Jump to content

What does National mean?

Recommended Posts

Trevorum writes: "Leading change to become more diverse is critical for Scouting to remain relevant."

This quote is not mine, nor is it from Merlyn's people. It is straight from BSA National. Think about that.


So what does National really mean? Are they playing lip service to the diversity idea? Are they continuing to think of diversity in racial terms, and mean that we have to reach out to blacks and Hispanics?


Do they recognize that in the general public, the idea that Boy Scouts are leading change to become more diverse would seem almost laughable? On the biggest, most obvious diversity issues, Boy Scouts are glaringly non-diverse. The issues even have a shorthand notation, the 3 Gs (girls, God, and gays).


In the 1970s Scouting tried to become more diverse and appeal to inner-city kids. That is widely viewed as a disastrous period. There are great ways to pursue diversity, and there are ham-handed ways to pursue diversity. Some products, in an attempt to appeal to women, do what designers dismissively describe as "Shrink It and Pink It". You can't just stick a label on something to make it diverse. You also probably shouldn't compromise the things that made you successful in the first place. Mainstream liberal churches are all shrinking, partly because of their very attempt to appeal to more people.


On the other hand, many, many organizations have broadened their membership. At many universities, no college club is allowed to be restrictive. The Black Students Alliance has to accept white members. Women Coming Together has to accept men. The Vietnamese Student Network has to accept people from Ireland. (Well, something like that. I'm just making up the names, but the policy is correctly depicted.) And it's not just universities. The YMCA accepts everyone, Christian or not. In 1990, they had 13.5 million members, today they have 20.9 million. Habitat for Humanity has a ministry that is "based on the conviction that to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, we must love and care for one another." But it accepts all volunteers and all those in need without regard to their religion.


So what type of change is National talking about when it says Leading change to become more diverse is critical?


One thought might be that some people in National do recognize that things are actually going to have to change and are subtly trying to build pressure in that direction. If you were in National, and you recognized that change needed to come, but you had a number of religious organizations that disagreed and that were in influential positions, how would you go about introducing change?


When the U.S. military drops the "Don't ask, don't tell" policy, as it surely will do before Obama's term ends, then won't there be more pressure for Scouts to drop it, too? The percentage support for gay marriage appears to be around 47%, given elections in California and Maine. That's way higher than it used to be, and it's only going to climb. Voters will eventually approve gay marriage.


My personal opinion is that the gay issue is the biggest visible diversity issue. Girls might be a less controversial one to tackle, especially if BSA started off by offering to support girl-only groups that were more on the BSA model than on the GSA model. And on God, I don't think BSA will drop its requirement for a belief in God anytime in the foreseeable future, but it's possible there could be some ongoing reinterpretation of the requirement.


I have this fear in the back of my mind that the diversity idea is mostly lip service, but I actually think that some people must get it. I wouldn't be surprised to see girl-only troops. And maybe, just maybe, someone is thinking about how we get to a local-option on gays (for councils and/or units).


What do you think they meant?

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Replies 48
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

When the U.S. military drops the "Don't ask, don't tell" policy, as it surely will do before Obama's term ends, then won't there be more pressure for Scouts to drop it, too?


I'm not a member of an LDS church, but so long as LDS is the 600lb gorilla chartered partner in the room, I don't think it'll go away...

Link to post
Share on other sites

A couple of thoughts.


Scouting is still a mainly middle-class, white program. There are plenty of ways for the BSA to become more diverse without getting into the 3 G's.


I don't see what "don't ask, don't tell" in the military has to do with the constitutional right of freedom of association.


As for gay marriage, it has been shot down by the people in the most liberal of states. Where the people have been given a vote, it has been rejected. The states that enacted it did so thru judicial acts or the legislature. 30 states have constitutional amendments against it. I hardly see that as a case for change.


Girl Scouts have their program. Why would they want an all-girl Boy Scout Troop? What would they be able to do in the Boy Scouts that they can't do in Girl Scouts?


As long as the majority of COs are religious organizations, and the Oath and the Law don't change, I don't see much reason to remove God from the program.


I personally believe that changing policy regarding any of the 3 G's will cost more in membership than the program will gain.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I've been in and around Scouting long enough (40+ years), that I remember when black kids had their own troops and their own schools ("separate but equal"), and lived through the "Massive Resistance" in Virginia when the Governor closed the schools rather than integrate them. I remember when women could only be Den Mothers, not "Committeemen" or Cubmasters or Webelos Den Leaders. I remember not so long ago when the first female Scoutmasters were allowed. I remember an OA workday when we had to modify the shower house to accomodate "male, female and youth". And I remember the first female "Arrowmen", whom we now call "Brother", and within a couple of years put on the Vigil sash. And I have men in my troop who still grouse about it. Neanderthals.


Scouting can and does change...it's just a matter of time. It has to, or it will die.

Link to post
Share on other sites

The statement Trevorum quoted in the other thread suggests to me that there are internal fractures within the BSA's top leadership on this matter.


I recall that when I attended WB in 2003, the "diversity lecture" was fairly amusing. Not that it was poorly presented, but it was just so at odds with what I had seen in scouting up to that point and it did not ring true.


For one thing, I've never been anywhere where I've heard so many jokes and comments about homosexuals, as I was hanging around with a bunch of (overwhelmingly white male protestant) scouters at wood badge. It was clear that there was a powerful sense of homophobia.


For another, as Brent says (and I think it is probably accurate but I don't have any statistics), scouting is a primarily white, middle class, organization. And it is perceived that way, too, which probably reinforces the fact. I think this middle class bias is especially true in boy scouts, which is a more expensive and time-intensive endeavor than cub scouts for most families. While many units do offer financial assistance, people are understandably reluctant to ask for it, and/or may rule out joining to begin with, before they ever find out that aid is available. Nobody likes being a charity case.


Back at that wood badge lecture, I made the error of asking whether, by the term diversity, they meant to include people of different sexual orientations. I suppose that made me a heretic. And most of the "diversity" ticket items I've seen have been sort of soft. One I liked was, in a town of a few troops with very similar demographic backgrounds, the troops would do some joint activities to learn about each other. While this is actually a fine idea on its own, I don't see how it really adds to anybody's understanding of diversity.


By 2050, census estimates are that the United States will be a predominately non-white population. The growth in Latino communities is very strong. People of mixed racial backgrounds are also becoming far more numerous. I agree with Oak Tree that the BSA's ham-handed approach to racial and ethnic minorities (scouting & soccer seems like a good example of this) just doesn't work, and is likely to work even less well in a society where more people are multi-racial and can't be neatly pigeon-holed at all. And I see little coherent effort to promote scouting in ways that really work, in lower income communities (yes I know - scoutreach - does anybody want to say that's a booming success?) or to lower income families in middle class and wealthier communities.


I agree with others here that the policies on the "3 Gs" will probably change or be re-interpreted. It is difficult to cultivate an image of a diverse and welcoming organization on one hand, when the BSA is also known as a discriminatory private club that trumpets its exclusionary membership policies, on the other hand.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Do we need to add a 4th 'G', Gringo ?


The ethnic makeup of our CO has shifted to 50% Hispanic. (You've probably guessed that we're a Catholic church?) After resisting the idea that I was going to have to learn Spanish in order to be an effective leader, I realized that I would much rather have these Mexican boys immursed in the Scouting side of American culture as opposed to the gang-banger culture.

Now we just have to find a better way to recruit them.




Link to post
Share on other sites

"Leading change to become more diverse is critical for Scouting to remain relevant."


I don't think they're encouraging the radical shift in the 80s, but are trying to help people look outside of there comfort zone. If recruiting only occurs where the potential new Scouts are predominantly one race/religion, than that's what the organization will reflect. If people start looking for other places to recruit, than the organization will reach a larger, more diverse pool of youth to recruit.


I see Hispanic churches in my area and yet I don't believe anyone has approached them about chartering a unit. We seem to stick to the Methodist/Presbyterian/Catholic churches and appear blind to the potential offer by the hispanic/Armenian/etc that are coming into the area.


Link to post
Share on other sites


Interesting that you mention Armenians. My wife is Armenian and it turns out (in areas where there is critical mass) that there are Armenian organizations that can be very good Chartered Orgs for scout units.


One example from down in LA is at



In their community and generally for all Armenian populations, the church tends to be the social gathering point in addition to place of workship. The church or affiliated group is the most obvious place to have the chartered org.






Link to post
Share on other sites

OakTree, I think that when BSA National talks about diversity, they are talking about the "traditional" senses of diversity -- racial, ethnic, and in effect, economic as well. I don't think the gay or religion issues even enter into it. I don't think ideology enters into it (in other words, I don't think they worry too much about, say, heterosexual people who oppose the blanket exclusion of openly gay people; they either think such people don't exist in large numbers or that they will simply "go along", which is often the case.) It is the same "diversity" that the BSA has been seeking since the 70's with the "urban handbook" (which I don't think was really a disaster, but that's a different subject), with soccer programs, Scoutreach, other urban-oriented programs, and all the rest of it.

Link to post
Share on other sites

"...so long as LDS is the 600lb gorilla chartered partner in the room, I don't think it'll go away... "


I've seen variations of this theme on various posts, and I've often wondered - if the BSA is, as often reported, non-sectarian, then why is this automatically seen as a discussion killer on any BSA-related issue, including this one? Or to put it another way, why do we afford so much credence to "600-lb gorillas" in what is supposedly a democracy?

Link to post
Share on other sites

"Leading change to become more diverse is critical for Scouting to remain relevant."

This sounds like a mission statement dreamed up by some corporate consultant. They say they want diversity, but most all the line execs always seem to be WASPs. Any minorities seem to get shunted into support positions. So, that could change.

It would be wonderful if all the Rangers at Philmont could be minorities. Ditto for the guides @ Northern Tier. If BSA drops the religious motif, then many church COs may drop the BSA. At best, I would perceive a split into Boy Scouts and American Heritage Boys.

Homophobia is much more difficult. Many just don't want to accommodate people with different gender preferences. This is reinforced over & over most any Sunday in many, many churches. Parents are made fearful that their innocent little Johnny may be tenting with a gay boy who will prey on him. If you can first change the ministers, you are a miracle worker. Our hetero sexuality isn't even as openly discussed as it is in Europe.

An all gay troop? I feel that troop would be constantly pointed at and ridiculed and ostracized at any Camporee. On the other hand, if they skipped all district & council activities, it would be that we failed them.

As for inner city troops not working out. How much fun could it be to take your 10 mile hike down Woodward, Michigan Ave or 42nd Street? Has anyone ever told them--with copies of old pix--that some of the more famous Mountain Men & Explorers were minorities? That on many ranches over half the cowboys were minorities?

Let's have an issue of Boys Life where all the people in the photographs are minorities and see what happens

Link to post
Share on other sites

The BSA is a corporation and LDS is a very large customer which has made Scouting it's Youth Program for ALL of its young men (whether they want to join or not). It is my understanding that all boys and young men are automatically registered as BSA members, and adult leaders are "ordered" to serve. This is one customer that will NOT be offended, regardless of what the rest of us think. Not being judgmental...just calling it as i sees it. It's just business. "Democracy" has nothing to do with it.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...