just for Katie Jones and Katie's friends. When they get sick of scouts, or stop being friends, the troop is just gone. There are currently 3 GSUSA troops meeting at my troop's CO; why? Balkanism. Of course they have waiting lists and don't have enough volunteers, it's a selfish system. In the past 15 years, there's been a parade of GSUSA units at our CO, perhaps 6; some were founded and folded before we even knew they existed.
      Of the 3 troops where we meet, none of them owns anything except finger paint and beads. Of course they don't go camping, their troops are a couple years old, have no gear, and won't exist long enough to justify spending the money on tents, stoves, cook kits, etc.

      BSA units, on the other hand, are true community units. They may even be a narrow Catholic or Mormon unit, but every boy at that institution can join. They may meet at a school, but any boy can join. If a troop is by chance too big to take one more, there's another troop. BSA units are durable; they don't form to serve 5 boys then disband every 3 years.

      So, BSA and GSUSA face some of the same problems (declining membership, relevance, etc) but the root causes are different, so in my view, no, we can't extrapolate this article to "the future of the BSA."

      Comment


      • #4
        The more they change the "program" the more one becomes unsure of what's going on. The GSUSA did major changes, cutting councils, program alterations/focus, and selling off assets (camps). Looks like a sinking ship, and altering that perception is a difficult proposition. BSA has done similar changes, and continues to do the same dynamics in it's program, it's only a matter of time before they too are viewed as a sinking ship. If one is going to ignore the handwriting on the wall, then they are destined to live out that process. The only thing that will correct the situation is either go back to where the downward spiral started, and recalculate the options. Otherwise, the spiral/slope that one is on is going to experience the inevitable.

        Entrenched entities will find it far more difficult to "return to normal" than another entity picking it up without the baggage that plagues the older program.

        The reason BSA lasted 100 years is because for the most part they were doing it right. Doing something else and experiencing a downward slide should give enough evidence to raise a few eyebrows along the way. Ignoring this isn't going to solve the problem.

        Comment


        • #5
          It's a lot more complicated than just a changing program, the BSA had more scouts after their big changes in the 60s and 70s than before. All the Scouting organizations in North America are suffering from the same problems of money, membership and camps. The Girls Scouts have struggled the longest but Campfire Kids wasn't that far behind them. The Canadian Scouts (largest Scouting orgnization in the world in 1990) is 30 percent of what they were of the early 90s. The one common event with all these organizations that marks the start their dramatic program decline is changing to a more progressive membership policy. Canadian scouts was most dramtic, but they all have the same trend. Take that as you want, the data doesn't lie. It's been said for several years that the BSA would follow the same decline as other organizations if it followed the same path. I attribute the BSAs slow membership decline the last 15 years to a top heavy Pack program that has become so complicated for average parent to manage that it burns out its members in three years. I could show graphs at the time that predicted todays deline based from big changes in the pack program. I don't think we have seen the real decline of the BSA yet, but we are about to. After watching all these other organizations decline the last 25 years, I personally conclude that Scouting is a values program which makes it a concervative organization. Once it gets away from concervative values, it's just another after school club. If you want to camp, join scouts. Otherwise go play chess. It will be left up to the churches to support the kind of scouting we have today. But without support from National, it will just be local.

          Comment


          • #6
            In 1972 total membership was 6,524,640 when the New Scouting Program, which took the Outing out of Scouting, was introduced, then
            1974: 5,803,885
            1975: 5,318,070
            1976: 4,884,082
            1977: 4,718,138
            1978: 4,493,491
            1979: 4,284,469, SOS sent to Green Bar Bill (William Hillcourt) who returned from retirement to write the 1979 edition of Scout Handbook. Membership decline stopped and reverses.
            1980: 4,326,082
            1981: 4,355,723
            1982: 4,542,449
            1983: 4,688,953
            1986: 5,170,979

            Youth Soccer's dynamic growth filled a void during this period.

            2005: Government (public schools, bases) sponsorship ends due to our discrimination. Access to government facilities will also face challenges.

            I agree the "Pack program" is a burnout. GSS is overdone. Where did the adventure and "scout-run" go?

            Despite an increase in the US youth population, we never regained the membership numbers of the late 60's. I have said we need to get back in the public schools as that is where the kids are, but maybe we are too late. High schools in my area are successfully running their own outdoor clubs with far less hassle. It's funny, the better schools around here require school uniforms, have a student honor code, recognition, leadership training (FIRST,Hugh O'Brien, Lions/Kiwanas Club, State Youth,...), teachers/coaches/mentors, community service requirement for graduation, outdoor program. Are we being out-scouted?

            I also worry about the affordability and financial sustainability of our four high adventure centers, as well as settlements for abuse lawsuits.

            links:
            http://historyofscouting.com/history/history-1970.htm
            http://historyofscouting.com/history/history-1980.htm

            My $0.01 for rambling,
            Last edited by RememberSchiff; 06-24-2013, 07:11 PM.

            Comment


            • blw2
              blw2 commented
              Editing a comment
              As a youth, I was part of that early 1980's increase.

              What do the numbers look like since 1986?

          • #7
            OK My first post.... this is not all doom and gloom.
            2000 to 2009, the latest year for which figures are available, the number of kids aged 7 to 17 playing baseball fell 24%, according to the National Sporting Goods Association, an industry trade group. Despite growing concerns about the long-term effects of concussions, participation in youth tackle football has soared 21% over the same time span, while ice hockey jumped 38%.
            http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000...156582750.html

            I think shows like are you tougher than a boy scout will assist. but at the end of the day I would rather have 10000 boys who truly want adventure and the challenge of nature rather then 1000000 boys who want to just pass the time.

            Comment


            • #8
              Originally posted by RememberSchiff;n384218 . . .
              2005: Government (public schools, bases) sponsorship ends due to our discrimination. Access to government facilities will also face challenges.
              . . .
              I have said we need to get back in the public schools as that is where the kids are, but maybe we are too late.
              Contingent on what you mean, I have to take issue with this aspect of your reply; it doesn't accurately reflect the split.
              --If you mean the loss of gov't institutions as COs, we did not "lose sponsorship due to discrimination"; Chicago Public Schools, Housing and Urban Dev., and the military were forced to drop units by an ACLU lawsuit. When all three settled, then BSA stopped issuing charters to any gov't institution. The lawsuit was not solely over discrimination, it was also over separation of church and state. The argument was that when a teacher, HUD employee, or MP has boys swear to do their "duty to God" then the gov't has breached the First Amendment. http://www.aclu.org/religion-belief/...ious-discrimin

              --If you mean the loss of access to schools (for things like recruitment), then you get more traction. In 1999, when ACLU sued, BSA had been involved in lawsuits over homosexuals for almost 20 years, and yet schools hadn't dropped us, so its clear that while they might not (we can only guess) have been comfortable, they weren't hostile (they renewed their charters annually 20 times post-controversy in Chicago and everywhere else). Loss of access is not absolute, as schools nationwide continue to allow BSA units to meet in their buildings. The county I live in has a few packs meeting in its schools and leaves it up to the principal about recruiting, while the county next door won't even allow Eagle projects on its grounds.

              In either case, loss of schools is nuanced, largely dependent upon local sentiment, and was not an on/off switch set to 2005.
              Last edited by Scouter99; 06-25-2013, 11:41 AM.

              Comment


              • #9
                In either case, loss of schools is nuanced, largely dependent upon local sentiment, and was not an on/off switch set to 2005.

                2005 is when Adam Schwartz of the Illinois ACLU sent a letter to the BSA telling them to stop chartering discriminatory BSA units to public schools, and that is when the BSA started to tell councils to stop issuing charters to government entities. This was separate from Winkler v. Chicago School Reform Board of Trustees and Winkler v. Rumsfeld. The first case was settled almost immediately in the late 1990s when the city of Chicago stopped chartering about 35 BSA units, but it wasn't a general lawsuit over public school charters, and the Rumsfeld one was about the military support of the jamboree. Loss of public school charters wasn't nuanced, they got dropped whether schools wanted them or not.

                The Illinois ACLU no longer has the press release about it, but archive.org has a copy:
                http://web.archive.org/web/200504041...s/000259.shtml
                Last edited by Merlyn_LeRoy; 06-25-2013, 12:34 PM.

                Comment


                • #10
                  Originally posted by Merlyn_LeRoy View Post
                  Loss of public school charters wasn't nuanced, they got dropped whether schools wanted them or not.
                  Once again: Schiff's post says "sponsorship," not "charters" and his wording asserts that schools made a conscious decision to dissociate from BSA based on animus over membership policies. That's not the case. The reality is that schools and BSA were split by external parties due to lawsuits, not due to the wishes of either BSA or schools or because schools were disillusioned with BSA. Schiff's premise, then, asserts that if BSA stopped discriminating, then schools would come back. That is also not the case. BSA would have to change the oath as well as allow atheists. (And let this moment of irony not pass: Having forced BSA out of the public sphere and into religious institutions, we can be assured that any such change has been delayed by decades, if it comes at all.)

                  Regardless of why we can no longer issue charters to schools, schools all over the country continue to "sponsor" BSA units by allowing packs and troops to meet in their buildings and recruit on school grounds. It is not black/white, it's very nuanced.
                  Last edited by Scouter99; 06-25-2013, 02:52 PM.

                  Comment


                  • #11
                    That's not sponsorship, that's an equal access issue. Every similar group that wants to meet in a public school gets the same access; that has nothing to do with the BSA (and if a school refuses, they can and will get sued). Plus, there was no actual lawsuit that ended all public school charters, the BSA stopped issuing charters to public schools because of the threat of lawsuits.

                    The clause "if BSA stopped discriminating" implies that both the promise is changed (or alternate promises are available) and that atheists are allowed, because both would need to change in order for the BSA to stop discriminating.

                    Comment


                    • Scouter99
                      Scouter99 commented
                      Editing a comment
                      Now you're arguing with yourself. The letter you linked makes a clear distinction (the same distinction I've been making) between admission of atheist boys (which is discrimination) and the requirement of all members to say the oath (which is a 1st amendment issue).
                      You're not addressing the issue I took with Schiff which was contingent on what he meant by "lost sponsorship."

                    • Merlyn_LeRoy
                      Merlyn_LeRoy commented
                      Editing a comment
                      The letter doesn't make that distinction; either action would be a first amendment violation.

                  • #12
                    Merlyn explained the background issues better than I could. Thanks.

                    My argument is that we need public schools, etc to charter (sponsor) packs, troops, crews, so we can access those kids and families. I want to be able to setup after-school meetings (at school) for den meetings, patrols, and crews just like the Boys and Girls Club (the LARGEST youth organization has done) or the school outing clubs have done. I dearly want access to the school gyms just like I had as a scout. And yes, that means the BSA has more work ahead in opening membership.

                    Our local school will allow any group to rent their meeting and assembly rooms, but that is not sponsorship.

                    Another $0.01

                    Comment


                    • #13
                      Am I alone in that I don't care about the future of the BSA? We'll be okay for the next five years, and my son will be done. He is my primary concern.

                      Sure, I d like for him to be able to proudly point to to a venerable organization of which he is an alum; but that horse is gone. BSA has devolved into a prissy politically correct financial enterprise.
                      How do the BSA pensions compare to the GSUSA pensions?

                      What the country really needs is a BSA type organization with a little more testosterone.

                      Comment


                      • JoeBob
                        JoeBob commented
                        Editing a comment
                        perdidoshas: "JoeBob, Your view is very selfish and short-sighted, IMHO"

                        One of the best tidbits that I ever got from BSA 'Training' as a cub leader was to 'recruit and train your own replacement'.
                        If I can't do that in six years, then I probably shouldn't be SM in the first place.

                        I have to grin when I read BasementDweller on another topic, "Encouraging Volunteers", when he says:
                        "The final problem.....How does one exit the BSA???? So do you just quit and hope someone steps in.....Or do you keep working till your replaced....."
                        What's our motto? Oh yeah, 'Be Prepared!'

                        How do you keep the boys walking through to the end of that ten mile hike? You tell them that there is an end.
                        The same approach works pretty well when you're trying to get an adult male to invest some of his precious free time into something that involves NO football, NO babes, NO automatic weapons and NO beer. (And is guaranteed to piss off the wife.)
                        You tell a recruit: "There is an end to this commitment. If you like where BSA national (or district or council) is at the end of your time, you can stay. But any time that you can give while your son is involved will be greatly appreciated."

                        perdichiolicious (sorry - weird name) I've already given six years as a den leader and CM, and I plan to give six more until JoeyBobby ages out, if he stays active. Yet you call my planned 13 year gift to Scouting 'selfish and short-sighted'. Why is that?
                        Is 13 years not generous? Is planning ahead not being far-sighted?

                        Some of the folks on this forum talk about Scouting as if it was your religion. That attitude worries me, and it clouds your vision. As long as Irving is served by a cadre of slavish volunteers who are addicted to their uniforms....
                        What are they feeding y'all at WouldBadge?

                        ******
                        STOP!
                        Insensitive rant follows. I should have quit.
                        ******
                        Oh yeah, "The Game of Life". You work for BSA for free so that the pros in Irving can keep their pensions fully funded!
                        I'll be 65 when my boy ages out, and I'll be doing the troop a favor to get out of the dang way!
                        If you have an objection to that, I don't care!
                        "Short-sighted and selfish" - Apply oral vacuum to my hairy hiney!

                        And thanks for further encouraging this volunteer.
                        and allowing me to vent.
                        Last edited by JoeBob; 07-08-2013, 08:11 PM.

                      • packsaddle
                        packsaddle commented
                        Editing a comment
                        Before things get out of hand here, I want to assure everyone that unless a volunteer leader intentionally does harm to a unit or the boys, I'm going to credit them with the selfless contribution of time and probably money they freely contribute and if that is primarily for their own family but provides 'collateral benefit' I'm good with it. I hope this is obvious enough and I also hope that if anyone wants to apply the adjective, 'selfish', to a scouter, in my opinion the persons at the front of that line ought to be the ones getting paid for their service. The more they are paid, the closer to the front.

                      • perdidochas
                        perdidochas commented
                        Editing a comment
                        I stand chastened.

                    • #14
                      Originally posted by Scouter99 View Post
                      From my perspective, the GSUSA's big problem is the way they're "organized." There's no continuity in units. Mrs. Jones starts a unit, but it's not like a BSA unit where all comers are welcome, rather, it's just for Katie Jones and Katie's friends. When they get sick of scouts, or stop being friends, the troop is just gone. There are currently 3 GSUSA troops meeting at my troop's CO; why? Balkanism. Of course they have waiting lists and don't have enough volunteers, it's a selfish system. In the past 15 years, there's been a parade of GSUSA units at our CO, perhaps 6; some were founded and folded before we even knew they existed.
                      Of the 3 troops where we meet, none of them owns anything except finger paint and beads. Of course they don't go camping, their troops are a couple years old, have no gear, and won't exist long enough to justify spending the money on tents, stoves, cook kits, etc.

                      BSA units, on the other hand, are true community units. They may even be a narrow Catholic or Mormon unit, but every boy at that institution can join. They may meet at a school, but any boy can join. If a troop is by chance too big to take one more, there's another troop. BSA units are durable; they don't form to serve 5 boys then disband every 3 years.

                      So, BSA and GSUSA face some of the same problems (declining membership, relevance, etc) but the root causes are different, so in my view, no, we can't extrapolate this article to "the future of the BSA."
                      Hi! I'm a frequent lurker here, but as I have experience with GSUSA as well as Boy Scouts I'd like to comment on this comparison.

                      I agree that you cannot equate the two organizations. The one thing that is true, is that the groups are organized very differently from each other, and have a very different culture. Girl Scout troops are not set up as Cub Packs or Boy Scout troops. That can however be a good thing. If there is no troop for your daughter, you can just start one -- no need to find a chartering organization or to set up an entire Pack for kids grades 1-5 and find den leaders for each den. After years of experience with Girl Scouts, when I first got involved with starting a pack in our town (none had existed for years) I was overwhelmed with how much infrastructure a pack needed; it seemed very top-heavy and took almost 5 years to get everything up and running, by which time my son was in 5th grade. If I had just been able to spend the equivalent amount of time on his den alone, he woudl have had a much better Scouting experience. As it is, because of problems getting the pack up and running, we lost many boys in his den and only ended up with 4.

                      Compare this with our experience with my daughter's troop -- yes, it was only one grade level and not all 5, but we have been able to successfully run a great troop for her and 11 of her classmates and neighbors. I hardly think this system is "selfish" in that we are very open to girls at this level (although we do put a limit on numbers -- 12 seems to be a good size for a troop. If more girls want to join their parents are more than welcome to start a new troop, just as in Cub Scouts you start a new den!)

                      In our Girl Scout Service Unit, girls who go camping do not camp with parents ala pack campouts. We leaders take the girls camping overnight, choosing to start in 2nd grade. We don't need troop tents or supplies because there are tents at the Girl Scout camps. If we want a propane stove, we just borrow one or bring our own. As girls get older and wish to camp in tents and use more specialized camping gear, we can rent anything we need for a couple of dollars each from our council for the weekend. The Girl Scout program doesn't have camping built in to advancement in the same way the Boy Scouts do, and as a result girls don't often go camping nearly as much as the boys do, but it's not because of lack of gear.

                      The reason GSUSA is experiencing a decline in membership right now is that they have completely changed their program. They have brought in something called the "Leadership Experience" and "Journeys" instead of badges and advancement, and the girls and leaders are rebelling. Troops refused to do the Journeys and so National made doing one mandatory for earning the "highest awards" in scouting.... but what you actually do to earn the Journeys is almost completely up to you. You just have to say you have done one; the requirements are extremely vague. Girls complain that the Journeys are too much like school; they are also dumbed down.

                      Comment


                      • Scouter99
                        Scouter99 commented
                        Editing a comment
                        Thanks for your detailed reply. I think it's definitely true that there are strengths and weaknesses to both systems!

                      • King Ding Dong
                        King Ding Dong commented
                        Editing a comment
                        Agreed. I certainly like aspects of the GSUSA system especially at the younger levels. There is a wide gap between tigers and Webelos and adding lions soon is going to be a real challenge.

                        Was talking to a 25 year Scouter tonight who just went to GS camp training. The things they make them do are nuts. Then again he reminded me that the BSA is not a camping program. It is sometimes easy to forget that camping is just a classroom and is well suited for many boys. Maybe less so for for some girls.

                    • #15
                      Originally posted by RememberSchiff View Post
                      In 1972 total membership was 6,524,640 when the New Scouting Program, which took the Outing out of Scouting, was introduced, then
                      1974: 5,803,885
                      1975: 5,318,070
                      1976: 4,884,082
                      1977: 4,718,138
                      1978: 4,493,491
                      1979: 4,284,469, SOS sent to Green Bar Bill (William Hillcourt) who returned from retirement to write the 1979 edition of Scout Handbook. Membership decline stopped and reverses.
                      1980: 4,326,082
                      1981: 4,355,723
                      1982: 4,542,449
                      1983: 4,688,953
                      1986: 5,170,979
                      ........
                      ,
                      As a youth, I was part of that early 1980's increase.

                      What do the numbers look like since 1986?
                      I posted this in comment above, but I'm afraid that comments way up in the thread get lost in the chaff. Sorry for the duplicity, but I'm really curious if anyone know the current trend of the numbers......

                      Comment

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