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The Long-Term Impact on BSA of Girls in Scouts BSA – Part 5 (Final Posting)


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23 minutes ago, qwazse said:

Quite right. Scouting movements were banned in many Eastern Block  European countries, so they had no where to go but up as the few available adults waited for their youth to mature into competent leaders. Those programs were notably anti-fascist and over time their use of neckerchiefs began to be understood in opposition to (in contrast to allied with) red brigades. So, in contrast to Scouts CA, they had a trajectory of increasing growth that harmonized with prevailing political sentiment.

Scouts UK had to do a lot of hard work. In the 90’s, a large part of its new enrollment were girls, meaning that until about 2000, it kept loosing boys. But, those girls became leaders quickly and encouraged their male mates to contribute as well. The administration of Scouts UK began skewing younger and they did not let up on recruiting new, young leaders. However it was only a few years ago that it restored its male membership to 1991 levels.

Thus, my basis for a 25 year cycle to adapt. And this is where BSA faces a huge risk. It has some seasoned female scouters capable of training new leaders, but if we hew to our current cultural practice of waiting for leaders to become parents to start leading local youth movements … Well, folks are having kids later in life. Most girls in your troop won’t be Cub moms for at least another 17 year's. Most scout moms now may see themselves as GS moms, but they don’t see themselves as capable scoutmasters. Something in American society will have to change so our young women can look at their boyfriends and say, “Hey! Let’s start a Scouts BSA troop.” No change, and we can expect continued decades of decline. Someone/something intervenes, and we may see gains in girls begin to offset losses in boys in this decade, and then recoup market share of boys in the next decade.

I just don't see girls as being all that pivotal either way. They are a great and no brainer addition to a youth organization but in the scheme of things, at least here in the US, I'm not sure it has had much bearing other than providing a helpful blip through a couple of very dark years. Where the UK is concerned, I think some of its success has more to do with the fact that it has had consistent, identifiable, high profile advocates from the late Queen to Bear Grylls to more lately Catherine Middleton. They are so high profile, we are aware of their involvement even in the US. I also think the UK organizational structure seems to be a lot more effective than ours. Our structure keeps us tied in knots. The BSA also seems to have put a lot of eggs in its Eagle Scout basket but there just aren't a lot of high profile Eagle Scouts you can point to in the US. Other than a filmmaker, an astronaut, an ex CEO -- who are all older guys -- I can't think of a one who is high profile and fun or inspiring or relevant to parents with scouts my general age. I don't think girls are really the issue here in the way that you think they are. 

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5 hours ago, yknot said:

I wouldn't draw too tight a relationship between some of those trends because over the past 25 years there have been a lot of other things at play including a more universal disenchantment with scouting. A portion of my family is in Scouts Canada, in some cases in both Scouts Canada and BSA, and when talking to them, the view is more nuanced. Scouts Canada has been impacted by the Francophone and anti Commonwealth movement in some provinces that eschews all things British. There is an indigenous movement, much higher profile than here, that eschews all things Colonial. And Canadians in general have been distancing themselves in public life from anything connected to religious institutions. It's been kind of a triple whammy for scouting, which in Canada is seen to be connected to all three. 

Another observation you can take from Scouts Canada- outdoor opportunities abound, and families don't necessarily need an outdoor focused organization to enjoy the outdoors. If we look at Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, where there are numerous open spaces and outdoor opportunities abound, BSA numbers have been exceptional low. BSA policies that can hinder the outdoor experience do not help either. A childhood friend lives in Maine and was taking his daughter deer hunting when she was 9 years old. She wouldn't have been allowed to handle anything other than a BB gun in a BSA setting. Safety is obviously important, but the org has been bit dull at recognizing that an activity can get hollowed out the more you add restrictions, and the fun factor like Jameson mentions is gone..

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Extrapolating membership results of other Scouting organizations after they admitted girls is interesting, but it is not predictive in our circumstances. 

We have gone through circumstances that would long-ago have destroyed any other not-for-profit organization I am aware of.  This includes two decades of extreme dispute over membership standards, ten years of high-profile civil litigation against BSA councils over youth abuse, formation of a competitor organization that presents an ongoing public relations and membership campaign targeted to discourage boys and men from joining the BSA, departure of our largest national chartered organization (and disgruntlement of some other national chartered organizations) and a multi-year existential youth abuse bankruptcy and public relations crises focused on sexual abuse claims from 85,000 former boy members.  Pile on top of that bankruptcy-related sales of many of our camps, generalized distrust by today’s parents of organized youth activities, more-effective competition from youth sports and two years of a worldwide pandemic that shut-down much of our operations for an extended period.  These reasons are why we lost membership and are in a struggle to regain organizational health.

The reason we are still here, after all of that, it that the underlying principals we ascribe to and the character examples and program we provide children are absolutely the finest possible assemblage of youth development experiences a family can benefit from – and at least a million families have voted to stay with us and we are actually growing.  For those of us of faith, we could not have survived this without the almighty providing us forgiveness and ongoing encouragement.  It is the fundamental goodness of what we accomplish that has allowed us to still exist and will allow us to grow far into the future.  I know this to be true, and that you are reading this posting and sharing your considered thoughts on something of great importance to you supports my point.

We must focus on emphasizing and upgrading how we bring life to these fundamentals and minimize focus on the previous imperfect technical activities of well-intended categories of Scouters/Scouts commenters sometimes point to (professionals, council volunteers, district volunteers, professionals who are no longer with us who made mistakes years ago, girls, people who give us big money and expect to have their voices heard, young volunteers who do not yet “get it”… you get the idea.     

I respect the views of everyone on this site – even the people who consistently down-arrowed me a few years back for my support of all girl troops.  I just don’t accept argument that the admission of girls into Scouts BSA, which has led to significant girl involvement in groups separate from boys, has led to the diminishment of our membership or will do so in the future.  Female youth membership has not provided the transforming boon to us yet, but my four years of Scoutmastering a successful girl troop inform me that this is definitely on the way.

Thank you to all who are forwarding this important conversation, no matter your views.

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5 hours ago, Cburkhardt said:

Extrapolating membership results of other Scouting organizations after they admitted girls is interesting, but it is not predictive in our circumstances. 

 I just don’t accept argument that the admission of girls into Scouts BSA, which has led to significant girl involvement in groups separate from boys, has led to the diminishment of our membership or will do so in the future.  …

Extrapolating membership results nationwide from one enthusiastic scoutmaster’s troop is even less predictive of the nation’s circumstances. I was once that enthusiastic crew advisor, but I realized that irrational exuberance does nothing to prepare one for the future.

Ignoring the experience of other scout associations around the world is the height of arrogance. That’s okay. We’re American and need to maintain that exceptionalist swagger.

But one needs to own the at-home facts in evidence. This forum holds posts from scouters who’ve lost interest in BSA once it proposed BSA4G.  I’ve been at a dinner table of an 11 year old who resented the loss of a program that he thought would be exclusively for his own sex. I’ve sat fireside with a very articulate scout (now Eagle) who resented the presence of girl troops at camp.  It is absurd to think that the accrual of girls and their leaders in Scouts BSA was unrelated to the attrition of boys and their leaders at the same time in the same program.

If I’m wrong, if BSA boys vs. girl trends were coincidental, and if the USA is exceptional, then we can be rest easy and be presently surprised by 4% annual membership increases in both sexes going forward. I’d like to be pleasantly surprised.

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15 hours ago, Cburkhardt said:

This includes two decades of extreme dispute over membership standards, ten years of high-profile civil litigation against BSA councils over youth abuse, formation of a competitor organization that presents an ongoing public relations and membership campaign targeted to discourage boys and men from joining the BSA, departure of our largest national chartered organization (and disgruntlement of some other national chartered organizations) and a multi-year existential youth abuse bankruptcy and public relations crises focused on sexual abuse claims from 85,000 former boy members.  Pile on top of that bankruptcy-related sales of many of our camps, generalized distrust by today’s parents of organized youth activities, more-effective competition from youth sports and two years of a worldwide pandemic that shut-down much of our operations for an extended period. 

Character matters 😜

 

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I think predicting the future is a great thing to do at the end of the year when everyone wants a break from doing the hard stuff. But this discussion has taken a nice turn. I appreciate the range of possibilities. When you're running towards protection and away from the saber toothed tiger, it keeps things in focus better than what I've always seen from BSA singing "the future's so bright I gotta wear shades" - because that song was about nuclear war.

I agree with @Cburkhardt that we need to believe in the program but I also think that there are changes that we're ignoring. There are aspects of having meetings on weekends that really appeals to me. I'm also curious about the group structure used by UK scouts to lesson transitional shock.

I just got back from a pre-klondike, one night campout that was just intended to give new scouts experience in cold weather. Of the four adults that went, none have kids in the troop. Three of us had kids in scouts and one has an AOL scout that joined us. The idea of a third of the parents have lots of experience in scouting or the outdoors is just not valid anymore. At the same time, lots of young adults do like the outdoors. There's a solution, or likely many, that will help.

These ideas are not about program, but more about the nuts and bolts of running units. While it would be nice for national to help with this, I don't see it right now.

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  • 1 year later...
Posted (edited)

Throwing a log on fire with a relevant story

All-girl Scout troop from Brunswick takes to the high seas for adventure camp

Great story about why these girls chose to join Boy Scouts and their Sea Base trek. It was

1. Program, name was not an issue, these girls wanted to Scout,

2. parents stepping up to deliver Program - character building, service, ADVENTURE, skills.

IMHO this success story is repeated daily in units across the country, Gender is irrelevant as are High Adventure Bases. Get kids who want to Scout and adults who will deliver the Program ...membership growth will come as described in story.

excerpt from source:

 

Elena also tried Girl Scouts, “but there wasn’t really a lot to do.” She enjoyed all the art-related badges and projects she can do in the BSA in a wide variety of media.

We get to camp out once a month, not just once a year,” Mikayla said, “and that’s a lot better.”

Each month, the troop also does service projects.

We rehabilitated a fire ring at Camp Butler. We replaced all the logs, trimmed the trees, removed debris and redid the whole thing” Mikayla said.

They also have volunteered at Danbury Senior Living and at the St. Ambrose flag retirements and 911 ceremonies in conjunction with the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

They have also signed on to help maintain the children’s garden at Heritage Farm for the Brunswick Area Historical Society, starting in August.

John Turner, co-chair of our High Adventure Committee, came from the Youngstown area to Brunswick.

An Eagle Scout himself -- following in his dad’s footsteps -- he said: “When I found out that BSA was opening to girls, in 2019 my daughters started looking around. But then the pandemic came and everything came to a halt.”

Once life became more normal, they had four or five girls join, and now there are about 16 to 18 girls in the troop, he said.

 

More at source about their Sea Base trek with photos:

https://www.cleveland.com/community/2024/07/troop-7407-takes-to-the-high-seas-adventure-camp.html

Edited by RememberSchiff
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Posted (edited)

... and this outstanding piece published last Friday in The Dispatch "Scouting Hasn't Lost Itself" (subtitled "Girls now have more opportunities for Scouting’s formative experiences."):

Quote

The Boy Scouts no longer exist, nor have they existed for five years. My home troop still does. The councils I worked for and the camps I volunteered at are still there. I was and always will be an Eagle Scout—it is a distinction and responsibility that I will carry for the rest of my life. 

But Boy Scouting, since 2019, has stopped being Boy Scouting. It’s now Scouts BSA, because it’s not just boys who can join anymore. Girls, for the first time in the organization’s history, can join as full members. Female Eagle Scouts joined the class of 2021 in earning one of the most prestigious youth awards in the United States. And now, on February 8, 2025, the Boy Scouts of America, the broader organization that includes other programs such as Venture and Explorer Scouting, will change its name simply to Scouting America. References to “Boy” will now be removed from the organization entirely.

Recently Philip Bunn argued here that this change is far more than symbolic. For both of us, Boy Scouts offered a male-only space in which we could grow to become better leaders and, over time, better men. But now that girls have been admitted into the program, that unique environment has been destroyed. “Staring down the barrel of declining membership, declining interest, declining investment by former Scouts, as well as increased costs borne from expanding their offerings, the erstwhile ‘Boy Scouts of America’ has flattened itself,” he wrote. The organization has “ceased to advocate for its own rugged, wilderness-focused, masculine-cultivating character,” and now is forced to cater to a thousand fads and the increasing pressures of a society that does not have “boyhood” in its vocabulary. In Bunn’s view, it is now just the same as any other youth club or sports team—just very old and, every day, a little more tired. It has lost its way.

This could be a real problem if it were true, but that’s simply not the case. Scouts BSA is as sex-segregated an organization as the Boy Scouts was. Troops may be either fully male or fully female, but they may not be integrated. They may not hold meetings together, join the same patrols, or share youth leadership. If they are to go on an outing or camping trip together, strict rules regarding youth protection and supervision must be maintained—as was always the case. This is not only the official policy, as according to the July 2023 rules and regulations, this is a natural consequence of youth protection rules and good common sense. The BSA acknowledges that boys and girls are different and makes sure that each group has the space they need to flourish. 

 

Furthermore, the Boy Scouts is not a one-size-fits-all program: It is a diverse tapestry of different local organizations oriented around the wants and needs of the youth they serve. In fact, that’s one of the Boy Scouts’ defining features: the patrol method. The entire organization is built from the bottom up, from units of five to 15 youths who are fully in charge of leading themselves. These units plan their own outings, buy their own food, and elect their own leaders. They are the crucible in which the Scouting character is formed. 

 

Bunn is concerned that boyhood development will suffer if boys are exposed to the social anxiety that exist within coed spaces, but the patrol method is already in place to provide a buffer against many of the pressures that young men face—from female attention, but also from their friends, their media consumption, and their own self-doubt. Girls can be present at school, they can be present at summer camps, they can be present after a troop meeting—in fact, they always were, even before they were officially members. But the patrol still belongs to the boys who are in it. It will still be a small, often wild, often unwashed group of adolescent boys who hike up creeks without a map and who try to use live archery ranges as hiding spots during games of capture the flag. (In defense of the boy I found who thought this was a good idea, it was a really clever hiding spot.) That space, free from the pressures of adolescence, was crucial to me as a young man. It made me who I am now, and losing it would mean losing part of myself. But it has not been lost. It’s now ours to share. 

But Scouting is not only about the patrols. Will spreading our principles to new members dilute our programs? What of the “rugged, wilderness-focused, masculine-cultivating character” that is so integral to Boy Scouts, and that Bunn is eulogizing in his essay? For me, that’s a major concern. Wilderness trips and outdoor experiences are how I learned what being a Boy Scout meant. I was a staff member at regional summer camps for years, even after I earned the rank of Eagle Scout and officially aged out of Boy Scouts. I taught horsemanship, first aid, wilderness survival, and many other skills. I expect the youth that I work with to be prepared, as they should be, for physical challenges. 

But I’ve met the girls who so desperately want to be a part of Scouting, and they have what it takes. They are the first ones at the rifle range when it opens. They trek the extra 5 miles just so they can make it to the top of the waterfall. They really do love adventure. They did all this, even before they were allowed to earn ranks, while they were still just tag-along little sisters and boisterous older cousins. They are not shying away from rugged, wilderness-focused programs. They are demanding them, are not finding them in the organizations that claim to cater to them, and want to join an organization that will give them wilderness adventure. If those activities are exclusively masculine, they don’t really seem to care. 

And that’s the core mission of Scouting: to provide youth with experiences that will grow their character. Girls need those experiences no less than boys. If given the opportunity, they will seek them. For many, the Boy Scouts were the only real opportunity to have those experiences.

The emblem of the Boy Scouts is the fleur-de-lis. It points the way just as the compasses of old did, guiding generations of explorers on their journeys. The two stars on its arms, Truth and Knowledge, serve as guiding principles for Scouts as they walk through life and face challenges that no other organization could have prepared them for. This is what makes us different from every other youth organization. This is our distinguishing factor, and time has proven that the BSA is the only youth organization that will consistently deliver these values to youth across the country. 

The accusation that the BSA has lost its character by changing its name to Scouting America is false. Its mission is not to worship masculinity or create a “safe space” for boys to be congratulated on their boyhood. Its mission is to challenge youth—physically, intellectually, spiritually—to leave themselves behind and grow into better citizens. It is hard. It must be hard. But young men are not the only ones who can benefit from it. Allowing girls into the organization, and changing its name to honor those new members, does not take that away.

https://thedispatch.com/article/scouting-hasnt-lost-itself/ 

Edited by AltadenaCraig
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