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If all levels of Scouting went coed

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NJCubScouter, I agree that the drop following the baby boom has to take some of the blame for the drop in membership.


However, I found this on the internet (so it has to be true): BSA membership peaked at 6.5 million in 1972, and reached bottom in 1980 with 4.3 million.


This 34% drop is bigger than the drop in TAY (total available youth) or the overall birthrate.


The Cub Scouts went from 2.4 million in 1970 to 1.7 million in 1980. Explorers actually went up. But the biggest percentage drop by far was in the Boy Scout program, going from 1.916 million in 1970 to 1.064 million in 1980, a 44% drop.


The eighth edition of the Boy Scout Handbook was in print from 1972 to 1979. It may be pure coincidence, but this corresponds almost precisely with the steep membership decline. From your table, the number of births continued to decline until 1975, so we would expect the BSA membership to drop up through 1986, when we'd hit the minimum number of 11-year-olds entering the program. But in fact, the years 1981-1984 were up from 1980 for Boy Scouts.


1986 should have then been the low point, based on birth rates, but some other effect began to take hold, and even as the TAY grew, membership in Boy Scout troops dropped below the 1986 level, remaining relatively constant just below that level all through the 1990s. 1999 was the highest point since 1987, and since 1999 Boy Scouts have dropped from 1.028 million to 0.906, a drop of 12% over the past 10 years. Some of that could certainly be attributed to correction from any number fudging that was going on.


Just to sum up


Youth born 1953 to 1959 (who would be 11-17 in 1970): 29.2 million

Youth born 1963 to 1969 (who would be 11-17 in 1980): 26.1 million

An 11% drop.


1957-1959 (11-13 year olds in 1970): 12.9 million

1967-1969 (11-13 year olds in 1980): 10.6 million

An 18% drop.


Boy Scouts in 1970: 1.916 million

Boy Scouts in 1980: 1.064 million

A 44% drop.


So the birth rate change was very significant, but it does not come close to explaining the exceptional drop-off in membership.

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Can't say that Scouting in the UK has had to change much to accommodate girls, separate tents for camping but that's about it. As for flirting and giggling, if any Scout of either gender did that in

Barry, by "the program made a big shift to be more exclusive", did you really mean more inclusive?


From wikipedia: In 1972, Scouts Canada began accepting female members as part of its Rover Section. This was expanded in 1984 to include the Venturer Section. In 1992, co-ed Scouting was an option for all program sections and became policy for all sections in 1998.


Total youth membership in Canada in 2008 was 74,302


From 1961 to 2000 Canadian youth membership dropped by 66%, from 270,000 to 91,170 for the equivalent age group (non-Beavers, where Beaver=Tiger). In 1995 membership was growing, and hit a high of 172,680 youth. From 1995 to 2000 there was an 18% drop. From 2000-2008 was another 48% drop. That makes a 57% drop from 1995 to 2008. The non-Beaver age group had a drop of 81% from 1961 to 2008 (despite the inclusion of girls which would presumably approximately double the TAY). Makes the BSA's problem look minor.


One study of the membership decline had this conclusion (unsurprising to most of us): Troops with more outdoor activities and which give more autonomy to the Scouts have higher rates of membership retention.


I'm presuming that somewhere from 1995-1998 was roughly the turning point to which Barry refers.


It is dangerous to presume that any one change precipitated this decline. Indeed, it is difficult to postulate how badly screwed up this has to be to cause a decline of this magnitude. It appears that the forced policy of having both genders in all units is typical of a national office that is overly controlling and perceived very much this way. Just as the EU countries rebel against Brussels, the Canadian Scouts appear to be rebelling against this and voting with their feet.


I'm not sure what lesson to draw, though. I think it's clear that the BSA has to stand for *something* in order to maintain its attraction of new members. I would argue, based on admittedly insufficient evidence, that the primary thing the BSA has to stand for is outdoor adventure. When they took that away in the 1970s, membership plummeted. My sense on the Canadian thing is that there had to be more changes than just the inclusion of girls. I'm guessing an overall change in focus, management style, something...but whatever it is they are perceived as representing, Canadians don't appear to want it. Or perhaps the problem is that they're not perceived as representing anything.

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Barry, I think the real reason Campfire and GSA are failing is poor program organization. Campfire went coed and yet did virtually nothing to the program to draw a boys interest, my wife was active with them for many years volunteering as a group leader right up to being on the executive board for over five years, in her view the program has never kept pace with the needs of the youth they were reaching out to, and the powers that be did not care, resulting in the demise of the organization, which is all but dead today. The GSA on the other hand tried to do too much, and reach out too far without prioritizing key goals resulting in major membership decline, I really doubt the gay/ atheist was the main cause.


Oak and Eagle, the numbers game in the BSA is still alive and well, those great stats are inflated and do not really reflect just how many of them are paper units. We have seen in the news of recent just how widespread this problem is, and don't kid yourself into thinking that National has cleaned up its act because it is not true. LFL, cub soccer are little more than paper units as are many of these inner city after school programs, if a kid comes one time he is registered even if he never comes again. So those cub unit and LFL numbers are blown way out of reality, but the BSA needs to report high numbers in those special programs to keep getting funds from United Way and other organizations. The numbers game will always be part of Nationals policy because its the way the rest of society measures the successes and failures in scouting, rightly or wrongly.

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There are many who would argue, with some compelling logic, that one big value of the boys-only policy is that it forces boys to act together on cooperative projects. This presents opportunities for leadership development, and all it entails, along with personal development. I'm leery of a joint-gender arrangement because I think there are just too, too few contexts in which males work together on shared tasks---and many, many activities in which males are just put into a competition paradigm. But the world is bigger than just competition; learning to cooperate counts for much.


Psychologists repeatedly point out girls' superior social skills at this age; I think admitting girls would just block out the sun for the boys.

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With respect to participation rates, it's important to keep in mind that we have an enormous plethora of recreation options in 2009. These just didn't exist years ago. The recreation industry is huge today. . . as well as the electronics industry!


It's important to keep in mind that there's nothing inherently wrong in being male. We aren't being intolerant by virtue of our gender or by male behavior.


I think recent politics tend to demonize men unduly.

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Then you may be more in favor of what the Finns do in memory serves. They are coed at Cubs, then split into Guides and Scouts, but essentially workign on the same stuff and advancement, then coed again for the Venturing age.

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Difficult subject, as there are many valid points on both sides of the discussion. While I have grown to feel having girls allowed is not only logical in many ways in today's society, I still feel there would need to be separation in the lower parts of the program, especially in the pubescent age group. The girls could still be part of the program, but simply do it in their own groups. Cubbing, as pointed out already, would likely be fine with either girl, boy, or coed dens, meeting separately except for pack activities. But I do not see 11-14 year old boys and girls mixing successfully for the full program benefit, so they would be better off with separate troops. So, a CO might have two units, one of girls and one of boys. Maybe they have inter charter competitions on occasion, as well as joint courts of honor and so on; but the week to week functions would be separate and allow the leadership to develop without the distraction of the opposite gender.


This would still allow families to participate as a complete unit if they wanted, and also make the far superior program of BSA available to girls, which is the biggest reason they want to join anyway. The "be with the boys" part really does not come into serious effect until the Venture level years anyway.



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Then you may be more in favor of what the Finns do in memory serves. They are coed at Cubs, then split into Guides and Scouts, but essentially workign on the same stuff and advancement, then coed again for the Venturing age.

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To the original question, "What changes would have to be made?"


I think the organization would have to find a lot of new leaders because our troop would start its own organization because we, and our chartered organization, want a Scouting program for boys, plain and simple.


Perhaps we'd even start a new international program called "Scouting for Boys" that's focused on the outdoor program for boys (much like the American Heritage Girls has formed in opposition to the Girl Scouts).

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@Mr. Boyce: "I think recent politics tend to demonize men unduly. "




We need programs for boys that are boy focused, exclusively. Why? Here's an article from USA Today talking about the fact that 57% of college students are women (http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2005-10-19-male-college-cover_x.htm). Now I'm all for women going to college, but, if you read the article you'll find that women in the 18 - 25 age demographic actually make up less than 1/2 of that total population.


How do we get boys back into the mind set of going to college and improving themselves? We focus on them directly and exclusively at least in some aspects of their lives. We've spent the last 30 years valuing girls with a zero-sum mindset. It's time for the pendulum to swing back towards dead-center.

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