This worthy entry is from the authoritative Troop 97 collection of handbooks used by B.S.A. Inc.
the 8th edition of the handbook spelled out the ultra cool, modern and absolutely not “square” Improved Scouting, branded as “Scouting/USA.” It introduced American boys to abusable street drugs, race consciousness, the generic World Scouting “left handed handshake”, premarital sex, metal belt loops for “achievements” (revised Cub Scout program ringing a bell here?) red berets, and most importantly, in consideration for their blatant currying of “inner city youth”, did it at a sixth-grade reading level.
The Troop 97 webpage describes Improved Scouting,
The 1970s decade was a dark time for the Boy Scouts of America. The period from 1972-80 was a national disaster, when BSA membership declined nationwide by 34% (a loss of 2.2 million members)! Although many changes in our society had an adverse impact on all youth programs, much of the cause for the drastic BSA membership decline was due to the radically changed Scout program of the period.
In 1972, the BSA made sudden and radical changes to the Scouting program, abandoning much of the traditional outdoor program, and applying inner-city programming to ALL of Scouting (what to do if lost?—The new Scout handbook’s entire “Lost” section showed a boy talking to a policeman with the instructions, “Ask for directions to find the way”). New, “politically-correct” terminology defined the era (the BSA had no “boys” or “Boy Scouts” because “boy” was considered demeaning; no longer an outdoorsman, the Scoutmaster became a “manager of learning” who taught Scouts the 11 “leadership competencies;” he guided Scouts through “personal growth agreement conferences” as they advanced through the various “progress awards.”)
The BSA began modifying the short-lived “Improved Scouting Program” in 1975, and finally scrapped the program in 1978-79, after only six years of use. The program stands in sharp contrast to Scouting before 1972 or since 1978.
During the 1970s, the BSA finally updated its heavy-impact conservation practices to modern low-impact policies designed to protect our rapidly dwindling outdoor resources.
BSA membership peaked at 6.5 million in 1972, and reached bottom in 1980 with 4.3 million.
This edition represents the most radical change in Handbook content the BSA ever made. It introduced more new concepts and deleted more traditional subjects than any other edition. The drastic program changes it presented were a disastrous failure for Scouting. From September 1, 1972, through the end of 1977, the “Improved Scouting Program” de-emphasized camping by making outdoor skills optional in the lower three ranks and by eliminating outdoor merit badges from the required list for the higher three ranks (the Eagle list dropped Camping, Cooking, Nature, Swimming, Lifesaving). The new program also extended inner-city programming to ALL of Scouting. (The Handbook’s entire section on “Lost” shows a drawing of a boy talking to a policeman, with the text: “Ask for directions to find the way.”). The Scouting program represented by this Handbook stands in sharp contrast to Scouting before 1972 or since 1978.
The 8th Edition leaves out a lot of other traditional Handbook information: how to wear a neckerchief, when to wear the uniform, lashings, stars, fire without matches, tracking/trailing, silent signals, semaphore and Morse signaling, edible wild plants, finding directions without a compass.