[July 28, 2021] There is an unwritten, rarely spoken-about guide to the Boy Scouts. Anything that detracts from developing boys to make them better men needs to be jettisoned by the wayside. So what is it about the current changes in the Boy Scouts that do not meet those criteria?
Mark Pulliam, a retired lawyer and writer, makes a good argument in a recent article that the Boy Scouts have “wandered far off course and lost sight of Lord Baden-Powell’s mission …” 1 Success can be measured in many ways. Still, the Boy Scouts of America measure it in terms of membership. More scouts mean more success. It is a common fallacy to push membership when you have failed to jettison ancillary tasks and duties that are a distraction.
The Boy Scout Law is as simple as it is clear. A scout is loyal, helpful, courteous, kind, … and reverent. Those 10 “laws” that makeup what I call “core values” have remained the bedrock of scouting since its inception more than a century ago.2 Those so-called laws, or values, remain on the books of scouting but are more and more ignored.
Membership has risen and fallen with societal perceptions and population changes. But rarely has it seen such a steep decline in the number of boys served.2 From a peak in 1972 at 6.5 million members to an estimated 1.12 million today. These numbers are, indeed, grim. It means fewer boys are being exposed to men who can show them a proper path to manhood; through example.
The problem faced by the Boy Scouts has been a fierce attack on its Scout Law. In today’s “tolerant” society, increasingly secular views have come to the forefront. Any attempt to exclude anyone from any position, organization, or place is now attacked, as anti-you name it. Standards of behavior are to be shunned or discarded as relics of a bygone era.
“Many parents enrolled their children in the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts because those programs represented old-fashioned, wholesome, traditional values …”
The leadership of the Boy Scouts of America has accepted a fait accompli that they lost the war on traditional – and successful, I might add – values that made Western civilization great. Litigation by atheists and gays regarding the scout’s “exclusionary membership requirements” (upheld by the U.S. Supreme court in favor of the Boy Scouts) pushed scouting leadership to accept anyone into their ranks.
“Much of the attraction of the BSA is that it was seen as a respite from—or even an antidote to—the hostile forces in a culture many parents regarded as a negative influence on their children. “
The Boy Scouts are now “woke.” And parents realize it. That is why many have turned to alternative youth organizations, primarily sponsored directly by various churches. Other organizations face similar threats to their original founding values. The Girl Scouts is an important example.
What will become of the Boy Scouts? That is hard to say. But its current leadership will not reject those social trends that prevent it from being the most successful program in the nation to help young boys mature into good men. Scouting’s membership will continue to decline despite the Boy Scouts now accepting girls and those who reject religious teachings into their ranks.