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UncleP

Push for Coed Scouting

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Let's see thousands of scouters having fun cobbling together co-ed programs within the bounds set for them.

Let's see the meteoric rise of independent scouting organizations whose policies are inclusive.

 

Well, there's 78,000 scouters in the UK doing exactly that.

When we switched to fully co-ed, there wasn't a meteoric rise in independent boys only scouting organisations. Though I'm not sure that's a valid comparison.

 

But, I'll freely admit, and I'm realising more and more, we're two countries with a moderately common language, but some sizeable differences in culture, so I'm definitely not going to tell you what's best, as if anyone could really know.

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I'm curious about something. If you support Boy Scouts going coed, why do you feel the need to wrestle open BOY Scouts? Can't you just start a Venturing crew and change THAT organization the way you want to see it? I mean, if you want to change something why kick over someone else's sand castle. Why not build your own out of the skeleton that exists in Venturing?

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It's a gamble I'd be willing to take. Unless someone comes up with some better idea for how to stop (or just slow) the membership decline. Maybe co-ed would be the old band-aid on a bullet wound, just slow the demise a bit. I don't know. What I'm not sure we've got much else to lose when the end could very possibly be just a decade or two away at the current rate of annual membership loss. 

 

 

So you are saying that there is something wrong with the present program that is causing a decline. The fix to the problem is adding girls to the same program with the same problem. Hmm, ok, there is no arguing with that kind of logic. 

 

Barry

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When looked at from a detached perspective that may make sense.

 

Trouble is that the people you are going to sell this to are not detached,

 

Cubs is a very well known and successful "brand" for want of a better word. Your concept of tribe may have the same program as cubs, may have the same structure, the same uniform and awards even. Trouble is that mum and dad of the 7 year old approaching you want their child to join this thing that's been around 100 years, in most countries in the world, that dad went to when he was a kid. And that thing is called Cubs. And I suspect that will go for boys and girls. And that is what I mean by "Can't get there from here".

 

I still struggle with the notion that offering two options is not as good as offering only one.  Dad's experience of all male Cubs/Boy Scouts was something he enjoyed when he was a lad was good, how can one make the jump to think that's what he wants for his daughter?  Even if he did think so, his all male experience is not going to be the same for his son/daughter in a co-ed program.  As always there are going to be those who don't care, and an alternative for his daughter in a co-ed program will be maybe what she wants for her son/daughter, but what about the parents who do want what they had, an all male program?  That's  been taken off the table and is no longer an option.  So in fact their son will NOT get the same experience he had as a Scout.

 

All I am advocating is if society has changed and moved on, offer up an alternative program that meets that need, otherwise, for those parents who want what they had in their youth, retain the original program simultaneously.

 

I don't see why that would be so hard to accept.  I do see where parents, i.e. dads, who had a great experience as a youth in Scouting would find it impossible for his son to have that as well.  For me, if it were no longer available, I may not be inclined to put my son in a "different" program with different dynamics but retain the same name only.  If that be the case it's going to take 20+ years for the youth of today to grow up and want the same co-ed experience for their children not knowing what any benefits an all male program might have offered.

 

20 years of waiting to see the results might not bode well for scouting.  Those time lapses during membership decline I believe is what the UK and Canada experienced.  One does not see that kind of membership sway in the WGAAAS program for all female programming.

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So you are saying that there is something wrong with the present program that is causing a decline. The fix to the problem is adding girls to the same program with the same problem. Hmm, ok, there is no arguing with that kind of logic. 

 

Barry

 

 

BSA has other problems, sure. Membership decline has nothing to do with girls not being included. But co-ed could be a way to stop the bleeding. 

 

From other discussions here, I think most folks would agree that program changes are ultimately what could revitalize the BSA. But in a more general sense if we can open the program up to a wider audience (which is something National is always harping on, reaching more youth), co-ed is in fact one way to do that. It's not the answer, it's one piece of the puzzle.  

 

Got a better fix? I'd love to hear it. We need to reach new potential members. Who and how? What other pool of untapped interest can we reach out to? 

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Got a better fix? I'd love to hear it. We need to reach new potential members. Who and how? What other pool of untapped interest can we reach out to? 

 

If one were following the discussion between Cambridgeskip and myself, I did offer up one possible solution. I don't know if it will work or if it is any good, but it might be something that is worth kicking around a bit.

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20 years of waiting to see the results might not bode well for scouting.  Those time lapses during membership decline I believe is what the UK and Canada experienced.  One does not see that kind of membership sway in the WGAAAS program for all female programming.

 

The number of boys involved in scouting in the UK has increased by 11% since 2007. Total youth membership up by 19%.

Though back in 1997 (I think) they allowed co-ed scouting, I think it's safe to say that to start with it was only groups that had the odd girl that really really really wanted to join that went co-ed. I can look at my local census back to 2002, so 5 years after all sections "went co-ed", optionally - there were 11 female young people, out of 497 total, and 5 of those were in Ventures (of 19 total), that had been co-ed since 1976. Only 3 sections out of 23 had gone co-ed. So much has changed since...well, pick any date between maybe 1966 and 2002 really, I don't think it's safe to draw any conclusions about cause and effect.

 

Anyway, I think you're right, why not allow both and see what happens? Then BSA can cater for the "everyone's equal" brigade, and the "it's BOY Scouts" brigade. There'll be bumps in the road but, as we say in the UK scout law "a scout has courage in all difficulties". :)

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Got a better fix? I'd love to hear it. We need to reach new potential members. Who and how? What other pool of untapped interest can we reach out to? 

YES, I DO. I won't get into the program issues that are causing the "bleeding" in this discussion because it is not the subject. We have had that discussion many times on this forum.

 

I will say that the bleeding will not stop by adding another source of membership, it will just keep bleeding. If the true motivation here is to fix the program, adding the extreme complexity of a whole different demographic source is not reasonable approach.

 

The challenge of this discussion is being honest with our motivations for adding girls to the program.

 

Barry

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Anyway, I think you're right, why not allow both and see what happens? Then BSA can cater for the "everyone's equal" brigade, and the "it's BOY Scouts" brigade. There'll be bumps in the road but, as we say in the UK scout law "a scout has courage in all difficulties". :)

Why can't we asked the Girls Scouts to experiment first?

 

Barry

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Why can't we asked the Girls Scouts to experiment first?

 

Barry

 

Over the years I think they have.  Whereas we see the current program focusing on a certain area, yet we see the flexibility between troops that allow for "other areas" of interest, thus the girl with the Gold Award doing a project requiring a chainsaw.  There are Girl Scout troops that focus on the more feminine side of things, yet they allow room for more masculine activities involving outdoor style programming.  I think they tend to be more adult oriented and the focus of the troop might be more swayed by the skill and interest of the adult leaders in the troop.  By offering such diversity of activity, they seem to be avoiding much of what is plaguing the Boy Scouts.  The girls always have the option of forming a small troop of like-minded gals and getting the right adult leadership in there to support them.  I think they have more troops/girls than the mega goal of the Boy Scouts trying to answer the needs and wishes of a large variety of boys.  A dozen gals wanting to camp 2 adult leaders and voila, we have a new Girl Scout "troop".  A half dozen gals that want to canoe/kayak, one of the mom's likes doing that, a friend of hers goes along with it and we have again a new Girl Scout "troop".

 

And yet if one were to allow such diversity in the Boy Scout program, some of these problems might go away.  I was an advisor for a reenacting Venturing Crew and the very first thing the boys learned how to do was sew.  It was important in that in order to have an authentic uniform historically, the soldier had to be able to make repairs to their uniforms, tents, and other equipment.  We had boys that could sew on buttons, make rip repairs, sew grommets in tents, and one even got to the level where he would sew his own shirts.  Then we progressed on to campfire cooking.  No one slipped off to McDonalds or visited the sutler's area for meals, they all learned to cook.  It was a very successful Crew and set the standard for even it's own CO in setting a good example in the field.  Boys can be just as proficient as the gals when it comes to cooking and sewing, the more female traditional skills.

 

It is interesting to note, however, that the focus groups of Boy Scouts (Venturing, Exploring, STEM, LFL) still do not garner the success of the Girl Scouts and even though I only suspect it, it might be because the Girls are all-female and Venturing, STEM, etc. are co-ed.  For me the jury is still out on that one.  It would be interesting to look into it.

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... But, I'll freely admit, and I'm realising more and more, we're two countries with a moderately common language, but some sizeable differences in culture, so I'm definitely not going to tell you what's best, as if anyone could really know.

Your examples show us that co-ed programs can be fun. But the majority of Americans don't look to the rest of the world for role models. In that sense we are a much different animal.

 

.... Anyway, I think you're right, why not allow both and see what happens? Then BSA can cater for the "everyone's equal" brigade, and the "it's BOY Scouts" brigade. There'll be bumps in the road but, as we say in the UK scout law "a scout has courage in all difficulties". :)

Asked and answered with our venturing program. After a steep incline in from its inception in 1998 with ~180K members to 2005, when it had 300K members on its roles. It's membership has declined to 148K. That's right. The BSA's premier coed program has 20% fewer youth now than when it started two decades ago. That's not a bump in the road, that's a sinkhole!

 

Had the exponential growth (which, I believe was somewhat artificial for a number of reasons) been maintained and brought us to 800K active youth members today, the discussion would be much different. But we are observing the opposite: when given the choice, American boys and girls will not join a co-ed scouting program in large enough numbers to indicate that such a program is nationally desirable.

 

 

A lot can change in a decade, and if my crew quadruples in venturers, and my district quintuples in crews, I might become more optimistic. But right now, as much fun as I get from watching young men and women work together in the outdoors, I have to admit that mine is just a niche program with pretty green shirts.

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I still struggle with the notion that offering two options is not as good as offering only one.  Dad's experience of all male Cubs/Boy Scouts was something he enjoyed when he was a lad was good, how can one make the jump to think that's what he wants for his daughter?  Even if he did think so, his all male experience is not going to be the same for his son/daughter in a co-ed program.  As always there are going to be those who don't care, and an alternative for his daughter in a co-ed program will be maybe what she wants for her son/daughter, but what about the parents who do want what they had, an all male program?  That's  been taken off the table and is no longer an option.  So in fact their son will NOT get the same experience he had as a Scout.

 

All I am advocating is if society has changed and moved on, offer up an alternative program that meets that need, otherwise, for those parents who want what they had in their youth, retain the original program simultaneously.

 

I don't see why that would be so hard to accept.  I do see where parents, i.e. dads, who had a great experience as a youth in Scouting would find it impossible for his son to have that as well.  For me, if it were no longer available, I may not be inclined to put my son in a "different" program with different dynamics but retain the same name only.  If that be the case it's going to take 20+ years for the youth of today to grow up and want the same co-ed experience for their children not knowing what any benefits an all male program might have offered.

 

20 years of waiting to see the results might not bode well for scouting.  Those time lapses during membership decline I believe is what the UK and Canada experienced.  One does not see that kind of membership sway in the WGAAAS program for all female programming.

Or put another way;

 

Why are some companies worth more than the total of their net assets?

 

Goodwill. It’s that certain something that keeps people coming back to a certain product, and in most cases it is completely tied up with the brand name.

 

It’s the reason why people pay more for Heinz beans than the supermarket own brand beans when they’re made in the same factory with a different label.

It’s all about branding and goodwill.

 

My hypothesis is that you can offer all the different programs you want for boys and girls and coed you want, but what the punters want is cubs and scouts. If that’s not what it’s called they won’t go for it. BSA may be losing members but my understanding is that it still has well over 2 million members. It clearly has a certain something to it that keeps people coming back. And as Ian pointed out, there are even more potential members outside of its traditional male market that want in.

 

What it cause a net gain or net loss in the USA? I don’t know.

 

As Ian rightly points out, be very careful about pinning the fall in members in the UK in the late 90s on going coed. There were simply too many other factors in play. The program, the uniform, the branding, the PR. It had all stagnated. I’m not going to say absolutely that there was no link. What I can say is I was a scout and a venture scout in the 90s. I knew a lot of boys that quit. I don’t recall any of them blaming it on girls. 

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I'm curious about something. If you support Boy Scouts going coed, why do you feel the need to wrestle open BOY Scouts? Can't you just start a Venturing crew and change THAT organization the way you want to see it? I mean, if you want to change something why kick over someone else's sand castle. Why not build your own out of the skeleton that exists in Venturing?

 

I would support this. Lower Venturing to 11 and allow girls to join. Let's see how that changes membership numbers...but in Venturing.

 

BSA has other problems, sure. Membership decline has nothing to do with girls not being included. But co-ed could be a way to stop the bleeding. 

 

From other discussions here, I think most folks would agree that program changes are ultimately what could revitalize the BSA. But in a more general sense if we can open the program up to a wider audience (which is something National is always harping on, reaching more youth), co-ed is in fact one way to do that. It's not the answer, it's one piece of the puzzle.  

 

Got a better fix? I'd love to hear it. We need to reach new potential members. Who and how? What other pool of untapped interest can we reach out to? 

 

The problem is outreach in my opinion. Councils and districts don't really have a decent, workable, realistic program for reaching out to various communities.

 

For example, there is a large Indian (sub-continent India) population in my area. Scouting is a foreign concept and largely misunderstood. The council had an all day session on how to reach out to that community. I attended hoping to get some information that was useful. At the end of the session the big take away was "recruit more Indians". :rolleyes:  Not HOW to recruit them; just the obvious answer that recruiting more means more members. Really? Who'd have thunk it?

 

As BSA has done with other outreach programs, such as ScoutReach, they need to spend some considerable time actually working on realistic ways to increase membership in undeserved communities. I am not familiar with the details of ScoutReach so, to be honest, I don't know if it is effective, cost prohibitive or even successful. But it appears to have more focus than simply saying "recruit more of x" people.

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I would support this. Lower Venturing to 11 and allow girls to join. 

 

 

I'd support that as well. I think 11 is a great age to start Venturing. And it's a pivotal year for a lot of kids who might be starting to question their involvement in scouting, or if they want to continue with it. Let's give them another opportunity to keep on scouting in a different way. 

 

I'm still in favor of co-ed scouting throughout the BSA, but I think this suggested age change could be another piece of the membership puzzle. 

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