Boy Scouts Seek a Way to Rebuild Ranks

The group is working to redefine itself amid falling numbers, a push for diversity and a knock on the door from girls.

Comments: 125

  1. This was a much better country and culture in the times when the Scouts were a more recognized organization. Though, I really don't see a problem with admitting girls who are interested in the outdoor activities associaated with scouting.

  2. So are they going to allow the children of atheists to join? And what about their nasty stance against homosexuals? One reason the Boy Scouts have lost so many members is the fact that the organization is controlled by fundamentalist Christians and Mormons, who have promoted their conservative religious dogma onto the scout members.

  3. Ex-Star Scout here who wouldn't be caught dead supporting these anti-Gay paranoids. Most pedophiles are nominally Straight, and children are more in danger now than ever.

  4. The Boy Scouts are and will remain irrelevant because they teach hate and exclusion. Atheists and gays are both forbidden membership, teaching each and every member it is okay to hate, fear, and exclude for none but the most flimsy of personal biases.

  5. As long as the Boy Scouts continue discriminating against gays, they will become increasingly irrelevant to parents and kids who do not want to condone ignorance and bigotry or be associated with an organization that does.

    It's, y'know, UN-AMERICAN and all?

  6. The adult scouting leadership has done its best to soil its own nest. I say this a
    s an eagle scout who takes no longer pride in the title embarrassed by the scouting mores I once thought prime.

    The changes needed are obvious. Begin with repudiation of those outmoded restrictions and those who still support them. (Let those join the african part of the episcopal church if they wish.)

    If I read the article correctly, I see little future. Recruiting in the hispanic community- did they or the writer or editor leave out whole other segments of our society. Perhaps none know the words Black, poor, etc. Until scouting accepts anyone and everyone- goodbye. Until the past elders make good the lost millions from their own selfish, shortsighted pockets= they will admit no shame for their decisions and lack of success and will represent a shame to the good values of scouting.

  7. The slow descent of the Boy Scouts is emblematic of American society's general disdain for middle-class white males. Virtually every aspect of today's culture and social "standards" seems increasingly slanted to intentionally disadvantage young males, particularly those of European and Asian descent.

    Those who would snarl at the Boy Scouts and wish for their disbandment don't understand what a wonderful organization it's been and the countless millions of young men it helped to align (yes, myself included).

  8. The Boy Scouts can shed their "exclusionary" image by stopping being exclusionary. My fifteen-year-old is one merit badge away from earning his Life Scout. This summer he came out. He is no longer welcome in an organization that accepted his membership (and considerable amounts of our money) from early childhood unless he is willing to hide a major facet of who he is, and to his credit he refuses to do so. Still, why should he (or we, as parents) be encouraged to be part of an organization that welcomed him before he came to terms with his own sexual orientation but shuns him now that he has? Why should we encourage other parents to put their children in the same situation? How horrible that the BSA considers a child not "morally straight" because the organization clings to some 1920s fantasy of what a "good man" should be.

  9. My sons will never be involved in the Boy Scouts, because we do not support institutionalized homophobia or religious discrimination. Which is too bad, because I think that there are many valuable skills that Boy Scouts can teach. I also think it's too bad that the Girl Scouts has gone full scale into self esteem workshops and endless filling out workbooks. I don't know much about what the Campfire organization is up to these days: it seems like a valid alternative, but I don't think there are any near me.

    I plan on finding a nature-oriented sleepaway camp for my kids when they get older, because I do want them to learn practical survival and nature skills. I can't say how valuable these things will be to their future lives, but they're fun to learn and can't hurt to know.

    Given the facts portrayed in your very scary article a few years ago about the paramilitary wing of the Boy Scouts, conducting fake raids where they round up Arabs and illegal immigrants, it's really not surprising that minorities aren't flocking to join up. This is not my father's Boy Scouts.

  10. As a former Scout of many years, I think the organization has to reverse its conservative tendencies that increased when its headquarters moved to Texas many years ago. Stop excluding atheists, gays, and females. Reach out to minorities much more aggressively: the Scout manual I read in the 70s had lots of pictures of minorities, but you sure didn't see them in jamborees and camps. De-emphasize the religious undertones of Scout creed. And above all: make it fun again.

    Boy Scouts offers a way to learn more about nature and be outdoors. You can hint at but you can't duplicate the thrill of whitewater rafting and mountain climbing with a video game. Learning how to sail and camp and fish and shoot rifles is a helluva lot of fun and you bond with fellow Scouts far more than you do at a private camp.

    Scouting can also instill self-reliance and resilience. The motto "Be Prepared" isn't just a happy thought. Scouting can teach you how to think ahead and what to do when things go wrong, in the woods or in a city.

    Boy Scouts has a lot to offer boys *and* girls. If its leaders emphasize fun, action and some discipline that will actually help kids, the number of members will jump up again.

  11. The scouts are not just "perceived" as exclusionary...they are are as a matter of policy actually exclusionary! And in addition to the thousands of boys, young men, and leaders excluded from the organization because its national leaders don't want to offend the Mormon church, one of the biggest drains on membership are the many more parents who don't want to teach their children that discrimination is morally straight. It's very curious that this was only given a passing reference in this article, given that here in the urban and suburban northeast that is one of the most common reasons given for not joining the organization.

  12. I reaped many benefits from my time as a boy scout and patrol leader: a feeling of ability and self-sufficiency, the beginnings of a sense of leadership, and a love of hiking, camping, and the woods.
    However, the boy scouts current exclusionary policies against gays and against atheists show that the organization has betrayed its true core principals. It was not supposed to be an organization based on the narrow-minded beliefs of adults. It was supposed to be an organization that fostered a love of the outdoors and a sense of manhood (or, if it admits girls, adulthood). Until the organization makes itself relevant by entering the inclusive 21st century, it deserves to lose membership.

  13. I am a former Eagle Scout who worked at one of the nation's largest scout camps for years. At the time, one of the things I thought was special about scouting was that when kids sat around the campfire, differences disappeared. The kids didn't know (and didn't care) if they were sitting next to someone who was Catholic, Jewish, Mormon or atheist, or if they were from the inner city or a farm town. Kids didn't know (or care) if someone on our staff was straight or gay. It wasn't relevant. What mattered was having fun, learning skills and making friends. I won't pretend that this was the case everywhere, but at our camp I saw it happen and I believe it was great for those kids.

    The Boy Scouts of America took this away when it decided to fight for the right to ban some people, and in doing so it set an example to kids that it's okay to exclude someone because he/she is different. I remember clearly the day the BSA won that court battle because it was the day that I decided I could never support an organization that would openly discriminate.

    I look forward to the day when my daughter will be going off to camp. With Outward Bound and countless other options, she will have the opportunity to learn about the great outdoors and how work with others, no matter what the differences -- a skill more valuable than any merit badge.

  14. The 4 H youth clubs have always been intergenerational and the mix of all ages together with boys and girls is the modern extended family concept. Boy Scouting needs to embrace this tradition. Stop segregating group activities by same sex, and same ages. Older children advance and master their own knowledge base when they teach a younger child what they know.

  15. Until the scouts allow gay and atheist members they deserve to decline. Times have changed and the scouts need to change also.

  16. O please! The scouts do not teach hate and exclusion. They do community service and learn to love the outdoors. It was the best thing my son was ever involved in. This is coming from his atheist mother.

  17. As long as the Boy Scouts discriminate against gays and atheists, it will be increasingly irrelevant in an increasingly pluralistic American society. As a former Life Scout and patrol leader, I would not dream of encouraging anyone to join this organization that insists on excluding boys based on who they are and what they believe.

  18. The Boy Scouts' willingness to face the taunts of the liberal ghetto by excluding homosexuals is a cause for pride to many in the Scouting community. Frankly, if the Boy Scouts were to take the steps advocated by this article and the majority of its commenters, it would die a quick and unmourned death.

  19. Every boy in my neighborhood in the Sudio City section of LA was in the Cub Scouts and then the Boy Scouts. We met at the local grammer school. Mothers and fathers participated. We studied campcraft and merit badges. Mr.Anthony, the assistant scoutmaster, drilled us on the blacktop. He was a WWII vet like most of the fathers. We had fun. There was diversity: WASPS, Jews, Catholics, non-blievers. Religion never came up. Most of us knew that one or two guys were gay...we didn't care. They were part of our Troop..Troop 76. Why did I lose interest in Scouting? Girls! I still have my scouting manuals.

  20. Hmm, ditch the militarism, embrace diversity, I think that ought to just about do it. The weird agenda that the leadership is pushing is just anti-American, and not what the Boy Scouts was supposed to be about. Also, it should foster independence for young people, but they (and all youth activities, for that matter) are so over-supervised, that there is no room for growth of character and maturity.

  21. When I earned Eagle, I actually looked forward to mentoring kids in Scouts just as my leaders had done for me once I became an adult.
    Unfortunately, if I am to adhere to the Law that I swore, I cannot support the Boy Scouting organization today. I barely even recognize the Scouting of today compared to the inclusive and tolerant environment that my Scoutmasters fostered for me and my fellow Scouts (one of which was and is gay, and another Eagle like myself).
    If they become co-ed at all age levels, accept that "Reverent" means different things to different people (including atheists), and accept abandon their stance on the supposed "morality" of homosexuality, and if they can somehow stop being a national outreach program for the Mormons, then maybe I'll come back.

  22. Lamenting the loss of an illusionary 1950's middle class, heterosexual, christian orthodoxy suggests that perhaps they could change their name to Tea Party Trainees and be just as successful.

  23. First and foremost, I oppose the discriminatory policies eet forth by the Boy Scouts, and as a Den Leader, work every day towards changing those policies for good. Let's be clear, Scouts does NOT teach Scouts to discriminate against gays, aetheists or any other race, creed, sexual orientation. If anything, Scouts teaches boys to be inclusive and help other people. If it were any other way, I would not have my son participating and I would not be taking a leadership role. But it's also through that role that I feel I can make the most impact on the organization and shape it into a better model for the 21st century.

    When people bring up this issues, I face them head-on and say that the experience they Boys have is totally unrelated on a local level to a misguided national issue. Scouts has so much to offer, it's disappointing that parent's take such a narrow view and discount the organization on a few bad, national policies rather than looking at the great personal experience Scouts has on young boys on their way to becoming men. For me, it's better to fight the fight from within. I just hope more will join me to make Scouts an even greater organization for ALL that want to join and participate.

  24. The Boys Scouts changed when they moved from New Jersey to Richardson, TX. They started to exclude gays and atheists almost immediately. ("Morally straight" did NOT mean "not gay" in 1910, or even in 1960.) A lot of the intolerant, exclusionary behavior has to do with the LDS Church that reportedly sponsors more than 50% of the troops in the U.S. They made it clear with their support of California Prop 8 how they feel about homosexuals. I don't expect the BSA or the Mormons to become less exclusionary any time soon. I came very close to returning my Eagle Scout pin a few years ago, but I realized I would not be returning it to the same organization that bestowed it on me in the 1960s. (Anti-gay Anita Bryant spoke at the 1964 Valley Forge Jamboree but then she was only selling orange juice!) Unfortunately the organization that taught me to use a compass has lost its own direction.

  25. As a kid I never had use for any organization that would increase my contact with adults. Those large bossy life forms were to be avoided at all costs and this was difficult as they seemed to be everywhere; at home, in school, selling stuff to you, driving around in cop cars, etc. So the guys in my neighborhood hung out in the swamp, behind the school when it was not in session, in vacant lots, abandoned buildings and so on. We had a great time playing sports, messing with fireworks, arguing and waiting to be....well grownups. So we didn't join the Scouts or the Junior Achievers or Little League where adults would be setting rules and being in charge. We grew up to be fairly typical citizens with jobs and families and problems.
    Today things are different. All grown ups must work to maintain a standard of living so there are no moms at home to make the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that sustained us and the media have everyone convinced that unmarked vans are trolling every street 24/7 looking for unsupervised kids to kidnap and sell into some horrible fate. As a result I guess there is some need for kids to have these activity options run by adults. The Scouts tragically have become known for several flavors of bigotry so it would probably be best if they died on the vine. Maybe more endless soccer leagues and baseball camps are the answer.

  26. Anti-gay policy has to change before they can be perceived as relevant.

  27. I took my son to a Cub Scout session because his best friend was a member, and I was stunned and sickened by the over the top emphasis on religion, with the implication that my son would not be welcome if he did not conform to the leader's views as presented. We have never been back, nor will we ever be!

  28. My 83-year-old father is a former executive scouter, and I became a life scout when he was scoutmaster of my troop. Not even he thinks the scouts are relevant any more! He doesn't like the elitist exclusion of gays and atheists, but for him the greatest outrage was when they lied about their membership to get more money out of the United Fund. I agree with him wholeheartedly. I might add that their slovenly appearance and lack of discipline aren't helping any.

    When an 83-year-old man thinks you're behind the times, you are definitely behind the times. Why don't they just cut to the chase and disband?

  29. All of the religious/homophobia stuff aside... how about someone works on making Girl Scouts less stupid, instead of allowing girls into BOY Scouts? I dropped out soon after I graduated from Brownies because I had no interest in sitting around making friendship bracelets and selling cookies, similar to what the girl quoted in the article said. However, I also had no interest in joining the ranks of my two younger brothers in the Boy Scouts because, well, I'm not a boy. If Girl Scouts was more about scouting and less about being a cookie peddler then maybe girls interested in the kinds of things that the Boy Scouts get to do would have a different outlet than being a lone girl in a troop of prepubescent, soon to be post-pubescent and hormonal, boys.

  30. All I know is that I will never let my son join that discriminatory and hate teaching organization. There is nothing good that will ever come from the BSA.

    They are as anti-American an organization as has ever existed in this nation.

  31. My under ten daughter really wants to join her brothers and her close friends. So sad that she cannot.

  32. Once again it seems we have a lot to learn from our neighbors to the north. Scouts Canada, the Canadian wing of Baden Powell's World Organization of the Scout Movement, is an inclusive organization that openly states acceptance of all children. The organization openly welcomes children regardless of race, class, gender and/or sexual orientation. Furthermore, Scouts Canada promotes global citizenship in addition to instilling a pride in Canada.

  33. What seems lost in this article and in the comments is an appreciation for the ecological and scientific content of the scouting program. Our kids developed a deep connection to the natural world and a robust environmental ethics as a result of dozens of outings in our region's forests and streams. I'm guessing our environmental problems will just get worse and worse, so folks should recognize and value a national youth organization committed to developing ecological awareness and giving kids substantial wilderness experiences.

  34. I was in scouting for many years and it was a wonderful experience. I read Boy's Life magazine, attended jamborees and worked on merit badge projects. Was it perfect? Of course not. But, compared to the offerings of the government run schools and the mainstream media, it was an oasis.

    Boys need good male role models so that they can grow up to be men. The next time you meet a man who is well dressed, clean shaven, has good manners, and can tie a knot (as well as other useful skills) you are probably dealing with someone who was touched by an organization like BSA.

    On the other hand, the next time you meet a boy (Not a man, perhaps afraid to become one) with the baggy pants, the downward stare, the mumbling speech, and a confused world view, you can thank the media and the public schools for the consequences of their misguided vision of manhood.

  35. I was a LIfe Scout (the rank just below eagle for those who don't know) and it was one of the best expriences of my life. As others have stated, they took kids from all backgrounds and put us all together in settings where our differences gave way to comraderie and friendship.

    This coexistence and bonding in spite of differences was one of the things that made Scouting great. The exclusion of gays and atheists, which was not an issue that I recall from the 70's and 80's, is antithetical to the best values I gained from my involvement.

  36. Isn't it a little late to be having this discourse? The Scouts have worked very hard to render themselves irrelevant. This article is a perfect illustration to support the point.

  37. Why are so many people against the Boy Scouts here? It seems to be mainly because they exclude those who wouldn't be considered morally straight by the standards the Boy Scouts hold to, which they have every right to do. Although the gay community tries to insist that anyone who excludes gays is a bigot, that is clearly not the case. I myself have nothing against gays personally, but believe living the gay lifestyle is an immoral choice. Whether being attracted to members of the same sex is genetically determined or a personal choice is beside the point. People don't have to act on their every feeling according to their nature, that's what separates us from animals. If everyone acted on their every native impulse, we'd see a million times more crime and violence everyday. I too would be a factor in that. Bravo to the Boy Scouts for upholding moral standards and the dignity of human beings!

  38. Quite frankly, I think everyone is overreacting about this "exclusion" in Boy Scouts. The media's making a big deal of it, as usual, and people are buying into it. Yeah, there are a FEW troops excluding gays and Atheists. Does that mean every troop and Boy Scouts as a whole excludes them? For the troops who do practice hate, it is them who should be scorned. Not the program.

    Also I cannot take seriously anyone who says girls under age 13 should be allowed to join BOY Scouts. For the young lady who says Girl Scouts don't do enough high adventure, then obviously your troop fails at scouting.

  39. The Boy Scouts have a lot of prepubescent members. Even if gays were totally worthless and destined only to hell, the anti-gay policy is viciously cruel. It tells a heterosexual boy with late onset of puberty, that he cannot confide his misgivings in anyone. It says, "You could have a secret, that if you tell me about it, I will blab it to everyone, embarrass you in front of your parents, and make all your friends ridicule you." And that from an organization that teaches boys how to tie a noose.

    Good God, what were they thinking?

  40. lol, a mass of uniformed kids swaddled in Americana at a place memorializing a Confederate general.

    The organizers deserve a patch for historial irony.

  41. I was a scout for many years and value the skills and memories I took with me into adulthood. Nights camping under the starts or afternoons spent teaching younger scouts knot tying or map reading taught leadership and independence. You can't get this on a screen or in a classroom.

    At the same time, the increasingly conservative, homogenous makeup of the organization today is worrisome. If Scouting wants to regain its standing in American society, focus on what you do best... giving boys of all backgrounds the confidence, leadership ability, and discipline necessary to become honest, hard working men.

  42. @RobDesign #23:

    You state, "When people bring up this issues, I face them head-on and say that the experience they Boys have is totally unrelated on a local level to a misguided national issue."

    But for kids with gay parents, kids who are gay, or kids in the Scouts who subsequently recognize their own gay identity, it is related at the local level. Similarly for atheist parents and kids, and kids whose socioeconomic or ethnic groups are not represented in the Scouts..while it may not be related to your personal experience as (I assume) a person who is not a member of these groups, it is most decidedly a part of their experience. Unless you mean to suggest that your troop openly and publicly ignores such rules? Are the openly gay fathers of Scouts allowed to accompany the troop on camping trips?

    If you don't know any such fathers in your troop, be assured that the national issue is most decidedly being played out at the local level.

  43. What a bunch of jerks. Clearly behind the times. Looks like their hateful policies and their shameful win in BSA v. Dale is coming back to haunt them.

  44. I know atheist and gay Scouts who have recently obtained their Eagle rank, and not by subterfuge. The policies of the national BSA are not always strictly enforced on the local level. There's a sense of boys and their leaders working to take the best the organization has to offer and ignoring the precepts that are discriminatory. Some boys and/or their families drop out because they don't want to make the commitment of time and effort that Scouting takes, in part due to conflicts with sports & other activities, in part because you have to show up and accomplish something. If girls can join Boy Scouts, can boys join Girl Scouts?

  45. Youth is devoted to group identity development, which may, in fact, be its only purpose. And too, where are the boys waiting to be accepted as girl scouts?

    As a 72 year old former Scout, Explorer Scout, Order of The Arrow Brotherhood member; the key distinction is BOY, i.e. MALE Scout, identity, vs no distinctive group identity at all. This is excepting, of course, one's individual identity, which we should all have, instinctively.

    The Boy Scouts (like the Girl Scouts) should not and should never have allowed members of the other gender, no matter what age they have reached; and the Scouts, like all distinctive groups, have and will suffer from any loss of distinctions.

    The issues of religion or sexual preference, are, and should be, irrelevant. However old fashioned I may be in the matter, I am reminded that the best of the ancient Greek warriors were also among homosexual practitioners, but suffered no impediment from this. The gender difference, is the crucial difference -- and is th
    e major, if not the only, distinction within species.

    Without our distinctions, what are we anyway? Cyborgs?

  46. Another former Life Scout here. One thing that people need to understand is that each troop has its own culture, which is shaped by the Scoutmaster. I belonged to a wonderful troop, led by amazing, compassionate men (and one female Assistant Scoutmaster) who imparted important life lessons and served as mentors to dozens of teenagers. During my time in Scouting, I learned about camping and environmental awareness, photography and first aid - skills I still use over 20 years later.

    It is unfortunate to read people swear they will never be associated with the organization, when there may be a local troop that would provide their child with a wonderful experience. Until you reach Eagle Scout, the national policies of the BSA have virtually no impact on one's experience in scouting. Rather, the local troop leadership is what matters, and there are numerous great leaders involved with the organization who strongly disagree with the National Council's bigoted positions.

  47. My experience in the BSA was one of the best things that ever happened to me. My family was financially challenged as a youth and I would not have had the chance to experience many outstanding adventures if I was not involved in Scouting. We went on hikes, camped out, cooked our own meals and learned the values of being prepared, how to work as a team, and how to accept responsibility and leadership roles. Every day of my life I put those skills to use and I have many selfless leaders, as well as other scouts to thank for giving me those invaluable gifts. I still try to adhere to the motto to "Do a Good Deed Daily"

    As I read the derogatory comments posted here I wonder how many of these naysayers can tie a taunt line hitch, a square knot or a bowline with their eyes closed!

  48. I received my Eagle Scout badge five years ago, and I consider it one of the proudest achievements of my life. They say that less than 3% of Boy Scouts receive Eagle, and it's true. In my troop, we averaged about one Eagle every three years, with many boys either dropping out or simply running out of time.

    But the year I got Eagle, our troop had FIVE Eagles in the same year -- all me and my best friends, who had been Scouts together since we were Tiger Cubs and who used Scouts as an outlet for adventure, bonding, and leadership that we simply couldn't find anywhere else. We supported each other through the ranks, elected each other as our leaders, and had many unforgettable campouts during the summer and even the winter.

    Not once did our adult leaders -- all simply fathers spending time with their sons -- ever impose their beliefs on us or make anyone feel excluded. We had open-minded discussions on religion with our leaders, but only if we, the boys, brought it up. Several boys in the troop have since come out as homosexual; none of us knew then, or even cared. They were simply friends, patrol leaders, quartermasters and cooks.

    My Scoutmaster had lost a child at an early age, and he stayed on to lead the troop long after his other son had left the troop. I do believe that leading us boys, seeing us grow and mature and eventually become Eagles, helped him cope with his loss in a way none of us could ever understand.

    It saddens me immensely to hear of the organization's steady decline. I wish I could defend the organization, as it has shaped me as a responsible young adult more than anything else in my life, but there is no excuse for what has happened to Scouting since BSA v Dale. On a troop level, the BSA is one of the most valuable organizations for young men (and, perhaps soon, young women) there is; on the national level -- where, unfortunately, its reputation is built -- it is reprehensible.

  49. I was a scout for most of the 1970s and reached the rank of Eagle. I still have many fond memories and carry with me many fundamental skills and knowledge accumulated during my membership.

    I came out of the closet shortly after obtaining my Eagle. While in the scouts I don't remember a single mention of homosexuality, positive or negative, or of excluding any group unlike the bigoted organization that it has become today. One of the greatest ideals I learned in scouting was the concept of inclusion and the scouts worked this concept hard back then with modifications to allow more inner city youth to participate in the once spendor of scouting.

    As they say, fish rot from the head down. Just exactly what values do the top leaders expect to teach the current scouts? Superiority over minority groups? That exclusion and bigotry is an ideal to strive for? That Christianity is exclusively good and other religions or lack of faith are bad and to be shuned?

    I am ashamed of what scouting has become. Perhaps The BoyScouts needs to die, along with the bigotry that it now proudly wears on its sleave as a badge of honour.

  50. I am extremely disappointed that the impressions of the two young women mentioned are the only opinions of Girl Scouts given in the article. Activities depend on the troop. Some troops are more likely to do outdoors activities, some more likely to do crafts. They made it sound like those are the only things Girl Scouts do.

    I was a Girl Scout for 13 years and we certainly did not just sit around making quilts and selling cookies. (Yes, we did do both of those things, BUT we donated the quilts to charity and selling cookies actually teaches you many business skills.) My troop also went camping, sometimes monthly. We went canoeing and hiking. We participated in 3 weekend long camping competitions. We (the middle school aged girls) planned and carried out a week-long trip to Victoria, BC. In one 3-year period, we earned over 40 merit badges. We went rock climbing. We learned how to make pottery from one girl's mom, who was a professional artist. We spent several months visiting a retirement home to play games with residents. We went horseback riding in the woods. We were also able to be a sensitive, caring, supportive - loving - group of friends. I may be wrong, but I don't imagine there is a lot of room for that in Boy Scouts.

    My favorite part of the article is the last line: "Then for the Scouts, it will be back to finding a way out of the woods."

    In Girl Scouts, we joke that the Boy Scouts are always the ones you hear about getting lost in the wilderness. :)

  51. My first years of Scouting were pretty good ones, and those that led us did an excellent job. I am of Jewish descent, and therefore declined to attend post-campout services at the Dutch Reformed Church. The Scoutmasters were not thrilled with my not attending services, but they tolerated it. The next Scoutmaster was a drunk who nearly destroyed the troop. Years later, he was found guilty of murdering his girlfriend with a claw hammer. When on campouts he would bring alcohol with him, disguised as other, more innocuous, drinks. He was replaced with a tyrant who did not tolerate my not attending church or my family's Jewish background. To this day, I am convinced that it was he who sent the goon squad of the troop to sabotage my Eagle project. The Scoutmaster said with a barely contained smug grin that I would not be given another chance to make Eagle. It put a horrible taste in my mouth for Scouting. I would have proudly served the Scouts after I became an adult until I learned that there are adults like this man whose intolerance leads to the derailment of the goals of young people like myself. I always had trouble with that "reverent" part of the Scout Law, because I was made to feel that it was exclusive to Christians. I grew up to be an agnostic...not because I don't think there might be some kind of creative force out there, but because I perceive organized religion to be one of the most pernicious dangers facing humankind. Its inclusiveness is achieved through divisiveness, its absolute dogmatic approach to the world is ludicrous, and usually designed to keep women subjugated by men.

    I know there are a few good troops left out there (in my area there are at least two excellent troops), but the experience this one scoutmaster thrust upon me has forever soured my taste for this once-excellent organization. The Scout Law should be reworded:

    "A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and tolerant." The Scout Oath should be changed to "On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to my country and to obey the Scout Law, to help other people at all times, to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight."

    Putting "God" in there makes the Scouts little more than an extension of the Church. If that's the case, then rename the organization "Young Soldiers For Christ" or something a little more honest.

    I wonder if Sir Baden-Powell would approve of the direction Scouting has taken...

  52. I am an Eagle Scout and have served as a scoutmaster for our local troop for 6 years while our boys all grew up. You can get all wrapped up in national politics and be high and mighty but ultimately the impact on youth and success of scouting is all local. BSA national has lost it's way and forgotten its roots (it's about boys in the woods and learning to control their wildness) but it's parental support, a wealth of creative and engaging activities, and a sense of local relevance that makes the program work and keeps boys in. We spent zero hours worrying about who believed what or came from where. We went from 7 boys to 46 in our troop in 3 years by allowing boys to be boys and helping them to channel their energy.
    Girls do not belong in an organization of 11 to 15 year old emerging male adolescents who are camping (hopefully) in the woods. One of the appeals to boys is that scouts done right is a place they can be themselves - bad gas and all. It is a release as well as a discipline and for many boys the only one available.
    National BSA should be held to task. In th

  53. I can back up Rob (#23) and Susan (#44)...I am an Eagle Scout whose atheism was well-known among my fellow scouts and scout leaders in my town's troop (in the sense that I'm pretty sure it was clear I never went to church. It's not like I made a fuss about saying "God" in the Scout Oath or Pledge of Allegiance or anything, because frankly given the entirely sensible and respectable nature of the remainder of those pledges, that one 3-letter word never bothered me that much).

    Nonetheless, the troop was entirely welcoming and even looked the other way when I submitted a reference letter from a family friend in place of the letter from one's "religious leader" that is one of the requirements for earning the rank of Eagle Scout. The key was that, on the local level, at least in my town, the membership of our troop consisted of boys from school and their fathers who had no interest in excluding the friends of their sons, no matter what their beliefs, as long as they subscribed to *their* view of what Scouts was about: teaching young boys how to become young men.

    I don't deny that some may find their particular local troop has a bigot or two in a key leadership position(s) who cling tightly to the admittedly bigoted and dated policies of the national office, but for those people, I would highly recommend seeking out another nearby troop that may be more tolerant. They *are* out there, and I would contend that they are the majority.

    As a side note, the article points out 3 "core values" (trustworthy, loyal, helpful) in the Scout Law (which begins with "A Scout is..."), but there are actually 9 more (friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent). Like anything, several of those are open to interpretation, but in my mind, those are mostly all values we can aspire to, even in today's modern world where being brave can mean defending the beliefs or sexual orientation of your fellow scout, and for the agnostics/atheists like me, being clean and reverent are simply reminders to be respectful of others and of yourself, and recognize both the fragility and majesty of the natural world (the second home of the Scout), and to do what we can to respect and protect it. As for the other elements of the Boy Scout creed, the Motto and Slogan, "Be Prepared" and "Do a good turn [deed] daily", I'd say that's good advice all around!...

  54. The perception of the Boy Scouts being exclusive is in place because the Boy Scouts have insited on being involved in several court cases excluding individuals who don't happen fit into who they choose to have join their ranks. My young son has asked about joining the Scouts more than once, but I'm reluctant to have him involved.

    Our local troops are led by great people, with a few progressive thinking parents, and their ranks are filled with wonderful kids. Still, the Boy Scouts tarnished their image in my mind, and I can't shake my reluctance to have my son join.

    My daughter is very active in the Girl Scouts, and they seem so very different to me. I even looked into starting an Earth Scouts group: Its a commitment, and I still forget to bring canvas bags to the grocery most of the time.

    Boy Scouts should be a good place for all kids, but I can't shake the feeling that they only welcome one type of kid.

  55. I became an Eagle Scout in the early sixties and look back at the experiences that I had in the Boy Scouts as both fun and a great learning experience. But times were different then and Scouting was looked upon in a completely different manner.

    I firmly believe that the main reason I stayed with Scouting till I achieved Eagle Scout was the fact that my Dad was involved as were many other fathers just like who were there to help and teach and who enjoyed being there as much as us boys did. You don't really see that today as there are just too many things to do.

    I'm afraid that the Boy Scouts have quite literally outlived there usefulness. They do not appear to be capable of changing and they won't change.

    Both of my sons were in scouting through Cub Scouts and the oldest through several years of Boy Scouting. They both lost interest as their friends and peers were doing more interesting things...and, compared to scouting, they were. The three of us were fortunate as we enjoyed many wonderful times together doing many of the things scouting use to promise and more. At the time my Sons were involved I spent three years as Cub Master and we had over seventy boys, today that same Pack has fifteen.

    As Baden Powell said, "Be Prepared." Be prepared to call it a day and move on to something more timely and useful.

  56. Here are 45,000 kids being active, choosing to do rather than watch.
    My family does not agree with the policies of the headquarters, but we are trying to affect changes from within. The boys all work together to raise money needed for running the troop, we pass on outgrown clothing. The boys run the meetings (learn by doing) and determine activities for the year. Each scout offers service to their community every year. They teach the younger scouts what they learned from older scouts. The adults act as mentors. God only comes up during the Pledge of Allegiance (though they are encouraged to learn more about their families beliefs and can earn religious awards if they so choose), and excluding people never comes up.
    At this jamboree there are scout troops from at least 26 different countries. Take a look at the pictures at and see the diversity. This can only help foster kindness and understanding in the world. The kids are learning by doing and talking to some great leaders. It seemed like the reporter saw nothing positive. While technology is at the jamboree, the kids are unplugged at campsites. The boys from our home troop are split up and placed with other boys within our state so they are forced to communicate, work with, get along with, and form friendships with strangers. All skills they need as members of a peaceful world community.
    I'm glad my son has stayed with scouts and is working toward becoming an Eagle scout. When they achieve Eagle it is something they have earned through hard work over many years, it is not an award they get just by showing up to every meeting. They have learned skills. This is a great organization. It needs to change, but the core of teaching kids how to be self sufficient, productive, (and ironically enough) tolerant members of their community is rock solid.

  57. The scouts I've been around for 50 years are inclusive and spend their time learning skills and serving others. They are just boys. We actually learned about the ways of Native Americans. The Order of the Arrow is based on traditions of those living in America when Europeans arrived. There is a religious element but these elements are not required. Being reverent doesn't demand following a particular religion. Right and wrong is emphasized and sexual orientation is not a subject that has been discussed. Different leaders might have different requirements, but as a whole the Scouts are not pushing an agenda and right and wrong is what is affirmed.

    "The Order of the Arrow is a 'thing of the spirit' rather than of mechanics. Organization, operational procedure, and paraphernalia are necessary in any large and growing movement, but they are not what count in the end. The things of the spirit count: Brotherhood, in a day when there is too much hatred at home and abroad; Cheerfulness, in a day when the pessimists have the floor; Service, in a day when millions are interested only in getting or grasping rather than giving."
    — E. Urner Goodman[1]

  58. I had the exact opposite experience with the Girl Scouts than those commenting.

    I have no recollection of quilting and loved selling cookies, because it allowed me to learn how to make a sales pitch and how to manage money. But I did more than that.

    I learned to sail and to camp. I can use a compass, tie any knot, build a fire out of nothing. Throw me in the woods, I'll more than survive.

    Due to planned activities, I learned not to be afraid of the disabled or the elderly, which is more than I can say for the kids I see today who turn to their parents' iPhones whenever they wish to escape an uncomfortable or inconvenient adult situation.

    I also learned local history and at a young age gained an understanding of how economic changes in my community led to job losses and pockets of poverty with the demise of New England's textile industry.

    My troop also went on field trips. On one of those trips I realized, at 9 years old, what I wanted to do with the rest of my life and I'm doing that work today.

    Maybe I had much better troop leaders?

  59. This would be a groundbreaking article if it were from 1989. While membership numbers peaked in 1973 they have fluctuated up and down as the number of eligible boys has fallen and risen. If the BSA is "losing" or 'gaining" members, it's mostly a matter of demographics. Around the turn of the century, numbers were booming. Also, the Youth Protection program stated in the mid 80s and there has been a drastic reduction in cases of pedophilia since then. The BSA screens adult leaders, prohibits boys from being alone with adults one-on-one, and vigorously reports any cases of abuse to proper civil authorities. While some of the founders of the BSA and the worldwide scouting movement may have been pedophiles, it has never tolerated or condoned abuse as an official policy. Of course pedophiles still try to become adult leaders, just as pedophiles try to become teachers, coaches and clergy, but the BSA will do every thing in its power to stop them, unlike most other institutions where adults have contact with children.

  60. I grew up doing Girl Scouting and then Boy Scouts as an Explorer (what is now Venturing)in the Midwest.

    At Girl Scout camp, we learned to tie knots and build multiple types of fires; we slept in tents and dealt with heat and insects; we shot bows, muzzleloaders, rifles, and shotguns; we rode horses and learned how to care for them so that the animals were more than things that you paid someone else to clean up after. We also sang camp songs, went hiking, had daily flag ceremonies, had camp staff from around the world and the subsequent exposure to other countries' traditions, and had talent shows where girls demonstrated individual abilities as well as group skits. There were male staff members and they were simply presented as fact, not belittled for their presence. Camp facilities were licensed and well maintained, and every staff member from cook to director was certified in First Aid and CPR.

    I also went to the nearby Boy Scout camp (where my younger brother had gone for years) one time. There, the counselors had a Spam eating contest instead of planning any meaningful group activities. Boys were hauled off to join Order of the Arrow and endure the ordeals that came with initiation all while being unable to speak. At the talent show for the visiting parents and families, I watched in horror as a large group of preteen boys sang a song about visiting a prostitute, all with the collected troop leader's approval and encouragement. Worse, the few female camp staff were forced to dance on stage during the song while the older teens and other men present catcalled them. Just because kids don't know what shady ladies are doesn't make it OK for kids to sing about them.

    This same Boy Scout camp once had a rappelling tower that was built of creosoted lumber that was condemned as unsafe. Rather than tearing it down and disposing of it safely, they burned it down and created a miles-long plume of toxic smoke. Of the staff, only the lifeguards and the camp nurse had to prove First Aid and CPR certification because the council felt it was too time consuming to train the entire staff.

    As a Girl Scout, yes, I sold cookies, but I earned lots of money to go to camp and never had a problem with product quality. As a Boy Scout, my brother sold popcorn to support his troop, and every other year it seemed the entire batch of kernels was contaminated with insects by the vendor. Yum!

    Times have changed for both flavors of Scouting--the question is, will Scouting change with the times? Girl Scouts, in my experience, don't have nearly as far to go to maintain or regain respectability with me or the populace at large.

  61. The Boy Scouts have spent years fouling their own nests.

    My son, and his father, left twenty years ago. His father had been "helping out", but was there primarily to make sure the other boys didn't bully our son, since the Scout leader had declined to do so. The final straw came on an overnight when my husband began having an asthma attack and, rather than remembering their first aid training, both scouts and leader began teasing him. My husband and son packed up and came home, never to return.

    But the Boy Scouts really began losing numbers in our community when they instituted their policy against homosexuals. This violated community policies which demand equal access, and the school department could not, by law, as well as by personal taste and the rules of the regional Boy Scout organization, allow them to continue recruiting for Boy Scouts in the schools. They were informed at the time, by our New England community as well as by the regional Scouts, that their policy might work in more conservative areas, but was violating both law and community values all over the Northeast.

    And they didn't care.

    This is in contrast with the Girl Scouts, which has an open policy, and does so much more than quilt and sell cookies. They also have training for leaders, something the Boy Scouts in the area we lived in seemed to lack, since we'd often have Boy Scout as well as Girl Scout leaders at Girl Scout run classes in knot tying, fire starting, and first aid.

  62. As a member of Troupe 86 in Concord NH in the late 60's, I was forced to fake a stomach ailment in order to extricate myself from our annual Klondike Derby (a variety of wintertime challenges; navigating, building a fire, etc... for honors and prizes) when I became aware that my fellow upstanding, loyal, and trustworthy scouts had pre-opened our sealed instructions to have advance knowledge of what they'd be called upon to accomplish, and pre soaked their fire wood in kerosene to guarantee quick ignition.

    The next day in church my scoutmaster, Mr Robinson, told my mother I was "a quitter." My mother, who was aware of the (for a 12 year old) irresolvable moral dilemma which had forced my withdrawal, told him in no uncertain terms that I was the only one of his Scouts who wanted to play by the rules.

    I withdrew from Scouting the next day, having found the Scouts of my acquaintance to be as loathsome a group of little hypocrites and cheaters as I ever hoped to encounter.

    And that was during Scouting's "Golden Age." It comes as no surprise to me that the organization is having difficulty attracting members.

  63. I am the father of two Life Scouts. One is an Ivy League graduate who just graduated from a top 20 law school. The second son is attending an Ivy League school. We are not wealthy people, but my wife and myself gave our time to the kids when they were growing up. Scouting was an important part of the lives of our children. Scouts make over 4,000 decisions about themselves during their time in the movement. They learn to be independent. My boys camped in 30 degree below zero weather in the annual Deep Freeze sponsored by their Boy Scout Council. They know how to rescue those in distress and how to keep safe themselves. They know how to shoot a gun safely and how to cook a meal from scratch. They are very competent young adults in part because of their years as Scouts. I owe Scouting a lot because serious adults took their own time to teach my boys about skills that I do not have.
    Is exclusion bad? Of course.
    Do my boys have the smarts to know right from wrong? Yes. The motto "Be Prepared" can be interpreted many ways. I think Scouting has helped by boys be prepared for what life throws at them.
    Scouting needs to survive.

  64. When I was a little girl I always wanted to be a boy scout. It seemed so much more fun than selling cookies. Cookies can not compete with campfires and fishing. I always thought that when I had a son he would be a boy scout. I sought for him the lessons, being outdoors and the bonds of friendship that I thought the Scouts could provide. But as an atheist and some one believes in equal rights regardless of your sexual orientation I could never let my child join a group that condones discrimination. The scouts I imagined was a wonderful group that embraced all boys that wanted fun and adventure. It was not an exclusionary group that taught our kids bias and that anyone different was bad. I hope that when I have a child the scouts will once again be the group I had wished to join as a child.

  65. BSA is certainly one of the best, if not the best organizations in the USA. It allows families a format to get together and campout and share time in an otherwise very busy world where many of us would not make time. My son and I created a lot of fun memories along the way. Aside from opening prayer and the Scout oathe, discussions of race, religion, sexual orientation never took place. Being atheist, I never felt put upon or threatened.
    For the 8 or so years that we spent in Scouting, our Pack/Troop practiced the 2 deep leadership program that in effect keeps adults in eye contact with each other. That is taught in the Youth Protection Program. This is a very simple yet effective process that many organizations follow now to protect kids in an increasingly predatory society.
    As far as banning homosexuals, people do get confused and equate a male Scoutmaster sexually assaulting a male Scout as a same sex event and unfortunately think of it first as a homosexual event rather than an assault on a child.
    As far as Hispanics and Blacks being involved in Scouting, I have seen wonderful representation at jamborees. I say wonderful because with a little observation, you can see slight financial differences between many of the Troops: Black, White, and Brown but they are all enjoying the same experience. The critical factor being PARENTAL involvement.
    Lastly, one of our best Troop leaders was a mom and her Girl Scout experience included a 24 hour survival course that pretty much included a box of matches, a sheet of plastic and a gallon of water and shovel. She ate grubs. If you don't like your Girl Scout Troop, change it. Don't attack another organization because they are doing something well.
    Boys have enough challenges.

  66. My uncles were Eagle Scouts in the 1920s, my father in the 1930s, my brother and all of our cousins in the 1960s. My own sons in the 1980s and 90s were not interested, and I did not encourage them. Unlike the scouting of the past, which stressed "being prepared" -- first aid, camping, life-saving, studying nature...and American history and citizenship -latter day scouting, at least in our town, was dominated by fundamentalist churches that a fetish of confessing religious belief, of reflexive, my-country-right-or-wrong nationalism, and the exclusions mentioned by others. Not my family's Boy Scouts of the past, not the lessons we hoped for our sons. I'm not sure the current leaders of the scouts are capable of saving them.

  67. A great demographic trend missed in this discussion is the evolution of the American family to the single parent setting. As a child of a single family household many years ago , the mentoring and leadership skills I learned from the volunteer male role models in scouting have proven very important. The fellowship was real and my exposure and enjoyment of nature and the outdoors a life time benefit from Scouts. Scouting integrated me with kids from all income scales and the diversity of my neck of the woods Connecticut. The model was inclusive if the areas demographics limited.

    The core focus I recall was self development of personal and leadership skills. The program permitted self discovery that is less tolerated now with highly programmed and over scheduled youth. Hanging out your peers merely enjoying being in nature is unlikely to satisfy the programmatic sense of today's achievement. The goal of a an adult in Scouts which I was privileged to enjoy was to permit the kids to run the show themselves with the adults ideally in the background as support. The number of adult volunteers was always a problem and the cultural "problem" of the role of Moms a difficulty.

    The culture issue is a problem, should we embrace all, YES, should we temper devotion to the Scout Oath,Laws, and bed rock of fealty to Nation? NO, what would the point be?

    As for girls, YIKES! Interacting in the real world with shared interests, assuming the real world issues of safety can be addressed, what a great idea!!

    A proud Eagle , Obama Liberial who still can do the Oath and Laws.

  68. I've been involved in Scouting for over 7 years starting when my son joined Cub Scouts, being a Webelos Den Leader, and now participating in our excellent Boy Scout Troop, yes , here in the Lone Star State. All I have ever seen taught and displayed in those years is respect for each other, regardless of race, creed, or religious persuasion, respect for the environment learned through countless fun-filled hours on outstanding camping trips far and wide, respect for the community learned by countless hours of participation in volunteer community service projects spanning myriad causes and beneficiaries such as schools, retirement homes, public parks, churches, and homeless shelters.

    My son and his fellow scouts learn leadership skills, self-reliance, thrift, organizational skills, team-building skills, and a raft of fundamental life skills in a fun-filled environment that allows boys to be boys and provides a well-proven structure to help in becoming outstanding young men. The adult volunteers in our troop come from all walks of life and give countless hours of their limited free time to promote the core values of Scouting which has nothing to do with some of the politics of current day America.

    All organizations have skeletons in their closets and while I don't dismiss some of the legitimate criticisms leveled at BSA neither do I judge the entire organization and its participants based on these alone as so many of the respondents here do. I make my judgements based on the people I meet and deal with in Scouting everyday and they look nothing like some of those portrayed in these ranting comments.

    I am proud of my son for the achievements he earns and the more importantly, the values he derives from Scouting. I am proud of my troop, I am grateful to have met so many fine people in my community whom I now count as friends, and I am grateful there is an organization that promotes fundamental core values in a time when values are endlessly moving targets in a world increasingly defined in sound-bytes and general ignorance.

    Being an immigrant to this country, I was raised by parents who valued fairness, opportunity, education, community, and open-mindedness, especially regarding one's dealings with others. I grew up in the South during the 1960's and as I am often reminding my children, the south of 1963 was much closer to 1863 than 1968 in attitude and deeds - I have witnessed discrimination, racial hatred, and unabashed bigotry first hand hate and know well what those look like.

    Nothing I have encountered in my time with Scouting contradicts the tolerant upbringing and values my parents worked so hard to afford me in such a harshly intolerant environment. These are the same values I try to teach my children and my Boy Scout troop here in Texas helps me do that.

  69. I was a boy scout in the 1970s, and I recently took my second-grade son to a few boy scout meetings. I was surprised at the religious tone, which I did not remember from my youth. The boys were forced to recite various proclamations about their belief in God, and promises to keep themselves personally "pure" and "clean", and it seemed that the Boy Scout personnel also happened to be the personnel for several local fundamentalist churches. I got the impression that the local boy scouts were something of a feeder organization for the youth groups in these churches. If you didn't also belong to one of these churches, you were the odd man out.
    Our family are not militant atheists - we attend a liberal Christian church, but this was too much. We stopped attending boy scout activities.
    Whatever happened to the emphasis just on tying knots and building a campfire?

  70. As a private organization, the BSA has requirements for membership like any organization (like a NYC coop). A belief in God is not exclusionary. Teaching love of country, family, and obedience is not bigotry. Those who seek change in what has been for 100 years a successful leadership program for young boys should seek change within themselves and reflect how they benefited, or would have benefited from the BSA's core values. Personally, my experience with Boy Scouts has provided for a way to spend more time with my sons, and has instilled a growing confidence and independence in them as they achieve proficiency in their skills.

  71. As the wife of an Eagle Scout and former Scoutmaster, I can say the boys started to quit when they turned 14 or so: They hated the uniforms, the lack of technology and the military structure imposed on too many Scout activities. At least the Girl Scouts changed with the times, but the Boy Scouts are stuck in a 1950s mentality.

  72. One must remember the origin of paramilitary groups such as the Boy Scouts -- the same fetid currents of nationalism and religious subordination that would later incubate the Italian Blackshirts and the German brownshirts. That not all of these organizations eventually remained in the sewers is a testimony to human decency and the tendency of all public, democratic organizations to rise.

    But the Boy Scouts centralized themselves, closed ranks around the most backwards and atavistic principles, and purged the ranks of those who advocated a more decent future. And then they had the audacity to demand that they remain a unique privileged group by their Congressional charter, with open access to facilities such as schools and parks.

    Nonsense. Let them wither into ignominy so long as the current leadership is in place. There are many other, more decent, more inclusive, more loving social groups for young people who set a good example for their upbringing.

  73. Perhaps the answer is a new organization that provides Scouting opportunities to young people without discriminating on the grounds of religion or sexual orientation. Who wants their children participating in an organization that doesn't accept gays? Not me. Plus, any organization that puts kids into too much unsupervised contact with essentially unvetted adult men they're not related to -- especially conservative adult men -- is going to scare any sane person away. Talk about a magnet for abuse.

  74. It is encouraging to see that most comments are coming from former scouts (like myself) who benefitted from the organization, but who largely agree that scouting needs to drop the exclusionary principles, while maintaining the outdoor and citizenship focus. We didn't experience any of these exclusionary practices in our troop however which included atheists, asians, latinos, whites - the entire cross-section of Los Angeles' diversity. Most of my interactions were with the troop and I don't recall the Los Angeles Council intervening in any any.

  75. As a 'curved-bar' scout and the sister of two Eagle Scouts (one of whom is now a scout leader for his son's troop), I think the girls should join the Girl Scouts. One young lady derides the girls program as sewing and making cookies, but it need not be. Even in my time, most girls troops went camping, did nature walks etc. There is no reason girls groups could not do more active things (or even be formed around more active goals).

    Kids need opportunities to be with their own sex, to bond, to spend time together. My brother has life-long friends among the guys with which he was in scouting. The dynamic changes when a group becomes co-ed.

  76. Commenter #37 - The BSA certainly has a right to hold to a certain set of standards that it finds morally acceptable. The point here is that those standards are responsible for the decline in membership and perceived irrelevancy of the organization. If the BSA wants to hold onto its standards until its demise it certainly has the right to do so.

    Rather, most people seem to be advocating for a more tolerant and inclusive organization that would recognize current, mainstream American values. All organizations must evolve to stay alive, and the BSA is no different. But whether to do so is a decision the BSA must make for itself and its members.

  77. The activities in Girl Scout troops are selected by the girls and leaders in each troop. Girls who want to do more outdoor adventures can join a troop and advocate for more camping and less (zero?) friendship-bracelet-making. Their parents can become troop leaders or assistant leaders.

    The first time in my life I ever went camping, I went with the 24 little girls in the troop I led--and some knowledgeable parents! As a Girl Scout leader I went places and did things I'd never have done otherwise. Most of them were fun ;-)

    Growing up in the Girl Scouts helped make my daughters the wonderful women they are today.

    Let's not be eager to turn girls over to the leaders who are so busily warping Boy Scouts into little pseudo-Christian homophobes.

  78. In the early 80's, my Girl Scout Troops (led by my mother) explored sports, horseback riding, ice skating lessons, trail marking, camping-camping-camping (and cooking over a fire!), hiking, creek-stomping, crafts, building fires, tying knots, jamboree, sewing, and on and on. All of this was done at a low cost. I found Girl Scouts empowering until middle school when it became not-so-cool. I remember Girl Scouts being very inclusive even in the 80's- and is still a very inclusive organization. Has Girl Scouts changed that much that girls would want to join Boy Scouts?

    That being said, my husband (also a former Scout) and I would be very unlikely to support Scouting with our son. Even though the leader is a fabulous, inclusive naturalist (and we live in Ann Arbor- a very inclusive town), joining Boy Scouts is rubber stamping their homophobic, fundamentalist dogma and we feel our son- and all boys- deserve better than that. Boy Scouts need to step up.

  79. Perhaps not every local chapter adheres to the national rules, but the fact that the national rules are there is problematic. My son achieved Life Scout status and got so much from scouting. My husband is still friends with the other fathers he interacted with as a den leader. All-in-all it was a wonderful experience, until a boy my son had come up through the ranks with had to quit in high school when he came out. The boy was very active and very well liked. It was a slap in the face to every boy there.

  80. I was a Boy Scout for one year, in the sixth grade, in 1974.

    I quit after that one year, at the age of 11, because I was sick of listening to my fellow Scouts brag, while we waited for the Scoutmaster to open up the building before our weekly meetings, about the things they had defaced and stolen and the people they had beaten up that week, then going into the church basement with them, and swearing, on our honor, to do our best, to do our duty to God and our country, to help other people at all times, and to keep ourselves physically strong, menatlly awake, and morally straight.

    I'm sure nothing has changed.

  81. Scouting is one of the best ways to get young males off the couch, away from their computer games, to learn basic skills not taught in school. I am unaware of any boy scout or his father being asked about sexual orientation or religious affiliation when joining or participating in scouting. Our nation has never had such a great leadership gap as exists today. A significant number of men I know and admire in executive leadership positions were Eagle scouts. I can only hope our next president will be one of them.

  82. There were times with the Scouts were innovative. They understood and taught their personnel developmental psychology decades before public schools used such knowledge. My father pulled me out of scouting, but some of the best experiences of my life emerged within scouting. I hope that they can and do adapt .

  83. Another former Eagle scout here. I sent all my merit badges and medals back to headquarters and asked to be removed from their rolls. America needs kids to learn discipline, how to camp, how to survive outside, how to take care of the earth. But we don't need another hate organization.

    Kurt, I agree (somewhat) about differences disappearing around a campfire, but I also remember plenty of campfires (think "order of the arrow") that were full of rubbish and stereotypes about American Indians.

    So, to the BSA, I say, give me a break. My son will get involved with other things.

  84. I'm sorry, but I view the Boy Scouts as a conduit for both hate and prejudice. Though some good things happen in Boy Scouts, over time the organization has become a front for fundamentalist Christian groups and the Mormon Church (which is unparalleled in its commitment to psychological warfare against gays in its own church and to relegating all gays to status as second-class citizens). Why on earth would I send my children to Boy Scouts?

  85. The Boys Scouts of America is a fairly insidious organization.

    While a good deal of what they profess and do is to be encouraged, they couple this with a sense of self-superiority. And there is no better way to feel superior than to identify those over whom they are superior. To make this work, one must identify groups. And the Boy Scouts do this with gusto: homosexuals, racial minorities, girls -- and God forbid -- those who chose to not adopt their Christian right-wing religious beliefs.

    This story paints minorities as "not recognizing" the virtues of scouting. A more accurate appraisal would be that minorities fully reocgnize the exclusionary nature of the Scouts and willfully do NOT want to become an Uncle Tom. (This is very similar to the outward push of the Mormons to now allow racial minorities into their midst, while yet sustaining their belief that only those of "pure" heritage can really make it to the highest heaven.)

    The Scouts are desperate, as they should be. Demographic changes in this country will make those that they exclude the majority very quickly.

    I'll not cry for the demise of the Scout ethic.

  86. Scouting largely depended on the ability to access public institutions like schools for meetings and events - like to local High School. By adhering to policies that bar gays and atheists from participation they not only alienate a huge number of people but also close out access to various public facilities they need to work. I, for one, hope they find the courage to change. I enjoyed my time as a scout but I didn't let my sons participate because that kind of bigotry is not something that as a parent I will endorse or support.

  87. My father was a Lone Scout as there was no troop in the rural area where he grew up; I was a Boy Scout in two troops. The core values of scouting gave us both strengths that helped us develop into responsible adults. Those values recently have been undermined by the unfortunate positions the program's hierarchial leadership has advanced in recent years. It is not the group in the Texas headquarters who really represents the best of scouting; rather it is the packs and troops of boys in neighborhoods who practice leadership in the worlds about them. It is likely that the changes sought by so many are already in practice in many local scouting groups. The best route to change often comes from the ranks. Much good can continue to come from this organization begun by Baden Powell years ago, but reform is necessary.

  88. The Boy Scout are really the only national organization that teaches boys how to be good citizens, and good people. I have never been a boy scout, but I have made lots of derogatory boy scout jokes. But, not any more. This organization needs government support, and needs to help poor and inner city kids more; to help them get out into the woods and learn how to be young men. What a great goal. Oh--my buddy is a scout master and he told me that the oaths are not militaristic . Even if they are, it it only temporary. Besides, what's wrong with building pride in country, and our nation's forests? This wonderful institution should not be attached because of few pedophiles. Unlike the Catholic church, they have to take almost any fool who is willing to sacrifice time to help inculcate values into young Americans. The Boy Scouts of American rule!

  89. I greatly value my Scouting experience from the 1960's. I think highly of the leaders and troop members that helped me up through the ranks. American youth need that sort of sober, balanced, intelligent leadership.
    I am saddened to see the organization get messed up with religious zealots and pedophilia (It amazes me how often these two maladies appear together.) The militaristic and conservative turn the Scouts took threw them off balance.
    If I heard Scouting had returned to the values that I knew them for I would offer to lend a hand. Meanwhile with the help of my wife and friends I’ll continue to introduce youth to Outdoor adventure and guide them in service to country and community.

  90. My son is at the Jamboree right now and I thought maybe I'd learn a little bit more about it by reading this, as he is a typical self-sufficient teenager and not calling mom and dad during his adventure.

    So what do I find here? Hate and more hate.

    The stands by the national organization are unfortunate, but they are clear positions. How many groups preach wonderfulness and practice something else under the surface? A great many. In fact, with our local Boy Scouts the national issues are left to the national bigshots. Our troop is a bunch of boys and parent leaders having great experiences.

    Blaming the decline in membership to discrimination policies as this article and the commenters are doing is a red herring. Most national organizations are declining, there are so many distractions in life and so many other things to do. If you want to find a Boy Scout policy to blame, blame the focus on the outdoors. Kids today want to sit inside where it is air conditioned and play on the computer. Parents are fine with that, it is easier than being a scouting parent.

    BTW, if there are 2 million disenfranchised kids just itching at the chance to participate in a non-Boy Scout organization, it sounds like a great opportunity for you all to get going.

  91. Many comments critize the excluaionary policies of tha BSA and I agree. To me, that violates the moral principles of scouting. I can still recite the Scout Law. Scouting helped me greatly as I love camping,hiking and nature.

    I was a Life Scout but left befor I made Eagle. One thing as I look back,is that a good scout troop requires comitted, strong scout masters that push an agenda of achievement in scouting otherwise kids being kids will slough off as I did. That is probably why I'm not an Eagle.

    I belong to a local YMCA but no one asked if I'm a Christian. Why can't the Scouts do that?

  92. I achieved the rank of Eagle Scout at age fifteen and was active until seventeen. I think it was a very good experience. As with ANY group there were homosexuals in the ranks, or boys who would later consider themselves as such. This did not hinder as far as I could tell. I would welcome inclusiveness but I do wonder how putting girls and boys together might effect things. Would the group be more focused on pursuing one another than on the activities being taught? This is often what happens at more traditional coed camps. That said I hope the BSA will rebrand and prosper!

  93. As a Boy Scout and later as a Scoutmaster, I learned the importance of Helping Others; of "Doing Good". Inspired as a child by our Scoutmaster,(who became an Editor of the NY Times), we grew up to became advocates for the mentally and physically disabled,children who were failing in school. Many of us went on to work for legislation such as the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Education for All Handicapped Children. I treasure my memories from Scouting and continue to work to help others,individually and around the world. Ban Nuclear Weapons

  94. I live in a small town, and my son is a 10 year old scout. I gave up my "faith" in the creed of the Catholic Church long ago; replacing that set of beliefs with scientific knowledge. Ironic that the scout troop meets in said church. I have to keep from rolling my eyes as the Deacon invokes the importance of "God" to the scouts, as I know that the religious are not the sole keepers of morality. As a matter of fact, the ones that wear their religious beliefs on their sleeve I trust the least when the chips are down (And I won't even go into the Catholic Church's problems with you know what...).

    But, I digress...

    I admire the commitment of the Scouts to their values, but I wish they'd move away from their pontification on religion. There seems to be a trend towards religious intolerance in this country towards those who choose reason over mythology. When was the last time you saw a non-believer run for political office? I think that the Scouts would do just fine without the dogma. The religious wrong have done enough damage to the country already.

  95. Interesting debate that the US Scout movement is going through. Here in the UK, girls have been admitted for a generation, and the organisation seems much the better & stronger for it.

    There's no requirement to be of a particular sexual orientation either. Perhaps its time the US movement marched in step with its European colleagues.

  96. Diversity my @$$. When I was 13 years old I joined the Boy Scouts and it was the worst experience of my life, no exaggeration. At the time I was an outgoing, curious, bright-eyed kid just looking to have some fun and make friends. Initially I thought the cold-shoulders and teasing I was getting was all part of my rookie initiation, since I was pretty popular at school and never had problems of this sort. But it continued and I trudged through it as it got worse for about a year. The adults, even the Scoutmaster, just ignored it all. None of them would even manage to remember my name. Even when I told them I was quitting, they couldn't care less. Now looking back as an adult, I know exactly what was going on. It was because I was a member of a certain minority. The Boy Scouts are infamous for excluding gays, but if you think it stops there think again.

  97. More then anything I wanted to be a scout when I was in grade school. Being an inner city kid nothing sounded more adventurous then camping in the woods. But they wouldn't have me because I was a girl. By the time I was old enough to be part of the organization I didn't care anymore. I still don't and would never send my kids to be part of such an organization.

  98. "An even bigger challenge emerged this year as a jury ordered the Scouts to pay $18.5 million in damages to a man who had been abused by a scout leader as a boy"

    It appears then that if the scouts wish to appease liberal recidivists, they must accept homosexual scoutmasters and expect to pay massive damages later on, or else decline to accept them in the first place. The Scouts, as the Supreme Court has determined, is not a public accomodation and is jolly free to accept or nor to accept whomsoever they choose. Rather like the Tulsa Flower Arrangement Club, you understand.
    As an Eagle myself (1952) I wish the Scouts were more exclusionary than in fact they are. Quality and inclusion, as surely you must know, hate each other.

  99. I grew up going to Catholic schools and belonging to the scouts.

    Those were different times, my parents were a different generation. Today, I wouldn't send my kids to either Catholic schools or the scouts for the same reason: they both breed intolerance.

    And this is a free country.

  100. The demise of the Boy Scouts of America occurred when it lost its focus on being a male paramilitary organization and became a feel-good boys club that allowed girls to join. This is not the same organization that it was designed to be. Just like a plant, when any group loses touch with its roots, it begins to die. Sadly, this is the case here. And, trying to become politcially correct will do nothing to correct the situation. Bringing a beauty queen to speak indicates just how low the organization has sunk. It needs to return to its focus on God and country and stop trying to please everyone. If you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one. You might as well remain true to yourself. I fear, however, that there has been so much time that has passed that returning to itself is no longer possible for BSA.

  101. An entity that fails to adapt and evolve with the times usually outlives its usefulness. It can easily and quickly become a footnote in history. The dwindling enrollment in the Scouts should serve as a wake-up call to their leadership that substantive changes need to be implemented. Like it or not. Fast.

  102. BSA should revive Explorer Scouts. They are not even mentioned in this article.

    When I was a high school student on Long Island in the early '70s, some boy scout friends and their troop leader formed Explorer Post #563--our motto was "E Platonica Unum"--"Platonic Forever" (it didn't exactly work out that way in some cases, but whatever!). We were the first (and only?) co-ed troop on LI.

    Camp-outs were held once a month, and we would pack up our dinky sleeping bags and tents into various vehicles with our troop leader and parent volunteers. We camped on Fire Island, we canoed 50 miles in the Adirondacks, we camped at Lake George for a week. We elected boy and girl presidents. We designed our own "uniform," which was comprised of a denim work shirt and jeans.

    It was the single most transformative experience of my youth, taught me about cooperation, the wilderness, turned me into a lifelong environmentalist, and sealed lifelong friendships. I still have all my badges and patches and I'm 55!

    Long live Post 563 and our beloved Mike Weil!! Thank you, Ben Lenz!

  103. As a former scout I know the great training and memories that I had back in my youth. The thing that bothers me was a report on the current Scout Jamboree indicating success of scouts in adult life.

    I was disturbed by the fact that 212 members of congress had been former scouts, this seems to be counter productive to the pledge of scouts. I suggest that congressmen do not besmirch the good name of scouting by boasting that they were former scouts. I suggests that the Boy Scouts add a merit badges for "Honesty in Public Service" and that they will be Whistle Blowers" if they are eventually involved in public service.

  104. My dad and brothers were all scouts although non of them received high rank. For them it was more about roughing it outdoors and nature than the ranks. I think that it is important for not just boys but all boys and all girls to learn about the outdoors and learn how to live outdoors. Its too bad scouts is not what it used to be because I think we all need the simplicity of nature and as a girl I sure didn't learn about nature or roughing it in girl scouts. I learned about it from my dad who learned it in boy scouts.

  105. The Boy Scouts are dominated by the Mormon Church and Conservative Republicans. These two groups treat homosexuality as a lifestyle choice, and equate homosexuality with pedophilia.
    More sobering: the BTK serial killer was a Scout leader. A number of other recent serial killers have been Eagle Scouts. Rather than be concerned about religious affiliation and sexual orientation, the National Leadership of the Boy Scouts should be more concerned about the antisocial attitudes they foster.

  106. Support the Boy Scouts. Mothers and Fathers--Get your children outside and learn about the outdoors and understand that individual and group achievement takes hard work and has long term positive benefits. When those boys grow to be strong, honorable men and marry strong, honorable women to have strong, honorable children, our country will equal the sum of its parts.

  107. How different in the UK, where girls are welcome (and nearly half the Scout leaders are women), where Scouting is explicitly (per its website) not a Christian organization and welcomes young people of all faiths, colors and sexual orientation. My son was a Scout in the UK and it was, I suspect, a very different experience than I had as a Scout in the U.S.

  108. We should call the Boy Scouts what they really are -- propaganda machines for fundamentalist Christians and Mormans. As such they are doomed to extinction. Demographics and justice will bury them eventually. So-called renewal is simply out of the question as long as they maintain these exclusionary and discriminatory stances.

  109. The issues with the boy scouts have nothing to do with their not wanting gays(I know I don't) or non-Christians involved, it has to do with how much easier it is for parents to plop their kids in front of an x-box or a Wii, or send them to their room with a cell phone or an i-whatever than to get involved in an activity that could actually be positive for them, but might actually take some time and energy. As an adult, I now know very few scouts, but they are the good kids that I know.

  110. Guys, please stop politicizing this stuff to justify what you already believe.

    I'm 26, I am in fact an Eagle Scout. I'm still also fairly active with my troop. You want to know why memberships are really down? It has very little to do with BSA's intolerance.

    Boy Scouts are nerds. There I said it. There seen as a product of a bygone era, teaching people things that they believe no one needs to know. Kids don't want to take part in it because they don't want to be slimed as nerds and I don't think bringing women in will change that. The Girl Scouts are doing far worse. (Guess who REALLY has an image problem)

    I mean just look at the kinds of kids present in the photo, they all look like dorks wearing that silly uniform and wearing those merit badges on a SASH of all things.

    For the record I don't really agree with this image, but that's irrelevant.

    So go ahead and be nostalgic, be hateful. I was offended by the pig headedness of this article. It took a very obvious reason as to why this is the case and turned it into a political statement against intolerance. Silly

  111. Just change a few nouns in these paragraphs and you have a very different story!

    But the demographic group that seems to have drawn the most attention is young girls. When they turn 13 and have completed eighth grade, they can join the Boy Scouts’ Venturing program, where many of the leaders are women. But many are pushing for access for preteen girls.

    The debate rages on scout Web sites over the perceived advantages and disadvantages of allowing younger girls. Would they be too much of a distraction? Or would their presence better prepare boys for the real world?

    Several 15-year-old boys here said they would welcome girls into the Boy Scouts. “It would be more cool with them,” said Shane West from Jupiter, Fla. Why? “They’re girls.”

  112. It's my opinion that the scouts are a hate group. Sexual preference and religious choosings are no one else's business. Also, there should not be a boy scout or a girl scout. There should be Scouts. The US Military, for example, allows both male and females into the same organization. Once the scouts get up to date with these issues, the Scout population will grow exponentially.

  113. Whatever the shortcomings of the national leadership, I don't see them in the diverse, positive troops in the DC area (our only troop activity about religion included two Muslim Scouts telling us about their religion). My son's gone from Tiger Cub to First Class Boy Scout and it's been a great experience for him. The leaders have been some the kindest, most giving people I've met. There has been no hate or exclusion. National membership may be declining because there are many new opportunities. Boy Scouts is still a great opportunity for boys to experience the outdoors and learn to respect the environment. Scouts is, at least at the local level, very different from the way it's portrayed here.

  114. A Freudian slip indeed. The decline of the BSA, along with all of it's soul searching regarding how to reverse the decline of its ranks, tracks with the downward trajectory of the status of males in America. Males in American are in a state of crisis already. Does it make sense to further emasculate the American male? Rather than allow girls to join, why not include more adventurous activities in the Girl Scouts? They may need those skills if they are to be our soldiers of tomorrow. The drive to expand numbers sounds similar to misguided strategies adopted by Christian religious institutions that water down their doctrine to be more inclusive.

  115. Blogger BJ from CA, calls life in the 1950's "illusionary". That is anothet lie by liberals. I was a Boy Scout, I could ride my bicycle anywhere or walk anywhere alone. My house was unlocked all the time. We played until sunset. without any adults. The life of the 1950's was idyllic and should be aspired to, not denigrated.

  116. The problem with good old boys clubs is that they become old. I was a boy scout but that was many decades ago. I could not imagine encouraging my son today to join a group that openly is hostile to gays, non-religious people or girls. The boy scouts need to learn the meaning of and advantages to diversity.

  117. My son is a boy scout, though, interestingly, the organization here in Northern CA doesn't seem to care too much about one's religious affiliation, or in our case, non-affiliation. We are atheists and my son has been vocal about it, but it has not affected his membership. And if someone wanted to remain quiet about it, how could anyone ever prove the individual was religious or non-religious? However, I think the discrimination against gays is egregious and that policy needs to come to an end. Boy Scouts in the San Francisco Bay Area may be more relaxed, but I don't think that's the case in most of the rest of the country and that so many fundamentalists are part of the leadership really depresses me.

  118. My son is an Eagle Scout, my daughter a Girl Scout, and I was a leader of a Brownie troop. My impression of both organizations was generally positive, but the Girls Scouts are by far a better organization. They changed with the times while the Boy Scouts remained stuck in the past. While some of the troop leaders were excellent the organization was rigid and exclusionary. If the Boy Scouts open their ranks to girls they will attract girls from families that agree with their outrageous policies of excluding athiest and gays from their ranks. I wish the Girl Scouts all the best in continuing their positive and uplifting mission.

  119. I would encourage young people to join 4-H, rather than Scouts. The 4-H pledge is "I pledge my head to clearer thinking; my heart to greater loyalty; my hands to larger service; and my health to better living for my club, my community, my country and my world." 4-H clubs are co-ed and not exclusive and don't require as much financial contribution. Religion is kept out of 4-H club activities and is left to each individual. The Extension Service of the US Department of Agriculture and the state universities provide wonderful resource materials.

  120. I didn't realize the Boy Scouts had gone 'hard right'. No wonder Faux Noise has been giving the president so much grief about not attending their 100th Jamboree. Why would anyone, but a conservative religious person, join the Boy Scouts? I was a scout back in the day and the only stuff that really mattered was helping each other and those in the community at large. Those 'values' were not tied to any religious ideology. Seems to me that until the Boy Scouts become more inclusive, their ranks will continue to fall. This would really be a shame IMHO...

  121. If you've ever seen one of those well-led troops in action, you know how great scouting can be. It's too bad my family, on principle, would never be able to participate with a clean conscience. The Ethicist put it best. It wouldn't be trying to create change from the inside. It would be going on camping trips from the inside. I'm angry that a bunch of bigots hijacked a great institution. I wonder if they'll kill it before they let go.

  122. We can only hope that the Boy Scouts' membership continues to wane, so long as the National organization of the Boy Scouts continues its discriminatory policies against the homosexual community, atheists and agnostics. To compound matters, the organization's policy of maintaining secret files on abuse cases has resulted in irreparable harm to the youth it purports to serve. It's time to step up and clean up.

  123. My old troop back in the '70s and '80s in Hawai'i was almost entirely Asian-American. We were Buddhist, Christian, Seicho-no-ie, athiest, and agnostic. After grace at the annual Christmas Party, half the crowd said, "Amen," and the other half said, "Namu Amida Butsu." We'd camp all over the island in some of the most beautiful places I've ever been to. We'd sleep on the shoreline and talk about girls. Man, those were good days! My fellow Boy Scouts, some of them were real jerks, but most of them were wonderful: good, kind, courageous, intelligent... The troop leaders, chosen from among our parents, were absolutely terrific. We neither knew nor cared much about what the national organization was doing.

  124. Our family's experience with Boy Scouting, especially with our youngest son was that the local troop was lackadaisical and disorganized, the older boys bullied some of the younger boys with no leaders paying attention to or much less reprimanding the behavior, and that some of the camping excursions were just unsafe. Our son pulled out because he was bored; we supported him because we felt the organization was unsafe. It was just rah-rah.

  125. When I think about the Boy Scouts, I painfully remember how in 1967 my brother was denied membership because my parents were divorced and he didn't have a father to support him during activities. They may have hi-tech trappings, the latest in fun sports, but at the core, they haven't changed.