Scouting a different world
Sunday, October 14, 2018
I was a proud Boy Scout and Scout leader but had lost touch with the program.
However, my youngest grandson’s excitement over having just been signed up for Cub Scouts happened to open a window on some truly monumental changes in the Scouting world. Like me, you may have missed them.
The first is that the Boy Scouts will soon no longer be an all-boy organization. Although Boys Scouts of America (BSA) will continue to be the name of the umbrella organization, a new program will open for female participation in February. To be known as Scouts BSA, the program will enable male and female youth age 11-17 to earn all Scout ranks and merit badges up to the Eagle rank.
The Cub Scouts program for children age 5-10 was opened to girls in June. It’s important to note that while the Cub Scouts and the Scouts BSA programs will be open to both males and females, they will not be co-ed.
Scouts BSA troops for older youth will be either all-girl or all-boy. BSA leaders says this preserves the proven benefits of the single gender approach while extending Scouting’s character and leadership development opportunities to boys and girls alike.
Cub Scout packs are organized into several groups of six to eight children known as dens, and all dens will be single gender even if the entire pack may not be. Chartered organizations may choose to establish a new girl pack, form a pack made up of both girl dens and boy dens or maintain an all-boy pack.
Chartered organizations will not be required to offer programs for girls but can choose which models best meet the needs and interests of their communities.
BSA conducted extensive research on the change, evaluating input from thousands of volunteers who took part in nationwide family listening sessions. When surveyed, parents not involved with Scouting showed high interest in getting their daughters signed up, with 90 percent expressing interest in Cub Scouts and 87 percent in Boy Scouts.
What’s more, 90 percent of girls who were surveyed indicated they were interested in joining the Scouts BSA program for ages 11-17.
Due to this level of engagement, several local Scout councils around the country were allowed to begin a soft launch, welcoming girls into Cub Scouts as early as January of this year, and over 5,000 girls joined. The number of volunteers increased immediately, and volunteerism is expected to climb further as new Cub packs and Scouts BSA troops serving girls are established.
Will there be competition for membership between all-girl Scouts BSA troops and Girl Scout troops? No doubt. Existing Girl Scouts have already begun migrating to the Cub Scouts and many will undoubtedly plan to progress onward as the ranks of the previously all-male Boy Scouts are opened to them.
There seems to be nothing in the BSA curriculum — including the outdoor element — that girls or their parents find gender-specific, the ability to earn badges in specific interest areas is very similar in both organizations and the top award, Eagle Scout, may be better known than its Girl Scout equivalent, the Gold Award.
At the same time that the Boy Scouts of America is changing its name and admitting girls, another seismic shift is occurring in Scouting. The great majority of chartered organizations operating American Scout troops are churches. So it is huge that one of the largest of them — the Mormon or Latter-Day Saints church — is ending its 105-year relationship with the Boy Scouts. Mormon congregations will phase out of their sponsorship of Scouting programs by the end of 2019.
This will be a significant loss to American Scouting, since as many as 1 in 5 among 2.3 million Scouts in the U.S. are Mormon.
Latter-day Saints leaders say the decision is part of a broad restructuring of the church's programs for all its youth in the face of global Mormon growth. The majority of its membership now lives outside the United States, where Scouting is not generally available.
Bob Garner is a UNC-TV restaurant reviewer, freelance food writer, author of four cookbooks, barbecue pit master and public speaker. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.