Today is a historic day for the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) as the organization officially drops ‘Boy’ from the name of its signature product now formerly known as Boy Scouts becomes Scouts BSA.
By Jim Donovan
There is a lot of confusion in the press about this name change but this is really quite simple. The parent organization will remain the Boy Scouts of America and the Cub Scouts – the program from 7 to 10 year olds will keep this name as well. The flagship program Boy Scouts will become Scouts BSA. Today under the umbrella of the Boy Scouts of America, Scouting is one movement made up of four programs:
Introducing Scouts BSA! February 1, 2019 will go down in history as the inaugural day of Scouts BSA for girls and boys. I first learned that this change was being considered about a year and half ago during the 2017 National Scout Jamboree, when BSA Chief Scout Executive, Michael Surbaugh mentioned during an interview that the organization had concluded from extensive research that families are interested in a program that serves both boys and girls. A few months later a plan was unveiled which outlined a two-part launch.
First, in 2018, girls were allowed to join Cub Scouts. Cub Scouting is one of several programs offered by the Boy Scouts of America and “Cubs” are kids ages 7 to 10. The BSA reports that over 80,000 girls became Cub Scouts last year!
My immediate response to girls being allowed to join Cub Scouts was that it is a very positive move. I completely agree with the BSA’s logic that “Scouting is a family activity”. Cub Scouting always has been a family activity and it makes perfect sense to invite sisters, and daughters, to don the blue and gold uniform and participate in the Pack as a family. I remember going on Cub Scout outings as a kid with my mom, dad and sister. Heck, I suspect most Cub Packs already have girls that unofficially participate along with their brothers.
The second change, scheduled for early 2019, would be to the Boy Scouts program. As the father of two boys who have both grown up with Scouts, I was initially not as excited about the change to the Boy Scout program because I was concerned a co-ed program may dilute or change the experience of Boy Scouting that I know and love. But as I learned the facts about the change, I began to warm up to the idea as the plan is to have separate girls-only troops which would follow the same curriculum in parallel to the boys Troops
“BE THE CHANGE THAT YOU WISH TO SEE IN THE WORLD”
– Mahatma Gandhi
Having worked in the non-profit space for many years I understand that membership is the lifeblood of any membership organization and ultimately a numbers game. Membership dues fund products and programs. It’s no secret that the BSA membership has declined since its peak in 1970’s along with many other membership driven organizations in today’s “Bowling Alone” society.
I turn my thoughts to my Scout leadership training and the Boy Scouts of America Mission:
“The mission of the Boy Scouts of America is to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law”
These are universal aspirations. While I don’t think Lord Baden-Powell envisioned a coed scouting program, we live in a very different time. I hope that these changes result in membership growth that allow our youth to experience exceptional leadership programming, can visit new places, test themselves, and have one-of-a-kind adventures that no other organization can offer.
Just as I was wrapping up this post, I heard my son arriving home from school. I realize, it doesn’t matter what I think about these changes. So I asked him if he realized that today was his first day as a member of Scouts BSA and how he felt about the change.
He thought about this for a second and replied “But I thought they will be in a separate Troop? Then it will always be Boy Scouts to me” and with that we finish packing our camping gear, got in the car together, and drove north to the Boy Scouts of America’s Camp Sol Crown for the annual Klondike Derby to test our Troop’s scouting skills against other Boy Scouts.
The Road Ahead
This year our Scout Troop will celebrate a big anniversary and we have been chartered by the same church for the entire 80 years! In anticipation of this policy change, our Troop leadership met with the chartering organization and we were excited to learn that they are supportive of having a girls’ troop too. So far there has been a lot of talk about the new troop, but now that Scouts BSA is official, I hope this will soon become a reality. I think it will be fun to watch young women work on Merit Badges and work their way through the ranks of scouting. And who knows, maybe someday I will have a grand daughter and I can help her navigate the path to becoming an Eagle Scout.
Scout Me In!
SCOUT ME IN!
Jim has enjoyed over ten years of Scouting with his two sons. He is a Wood Badge trained leader and has severed their Troop in a variety of leadership roles.
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