Jump to content

Is doing nothing the right choice?

Recommended Posts

I spun off from the thread about uniforms to answer a question that boomerscout asked and also to ask one of my own.

boomerscout posted:


When I went to England in the early mid-60s it looked as if Brit Scouting was going to fade away. Do you know what caused this decline, and what brought UK Scouting back?"

To be very honest I really don't have an answer!

I don't have any membership totals, so I'm not if things were really that bad.

I was way too young to know or care what was happening. Having only joined the then Wolf Cubs in 1962.

Without checking all the dates, which I'm sure could be found without much difficulty.

It seems to me that UK Scouting hadn't changed very much since it started and by the early 1960's, there was a feeling that Boy Scouting in the UK was becoming dated and maybe outdated.

Sometime in about 1966 (I think!)The National Association tasked several committees to look at the entire association, in what became known as The Advanced Party Report.

The changes that came from this were numerous and sweeping.

In fact from what I seen nothing remained the same. Boy Scouts became just Scouts, Wolf Cubs became Cub Scouts, Senior and Rover Scouts just disappeared. Uniforms changed, even the Scout Promise and Law was changed.

This all happened in 1969, but word about what was happening was out for a couple of years before.

Many people who had been around for a while were not happy and a good many quit.

For about the next 30 years apart from some changes Scouting in the UK remained the same. Some of the changes made in that 30 year time were fairly big. The biggest I suppose was allowing some units to go coed.

Early in around 2000 things changed again.

Once again Scouting UK underwent a major overhaul. Talking with friends who are active in Scouting over there it does seem that this was due to decreasing membership. I'm not sure how true this is? Or if it's just their view-point.

I'm also not sure what this has done to help with membership?

Details of what they are doing now can be found on the UK Scouting web sites.

Last time I was in London, I did pick up some of the program support material, which I really like.

Having lived on this side of the pond for over 25 years I don't claim to know that much about what is going on across the pond.

Some of the new changes do seem to me in some ways to have returned to what was once there only with new titles and names.

One thing I really like is that there does seem to be less of a push for advancement and more on participation. From an outsiders point of view things seem a lot more causal and a very long way from anything that might be seen as being in any way military.

I can't say if these changes over the years have worked out or not.

I'm not even sure what you might use as a yard-stick to measure the success or failures?

I do in many ways admire what has happened, if for no other reason than it shows that they are open to change and maybe willing to take some risk.

I haven't seen that sort of thinking happening here in the USA.

I do think that the new Chief Scout Executive,Robert Mazzuca is maybe looking at what changes can be made? But this is just my own totally uninformed opinion.

While back in 1969 in England a lot of the adults were very unhappy with all the change and many did quit. I do think that the adults here in the USA would make a far bigger stink than the Brits did.

Somehow I just don't see any sweeping changes in the BSA going over that well.

Of course I might be 100% wrong and I welcome any thoughts and opinions that others might have.

We do seem to be in a bit of a slump.

Who knows? Maybe doing nothing is the right choice?




Link to post
Share on other sites

Actually Eamonn, that is exactly what happened here when the infamous "Inner City" program was put in place that pretty much put the "outing" out on the periphery of the program. From what I have seen in historical material, that is when they lost the most "old time" scouters; and many never returned even when much was put back in place, either because they "were" old to start with and disappeared, or they were so upset they simply chose not to. And, I think that would happen again if they decided to go that far overboard.


Anyone who looks at the successful troops can immediately see that they are active "outdoors". While many are true high adventure groups, many simply base camp and do fun activities from there. But, they are out and doing things in the natural environment and away from the worst of civilization. And the boys love it, or they leave.


Frankly, the idea that we can keep them all is silly. Some scout age boys simply will never take to the outdoors, for who knows why for sure.


Just my personal observation.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Skeptic is correct...I think BSA took a beating from about '73 -'80.


National discarded or downplayed the most successful old school aspects of scouting, chiefly outdoor activity.


Why? Kudu could provide a more eloquent explanation than I on this point...but looking back, I think the BSA was trying to be more hip (failed), and attempted to adopt corporate management strategies that snuffed out alot of scouting character and tradition that drew youth to scouting programs in the first place.


This was reflected in the wishy-washy scout handbook from that timeframe, the new uniform, you name it.


Lots of folks disliked it. When I re-read letters to Boy's Life from that era, the scouts were unhappy too. Example: the Eagle patch went from something classy (greatly resembled the present type) to the word-less "chicken in the mess kit" model. A real flash point.


I think BSA survived due to dedicated unit leaders who kept the flame of scouting alive.


Troops still went on fifty milers, to summer camp, performed community service, etc.


National more or less acknowledged the failure of "new scouting" by publishing a superb new scout handbook circa 1980, if memory serves. Green Bar Bill was back, and the material more closely resembled scout handbooks from the sixties and previous. As a JASM at the time, I was delighted with this new handbook.


I'm not too worried about National does...because real scouting takes place, every day, at unit level across this country.

Link to post
Share on other sites



I got back into the program in Spring, 1976 and was quite surprised at the materials I found. Fortunately, I was in the Topanga District of the old GWC in the San Fernando Valley, and did my introductory training with the infamous Patrones, who were old school for sure. When I went to Philmont for commissioner training in 77, the talk was all about the loss of traditional scouters and the start of the change back to "real" scouting. But I was really glad to see the new handbook that year. I remember getting a free copy that spring given by a scouter there in the Valley to all the active leaders and commissioners. Still have that copy in my collection with the dedication sheet inside.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Skeptic, I was at Philmont in '77 for a trek, then moved to Alaska that winter and joined a troop there. Lots of good scouting memories that year.


I too still have my handbook that replaced the "new scouting" one...though I used my '74 handbook for most of my scouting years, I still prefer its successor. The "new scouting" handbook was considered a dud by all--art work, shallow content, etc. The only thing it had going for it: all the requirements, to all merit badges, printed in the back. I enjoyed reading them, even if I had no intention of earning a particular badge.



Link to post
Share on other sites

Doing nothing is NEVER the right course otherwise we would still be under British rule and have slavery in this country. If the hierarchy of the church you attended all your life decided to make some sweeping changes that you knew were wrong or way off base would you not voice your objections or would you just shut up and let it happen, or as many would do just quit the church all together. Scouting almost died out in the 1970's because some moron at National thought he had a better idea and changed the program to suit his vision, without even consulting the volunteers.


Now we are faced with the Mazzuca plan to bring in the hispanic kids by changing the whole program and de-emphasize the outdoor portion all together.

The same thing that happened in the late 60's- until the late 70's, Bob was a history major in college yet he seems to have forgotten the old adage, "Those who forget to learn from history are doomed to repeat it." If Mazzuca wants an hispanic program, then fine, just keep it seperate from the mainstream program, otherwise we could witness scouting dying on the vine in the USA once again.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I think if national does make the mistake of repeating the 70s, then I will do what my SM did: Continue with the program the way it has always been done, i.e make it a youth run troop that do understand that "outing is 3/4 of Scouting."


I admit you do need to keep current with some things, i.e. LNT vs diggin trenches, use of technology, etc. But the foundation that Scouting is based upon: the Oath and Law, patrol method, boy-run, etc are so vital that they should not be messed with.

Link to post
Share on other sites


I am right there with you brother 100%. I really hope that Mazzuca doesn't take that last step over the cliff cuz if he does it will be the volunteers that once again will have to pick up the pieces and keep the program running and prospering.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't think that doing nothing is the right choice, but quite often we do the wrong thing.


The Advanced Part Report failed, it didn't stop the decline in members because its recommendations didn't address the real causes. In fact it accelerated the loss of older boys,with 55,206 Senior Scouts and Rover Scouts recorded in 1966 having been replaced by 21,698 Venture Scouts in the 1969 figures. Add to that the schism the APR caused, resulting in the breakaway Baden-Powell Scout Association and I think you can say it was a bit of a disaster. Children don't join Scouts because of the Scout Promise or Law, the uniform or age of the leaders. They join and stay if they are being offered an exciting and varied programme.


The UKSA has gone some way to correcting these mistakes, Senior and Rover Scouts have returned, albeit now named Explorer and Network Scouts and the upper age limit for leaders has been scrapped. Membership is once again on the rise.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I often wonder how much outside influence plays into the decline in scouting enrolment in the U.S.?


I will be the first to agree that keeping the "outing" in scouting is paramount to its success. The oath and law and the lifelong guiding points they offer is a close 2nd. Uniform, take it or leave it... I've never heard of it being a defining reason of why a scout stays or leaves. They might discuss how dorky or how functional it is, but its not a deciding factor in if they stay or go.


Membership is driven by matriculation from cubs to BS. How many actually join boy scouts without spending time in a cub unit? Very few I would venture to guess. However, how much time, effort, training, emphasis do the local councils place on developing quality cub packs? In the SD area, I'd say its minimal at best. They run good day camps, they have a couple Fun w/ Sons each year, but thats about it. The majority of the training and time spent at council and district round-tables is spent on BS activities. The majority of the things discussed, cubs are not even eligible to participate in.


If national wants to boost numbers, they should go after the recruitment efforts in the Tiger and Wolf year, not a specific ethnic group. Also, the idea of expanding to a "lion cub" program is an extremely poor idea. Its difficult enough to provide a program that is engaging for everyone from 1st thru 5th grade. Bringing in even younger kids "dumbs down" the program and further encourages burnout and feeling of scouting as irrelevant to me by the time they are Web-II.


On to those "outside" influences I spoke of earlier.


Bad press beat up the BSA throughout the 1990's... pedophile issues, anti-gay issues, and to some degree anti-agnostic issues. I think we're still recovering from that. Not sure BSA will ever recover from it. BSA likes to promote itself as a "wholesome" choice for boys, but in doing so, it has made itself (and continues to make itself) the target of some deserved and some undeserved public lawsuits with regards to accusations of discriminatory practices.


This is ongoing in a U.S. society that is virtually split 50 /50 on the acceptance of gay marriage. We now have a society that a majority believes "Don't Ask Don't Tell" should be repealed for the military. We have at least one major church in the US that recently voted to sanction gay and lesbian clergy. Many people know or are related to one or more openly gay people. I'm not saying we have to like or even condone the lifestyle (I don't), but we need to seriously consider as an organization how much it costs us in members, in money spent, and in manpower to continue to uphold a stance that flies in the face of at least 50% of the U.S. population's beliefs. We also need to consider the hypocrisy of teaching morals without teaching tolerance. There's a BIG differenc between, "You're not welcome." and "I don't agree with your lifestyle, but I respect your right to it, you are welcome at the campfire so long as you don't promote said lifestyle."


Now, I do not advocate for openly gay attitudes in the scouts. I think any and all sexuality issues (Homo and Hetero) needs to be refered to a trusted adult in the scout's family, or a clergy member, or a school counselor. Basically, it should be a non-issue, non-discussed topic in the scouting environment. (other than YPG related issues)


I have seen 1st hand in the SDIC council the impact of BSA policy vs the USGSA policy with regards to this issue. BSA has had land use permits revoked or in most cases stiffled. Their council HQ which happens to sit inside a city park boundry is continually under seige from lawsuits and because of this has been able to have little to no infastructure improvements, expansion, etc... for as long as most anyone remembers. Girl Scouts, who sit right next door in the same park, have expanded, improved and refurbished their HQ and have the capital money and city parks approval to do so because they do not spend their time and $ in the courtroom defending their anti-gay policy. (b/c they don't have one to defend)


How many would leave if gays were allowed to join? I don't know. Some probably would. But where would they go? Not like there is a back-up anti-gay BSA waiting in the wings. How many would we gain if we included "everyone" with the understanding that discussing or promoting ANY view on sexuality is a no-no in scoutland? Has national ever done any research into this, or are they firmly rooted in the belief systems of the many churches that act as CO's to units that they cannot break from this stance?


Coinsiding with the uptick in anti-gay lawsuits in the 90's was the disappearance of many civic organizations as CO's (other than churches), because of fears (whether real or perceived) of being labelled prejudiced if they supported "prejudiced" scout units. Many units now struggle to gain an audience in the public school systems of many cities for the same reason. This has a very direct and real impact on recruitment efforts.


When I was in cub scouts, a good number of the units were sponsored by school PTO's, now virtually none are. A lucky few can still ask to use public school facilities for meetings, but that is few and far between now. This is due to the same reason that schools and PTO's don't want to be CO's... they don't want the negative label.


To me the writing is on the wall. We may not agree, but public opinion (right or wrong) has shifted to where a majority thinks "whatever he / she thinks / does behind closed doors is not my business". This is especially true in areas of human sexuality and religion. Its a very 'live and let live' mentality and I think BSA has grossly missed the boat on this one.


A scout is reverent. This I agree. But we go to great lengths to qaulify that point of the law that it means they believe in a higher power. When is the last time anyone rounded up those that chose to sit out the "scout's own" service and asked them why they weren't there? It doesn't happen and shouldn't happen. If the scout chooses not to participate b/c he doesn't have the belief, but he keeps it to himself, then I see no problem with that.


I just feel BSA has hung its future on a couple points that have it at odds with the tide of public opinion in the U.S. Some will state, "That's good, its one of the reasons we're in scouts...." But how many will say, "I don't want to be associated with a group that thinks its OK to exclude b/c they disagree with one aspect of a person's life...."


If BSA had a national policy against blacks joining, we'd already be dead as a organization. Heck for that matter, if we had a national policy excluding LDS, we'd be a dead organization. But we can't seem to learn that lesson with other minority groups. (Yes LDS - by definition and numbers your religion is a minority in the US). Its also why I find the push to recruit a specific race to be a laughable hypocrisy on the part of our organization. You can join BSA if you're an illegal alien who is straight and fears God, but a natural born citizen who questions his faith or sexuality is not welcome? Again, not to bash LDS as their religion no longer promotes this stance, but you can be a practicing polygamist and join BSA (so long as you adheare to a religion) This tends to confuse folks, even some of us within the organization.


BSA needs to do some soul-searching if it wants to be a viable youth organization in another 100 years.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, I guess we have to agree to disagree, but if you take a look at every scouting youth organization in North America that gave in the political correctness pressure, you find none of those organizations numbers grew after the change. In fact some of them suffered dearly to the point of struggling to survive. So whether or not there really is a public perception problem with BSA stand on gays, history alone suggest change is not worth the risk.


I'm not sure that there is a public perception problem. Oh sure the activist have done their job well to bring to light BSA stand, but is the community really put off by it? Not in our area. Of course I live in a conservative area, but Ive travel a lot and just dont see it. And there are many scouts in our area with gay and atheist parents. So they dont seem to offended that they cant be leaders.


Finally, I think before National starts letting outside influences motivate change in the program, they have to attack problems inside the program first because what if the internal problems are the real problem? You spent most of your post on the gay issue, but really you hit the nail on the head with the Cub program. Cubs are the root of a successful Scouting program. I know for a fact that less than 50% of Webelos in our area crossover to Boy Scouts. If that is just the Webeles II numbers, you can imagine the total number of Cub age boys that dont make it the Boy Scouts.


I think it is interesting that the focus on this discussion is on the Boy Scouts and many, including me, suggest the old way is the better way. But what about the Cub Scouts? Could it be that that maybe the old way would be the better way for them. Ever since I have been an adult leader in the BSA, the Tiger program has struggled. I have seen many changes to the Tiger program attempting to ease the problems of that age group. But in reference to this discussion, Tigers didn't exist in the old program. Could going back to the old ways be a possible solution here?




Link to post
Share on other sites

When Scouting for All protested in front on the Southeast Louisiana Council's office, which can be seen from I-10, we actually the council actually got a bunch of phone calls supporting the BSA and getting a few folks to sign up. Some folks thought the BSA did cave in to the activists pressure and were looking for other options. When they realized the d BSA didn't cave in, they wanted their sons in.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I have to kind of agree with Barry. If a problem does exist with Boy Scouts (I have yet to be convinced of that based upon what I have seen locally), the problem is with the Cub program. After 13 years in the program with three of my boys, there is soooo much emphasis on "earning lots of badges", that the activity portion of the program gets left behind. In my opinion, the concept (and common practice) of go to a den meeting - get a badge causes the boys to loose the satisfied feeling of accomplishment. Badges become "bobbles" instead of marks of accomplishment.


Then they hit Boy Scouts. What do you mean I to demonstrate knowledge, I attended the meeting (or class)? If we prep the boys properly as Cub Scouts and change the mindset of leaders/parents from badges to activity/fun, they will move up to Boys Scouts and hang. (9 of 12 boys I worked with and moved up from Webeloes with my oldest 5 years ago are still in Scouts, but only 2 Eagles)

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...