Let’s Let Boys Be Boys


“Boy Scouts Will Allow Girls To Join!”

Now that the media has written a few headlines about the Boy Scouts, it has rather quickly found other things to talk about.  That is typical of our media today;  it never thinks too long or hard about anything.

Having been directly involved with Scouting for over fifty years, I take the media’s collective ADHD with more than a little disappointment.  Are Boy Scouts no more important than a four-day media blitz?  I don’t know about you, treasured readers, but the organization is important to me.  Read this whole thing today, my friends, just as a favor to me; it’s my attempt to persuade you.

The BSA exists by law.  In 1910, the U.S. Congress issued a charter to the organization, specifically stating  that “The purposes of the corporation are to promote, through organization, and cooperation with other agencies, the ability of boys to do things for themselves and others… and to teach them patriotism, courage, self-reliance, and kindred virtues…”

The Boy Scouts existed for sixty years as a relatively unique youth organization—not only because they were for boys only, but because the general feeling was that Scouting wasn’t for every boy.    It was for the boy who enjoyed being outdoors, fortified with skills for survival.  Even more importantly, the idea was that these boys would grow into men of good citizenship and character. We understood, in those days, that some boys wouldn’t be interested in camping and cooking and the myriad activities of the BSA.  And everybody was OK with that.

By the  1970s, Scouting was suffering the same membership decline as other youth organizations—problems which still exist today:  There were simply  too many other youth activities competing for the membership of the country’s youth.  Scouting then made a decision which, until today, has remained its worst blunder.  It decided that it had been wrong—that Scouting was for every boy. The outdoor skills were de-emphasized as the national scouting board and leaders told us they would make Scouting “more relevant.”  The new Scout Handbook and other literature tried to be inclusive, and trained us, for example, to treat rat bites in the inner cities. (Locally, we referred to the new idea as “Rat Bite Scouting.”)

Well, they didn’t make Scouting more relevant.  They made it much smaller. The new idea was a disastrous failure and membership plummeted.  It took seven years for Scouting to realize the error, and they reversed course, returning to their traditional “Scouting Is Outing” structure.  They stopped the hemorrhaging membership, but never again rivaled the golden years of the 1960s.

I write all of the above so you understand that Scouting was able to back away from its error in 1979.  It will never be able to back away from this one. Scouting isn’t, and never has been, for everyone.  It’s single unique attraction has always been a program for boys only.  We will never be able to tell a nation of young girls that we’ve changed our mind. (“We’re so sorry, we’ve decided you’re not Boy Scouts after all.”)

Once done, it cannot be undone.

If the current decision stands, it will be eventually marketed to us as “Family Scouting.”  When you hear and read that phrase, you’ll know what’s coming; nothing short of a full court press for total integration of females into the Boy Scout program. I believe the organization may experience an initial surge in membership, followed by a decline, for it will be battling the same enemy as before:  intense competition for young peoples’ time.  Ultimately, it will be required to fight the same endless battles for membership.  But this time, it won’t be unique.  It will be just like everybody else.  If  “family scouting” is a good idea, then why not start a new and different organization called Family Scouting Of America?  There are plenty of us already in this youth business; one more competitor isn’t going to hurt. Why will this nation not let boys be boys?

Not every new idea is a good one.  There are old ideas of inestimable and timeless value.

If Congress started the Boy Scouts, why cannot Congress demand that it stay true to its original reason for existence?  I urge you to give this some thought—more than what the media offered you. Why not send an e-mail to your representatives in Congress, if you agree with me, and tell them simply that you think Boy Scouts should be boys?

I thank you for reading this.  I don’t usually take up serious issues with this space.  But I owe Scouting more than what the media apparently owes.  Let boys be boys.

6 thoughts on “Let’s Let Boys Be Boys

  1. Thank you for addressing this topic. Here is a little bit of Scout history to go with your comments. In London, after Baden-Powell’s 1907 “Scouting for Boys” had been published but before he retired from the Army to take up full time command of the Boy Scouts, he was inspecting a rally of 10,000 Boy Scouts at the Crystal Palace, a giant exhibition hall. As he walked among the ranks of Boy Scouts he happened upon a troop of girls dressed in their equivalent of the boy scout uniform. (hat, neckerchief and hiking staff) B-P quizzed the guys who were running the organization at that time and it turned out there was no rule against girls joining the boy scouts. (it never occurred to anyone that they would want to) An examination of Great Britain’s boy scout membership roster showed there were 6,000 girls registered as boy scouts.


    1. That is interesting, SLH. And I hope you see that my argument is not AGAINST girls. There are several extant organizations specifically for them. I think perhaps the programs for these organizations are not fun or exciting. They deserve a great organization. Just not the BSA. DB


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