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BSA membership drops by over 400,000 in 2005

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Do not get me wrong. I have now dropped over $1K into my sons' skills with the tuba. I hope some of that will come back in some form of collegiate support ... especially if he chooses a smaller school that doesn't have a full music conservatory.


At the same time, tonight I drive him for another one of his Eagle Leadership Service Project performances ... he's interested in Barbershop quartets, he's providing music as part of the recreational therapy plan to patients at an area pediatrics service and at two VA hospitals. He's about 1/3 done, and is working down his last MB. We're looking at EBOR before the end of summer :)


Scouting helped him with music, and music is helping him with Scouting.


As I look at Merlyn's data, and our own anecdotal experiences, I think National needs to re-look three items:


- The educational skills gained in the Cubbing program.

- The amount of parental participation needed in the Cubbing program (imo more not less)

- Some of the vestiges of older camping techniques in the Boy Scout program. We got rid of semaphore signals long ago. In the LNT era, why do we teach so much lashing/pioneering? Maybe we need to migrate more to climbing/rappeling.

- Re-evaluating essential life skills in the Eagle requirement set. I for one would love to see Cooking return to mandatory status. I for one would love to see the appropriate religious award be a required part of the trail to Eagle.


As to the politics of the United Way, let's cut the strings. Cut them from government, cut them from the United Way. Go to the visibility and exposure required in financial disclosure by various evangelical Christian churches, and go for a coalition of church and civic groups.


I think if Mr Williams were to name names of specific United Ways which suppress our freedom of speech and freedom to worship, then there would be some back-spilt blood. Listening to NPR recently, suddenly the pro-Palestine folk are sorta embarrassed about having Hammas as the folks governing the Palestinian Authority. What's the last line of that old song? "... all other ground is sinking sand?" If ethics are not based in bedrock, they're based in sand.(This message has been edited by John-in-KC)

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The idea that a significant number of high school athletes will get full college scholarships is laughable. These folks are delusional to say the least. For Div 1 and Div1A colleges, my observation is that there are only a handful of high school athletes per high school that can compete at this level, let alone qualify for a full scholarship. There may be more opportunity for Div II colleges, but they have less money per student available, and Div III colleges generally do not have athletic money available. The exception is women. With Title 9, there is literally more athletic money for high school female athletes than there are athletes available to use it.


Have your daughter take up a sport, and tell your son to hit the books. There is now more $$ available for male scholars given boys relative poorer academic performance compared to girls.




I'm reminded of the commercial for an investment company that shows a dad hitting tennis balls at his daughter and asking, "what's your retirement plan."

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John-in-KC and I seem to be in mind-meld. I too would like to see the Cooking MB return to the mandatory list for Eagle.


More importantly, I have long advocated that it be mandatory for an Eagle Scout to have earned the Religious Award for his Faith. The American Legion has an excellent scholarship program for Eagle Scouts. They select an Eagle Scout of the Year for each state. The scholarship award varies for each state. They then select regional award winners and finally a National Eagle Scout of the Year. I believe the National winner receives a $20,000 scholarship. The requirements to apply are to be an Eagle Scout, be a member of a Troop chartered to an American Legion Post or be the Son on or Grandson of a Legionaaire, and have earned the Religious Award for his Faith at the Boy Scout level. Every year the 3rd requirement disqualifies many deserving applicants.

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I'll be gracious enough to congratulate you on "achieving" one of your desired goals in life. All I ask is that you be gracious enough to not come here and whine five years from now when some bored video gamer slacker and his buddies vandalize your home for a little excitment. Fair enough?

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QUOTE: The religious based CO's have hijacked BSA



How does this happen? In the long history of the BSA, churches/religious organizations have always been among the major COs of scout troops. Its been a great partnership that the BSA really prefers. Public schools are basically secular government operations and really dont want anything to with scouting; its a strained relationship at best.


My cub scout pack is getting ready to transfer from a public school to a church that is ready to sponsor us. Its a better fit Churches dont have a problem with an organization that requires a belief in God to a member.


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Foto's observations on politics in scouting I believe is correct. In our district, smack in the middle of "liberal" Massachusetts...with a long time openly gay congressman...membership is infact holding its own, maybe even up slightly and we had record response to last years FOS campaign. There's more to the membership decline than politics. I don't know what it is but I don't think it is entirely due to the loss of public CO's or BSA's position on values.





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Doesn't the Minuteman council (which includes Boston proper) currently have a non-discrimination policy in effect? I know of at least one council outside Boston that also has a non-discimination policy. If these policies are still in place, do you think that might ameliorate any impact on membership the national policies might be having?

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There are many factors that play in membership stats for any organization. If you look at membership of Kiwanis, US Power Squadron, Civil Air Patrol, I don't care what, you find that, overall, they are down. People just don't have enough "time" anymore to be involved in those things.


I am amazed to hear the comments about how many parents are counting on athletic scholarships to get their kids thru college. That will affect not only Scouting, but the quality of youth coming up thru the school system.


If you look at the membership of any Scout troop or Cub pack, it depends on the program. The same is true of any Kiwanis club or other organization. If you have good program, kids will come and join.

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Newbie it happens like this.......


- BSA gets in financial trouble

- some large religious groups, who represent a large number of Charter organizations bail out BSA, of course there are stings (not visible strings)attached

- concurrently, someone(?)donates land in Texas and headquarters leaves the Northeast.


This is of course an oversimplification. There is a Newsweek article from about 5 years ago that does a very nice job of explaining the whole course of events. Sorry, I don't have the date of the article with me.


A Church may be a better CO, simply because someone might care about the pack. However, the care may be as a result of some very parochial, or selfish reasons.


Will they impose requirements on the leaders and scouts that will in the end, be unacceptable? More and More we have that happening in our area. The Church CO's have come to feel empowered and missionary in their role as CO. We now have units looking to get away from the churches and move in with the VFW, AL or some other non- denominational CO's

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A Church may be a better CO, simply because someone might care about the pack.


Thats all that really matters.




Will they impose requirements on the leaders and scouts that will in the end, be unacceptable? More and More we have that happening in our area.


Is not the chartering organization the owner and supporter of the troop/pack? As long as they do not violate BSA policies, the CO has the right to approve the selection of the adult leaders. In my particular scenario, we have reminded the church leaders that the Scouts are not required to be members of the church in order to be in the Pack.




The Church CO's have come to feel empowered and missionary in their role as CO.


So? All COs, whether secular or religious, enjoy a certain degree of empowerment as they sponser a BSA troop/pack. This empowerment has been granted to them by the BSA. Im sure even a VFW post would like some voice about how the troop should operate and who is leading them.


I was in a boy scout in a troop that was chartered by a Methodist church. The scoutmaster and his assistants were not members of the church and I dont think any of the scouts were members. The only religious influence they placed on us was to take part in Scout Sunday. Other than that, they were very hands-off.


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I too think the statistics are appalling and does cast doubts on Scoutings future. It is too simplistic to deny the facts and blame Merlyn for the information. Merlyn for me personally I despise how you revel in any and all problems that befall the BSA, and you exemplify what is wrong with so many people in America today, a growing negative and fatalistic mentality.


Scouting has decreasing numbers for three reasons, the failure of National to deal and adapt with the changing American society, Nationals failure to address wrong doing and corruption within the professional scouting rank and file, and lastly on the volunteer level the ever growing number of prima donna scout leaders who do not get trained or go to roundtable, etc. because they think they know it all already. The result is a larger number of unsafe unit programs that are of such poor quality that they fail within a year or two, because they do not want to follow the scouting program.


Yet another serious problem has been in the rush to get more numbers, some lousy CO's have been given charters to sponsor scouting units. Cases in point in my own council, a so called church with a registered sex offender on staff, and a pool hall/ bar, both still are CO's despite many protests to council by the volunteers and COR's.


So to sum up many of the problems within the BSA are of their own making and their seemingly inability to police their own program and people. We volunteers are then left to make our units successful, with minimal support from council or National, following BSA program and safety guidelines and delivering the most dynamic and exciting program we can. So while there may be fewer units in the future the quality of their programs will be better. Only if the BSA can get their act together soon, these untrained inferior leaders, corrupt professionals, and these dangerous scouting units will be purged once and for all.(This message has been edited by Backpacker)

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Actually Merlyn,


Your source's numbers are quite off. That is why I said that they were GUESSING. The total Scout decline is less than 80,000 from 2004 to 2005...NOT 400,000. Sorry.


You need to know where to look for the correct information.


PS: Don't believe everything that you read on somebody's website.


David C. Scott



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Newbie Den Leader,


Just so you dont misinterpret where I am coming from, I am on your side of this debate. However, in response to this:


In my particular scenario, we have reminded the church leaders that the Scouts are not required to be members of the church in order to be in the Pack.


Are you aware that the church leaders are able to change that policy at will? That is to say, as the CO, they are free to establish a policy which would restrict membership to boys who are tied to their organization (i.e. families belonging to the church, boys attending a particular public or private school, etc.). Im not suggesting that one way is preferred over the other I can understand why a church would restrict its Pack or Troop membership or open it up there are arguments for both views. Regardless, the CO has control over this policy decision. Having said that, I would be careful as to how you remind the church leaders as to what is or is not required of the Scouts in your Pack. Youre attitude could sway their decision, one way or the other.




I have my doubts about Merlyn and his numbers. Regardless, it isnt always about numbers. That is to say, I dont think the BSA should tailor the program to satisfy the majoritythey should put forth a program that they feel best serves the boys. If the program that they offer (including its membership policies) causes some folks to go else where, so be it. There are other options for those people to pursue. Its not the BSAs moral obligation to make everyone or even most folks happy. And for the most part, the BSAs success should not be measured by how many, but by how well the boys are being served.


Furthermore, at the Pack or Troop level, I dont believe the BSA can be blamed for any decline in quality or quantity. If my kid joins a Troop, I will take a long, hard, close look at the CO and the leaders they have employed to run the program. That is where the rubber meets the road. If parents neglect to take this precaution, and instead rely on the BSAs reputation, then shame on them. The BSAs reputation, good or bad, does not assure anyone that their son will be in a quality unit. Its the volunteers at the Pack or Troop level that will make that program run well, or not. Just like any other organization, it comes down to whos really running the show. Frankly, I dont understand what kind of support Packs or Troops are hoping to obtain from the national organization (or even if a significant number of Packs or Troops are seeking such support). The BSA offers a program to chartering organizations. As part of the package, the BSA offers uniforms, policies, procedures, best practices, fund raising ideas, alternative programs, camps, and other resources. They offer more than enough resources for any CO to garner and use, as they see fit, to make their Pack or Troop successful.


If I blame the BSA for any failure (and here, I dont know enough to speak definitively), it would be for the breakdowns that have occurred at their camps (i.e. boys who were molested by camp personnel and/or injured due to some negligence). In these cases, I believe the organization at the national level has an obligation to take extreme measures to ensure every boys safety. They may well do this I dont know. Regardless, I hold them accountable for making all of the reasonable and necessary precautions to protect the boys at BSA sanctioned camps.

(This message has been edited by Rooster7)

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John-in-KC writes:

I think if Mr Williams were to name names of specific United Ways which suppress our freedom of speech and freedom to worship, then there would be some back-spilt blood.


The number of United Ways which supress your freedom of speech and worship is zero. Declining to finance a discriminatory club does not infringe on your rights at all.

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As a former professional scouter I can tell you first hand that at the council up to the National office all of it is about numbers and money, that is what 99% of your annual review is based on. Second, I agree with you on the unit level and thats what I wrote in my posting, that loss at that level is based on poor programs usually done by untrained leaders who feel that they are above taking training.


As far as Merlyns numbers are concerned, I don't believe his or even Nationals numbers are truly accurate, and that the truth is somewhere in between the two. As we have seen in the press councils and National both fabricate numbers all the time, it has been a long standing practice, especially since the 1970's. All we can do as unit leaders is to stay fully trained and deliver the best BSA program possible. As I stated in my earlier post, that our numbers may get smaller but the quality of the programs that remain will be far superior than what exsists in many units today.

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