Be Prepared is the motto that millions of young men, including myself (proud Boy and Sea Scout), around the country learn and live by every year. For 107 years, the Boy Scouts of America have molded young men into leaders who have been at the forefront of business, medicine, politics, religion and a variety of other aspects of our society. When Boy Scouts was first created, it and its sister organizations were the premier youth organizations of the day and for the most part have remained so. As time has progressed, the BSA has had to deal with the challenge of competing for the attention of young men with inventions such as the T.V., the internet, computers, video games and a variety of other items and groups. This has resulted in the BSA struggling with membership for quite a while now.
Over the past 40 years, the BSA’s membership has been in a steady decline, with no sign of an end soon. In 2000, the BSA had 3.35 million total youth enrolled in all of its programs. As of 2013 that had fallen to 2.5 million youth and has continued to fall since then. Now, many organizations have had to deal with falling membership in the past but few as prominent as the BSA. The BSA has a program that is absolutely premier and has created some of the finest leaders the nation and the world have ever seen. Some famous former scouts include Neil Armstrong, Michael Bloomberg, President Gerald Ford, Robert Gates, Ross Perot, Donald Rumsfeld, Rex Tillerson, Mike Zinke, Rick Perry and many more.
President Coolidge said of the Scouting movement “The 12 articles in these scout laws are … affirmative rules of conduct. Members must promise to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. How comprehensive this list! What a formula for developing moral and spiritual character! … It would be a perfect world if everyone exemplified these virtues. … Boys are taught to practice the basic virtues and principles of right living and to act for themselves in according such virtues and principles.” How right he was. No organization has done a better job in building young men who are not just leaders but are men of character and principle.
Unfortunately, with declining membership has come a scramble to fix it. One of the first attempts came in 2015 when the BSA allowed gay leaders and youth to be admitted in the BSA. This was a very controversial change to their membership policy which has thus far strained relations with groups such as Jesus Christ Church of Latter Day Saints which as of 2016 accounted for around 13% of BSA membership. This first change promoted the LDS to start a new organization called “Trail Life” which attempts to instill similar values to those of the BSA but still maintain more traditional family values. It has been relatively successful thus far already attaining around 20,000 youth members.
The BSA moved in 2017 to allow transgender youth to enter the program. They denied such allegations claiming that they would accept youth based on the gender they selected on their membership application. This move was the first in what many including the author believe is part of a greater scheme to totally make the BSA co-ed. By allowing individuals to select a gender of their choice, the BSA has essentially surrendered any traditional values it had left by allowing the admittance of girls into the program without any pushback being allowed. This was the last straw for the LDS and they announced they were pulling all youth from the program who were 13 or older. This accounted for roughly of 7% of the BSA’s membership disappearing in a puff of smoke. The BSA very effectively shot itself in the foot.
The BSA’s newest plan to increase membership has been one that has angered many across the scouting community. The plan is to try and start by integrating the BSA’s program for youth 7-10, Cub Scouts. Cub Scout Packs would have 3 options:
1. Have a traditional male only unit
2. Have a “Family Unit” pack where there are ‘dens’ of boys and girls that would interact minimally but would still be part of the same unit.
3. An all-female pack
This has been seen as, and is nothing more than a precursor to allowing for the integration of traditional Boy Scout troops. Mike Surbaugh, the Chief Scout Executive proposed the above plan for discussion in addition to the topic of making an all-girls program for girls 11-18 under the pretense of providing girls who graduated Cub Scouts an option afterward.
Now, these 3 attempts to increase membership fall in line with social pressures from the left. The BSA is unquestionably an organization that holds very American and very Christian values and as a byproduct, very conservative values. Sir Baden Powell, the father of all scouting said of scouting in a piece of literature in the early 1900’s “Scouting is nothing less than applied Christianity.” This has expanded to all religions but nonetheless, it is an organization that does not fall in line with the narratives of the left. This can be seen in the fact that after the President came to speak at the BSA’s National Jamboree in late July, CSE Mike Surbaugh issued an apology for the president’s address. His apology was along the lines of apologizing to scouting families for how offensive the address may have been found. This was preceded by many mainstream media outlets labeling Trump’s speech as an equivalent to a Hitler Youth rally.
The BSA is losing youth on all fronts, from its primary program Boy Scouts, to Venturing, Sea Scouts and Cub Scouts. The BSA leadership is failing to address the problem. Instead of promoting their great program they are sacrificing their values for the sake of increasing membership numbers. While membership continues to decline, they would rather heel to political correctness and societal pressures then promote their great program. This is actually leading to groups like the LDS and 1000’s of dedicated scouts and Scouters who volunteer their time for the sake of the program to abandon it.
It could be said that the BSA leadership are fiddling as Rome burns. Ben Shapiro may have put it best when he was asked in a Q & A forum at a college, “Where is it written that you have to be a boy to be a Boy Scout?” and he responded simply “In the name ‘Boy Scout’”. I and millions of other scouts hope for the best for the BSA but unfortunately, its future may not be bright.