At the Troop meeting last night it was interesting to observe some of the reactions from the decision seeping into the Troop. A number of the Mom's of the younger to middle scouts were saying they thought it was great that females would be more welcome in the program. (OK so far). At that point there was a leap that Mom's could now be more welcome at the campouts as visitors. Three of them said that they wanted to go on the annual AT hike with their 11 to 13 year old sons and lobbied the Committee Chair that since the boys were young and the moms were fairly new hikers could they plan an easier trip for next summer. They were very excited. (I though "uh-oh")
When the news of this quietly spread later in the evening five of six of the most senior boys (most have 300 miles of backpacking) pulled their names from the sign up list. I overheard one saying "the adults are watering things down and making it too easy". (The AT hike has generally been an annual rite of passage-younger guys have to do a lot of practice hikes to show they are up to it- and the last year the trip was shortened by a day when the Troop relented and let a younger guy go who was not ready but the mom (who was also not ready) insisted she go to help him --it did not set a good precedent). A mom told her son he was being a bad sport and that the point of the AT hike should be on making more the beauty of the wilderness accessible to everyone versus some kind of endurance test. (This directly conflicted with the boys who like to plan a hike that has some challenges -- they are also brutal in their recommendations to specific Dad's needs to get in shape if they are going)
My son (who just aged out) did not say a thing but later at home said "I am not sure what is going on but after hearing all the mom's I do not think we hit bottom yet". (He actually supports girls in scouts BTW). He did say Mom's and Dad's seem to approach things (injuries, missed equipment, conflicts) differently. Despite my efforts to explain the OFFICIAL position on what BSA has said (I would like to encourage him to stay engaged) he is INTERPRETING the recent announcement (along with things like Merit Badge Academies) as "making Boy Scouts more like Girl Scouts".
Three boys asked a dad if he would be willing to do a 'real' hiking trip outside of scouts over spring break. There was some renewed interest in Philmont. On the upside some of the more sluggish Life Scouts seem to be in over-drive to work on remaining requirements so they can "hurry and get out sooner".
I knew this year would be a struggle "a rebuilding year" as the Troop seems to go up and down as there is Scout, Parent, and Scout turnover but the recent change seemed to hit us at a bad point. I sense we are going to lose many of our middle and older boys. There are a lot of reasons for that--to be honest many of the boys who are matriculating up seem to want less adventure and more classroom style scouting focused on advancement -- there is a cultural issue going on. But I fear what we are losing are those boys who would really benefit from a less 'school like' atmosphere and that 'adventurous image' of the BSA brand is an easier sell for those boys when it is an entry to the male world. It was extremely useful for my two sons who needed the outlet and achievement and channeled male crudity to get them through a rough patch, I am hoping that program will still be available for other boys.