Looking behind Boy Scouts’ decision to admit girls

Summary: The Boy Scouts have decided to allow girls into their core programs. Let’s look at this decision, how it was made, the possible effects, and the vital context. It’s modern America in a nutshell.

Sir Baden-Powell.


Boy Scouts of America admits
girls into their core programs.


Attempting to boost their sagging numbers and reduce criticism from liberals, the directors of the Boy Scouts unanimously voted to allow girls to join the main Cub Scout and Boy Scout groups (they already participate in Venturing, Sea Scouting, Exploring, and STEM). Success at the latter is certain (until the next demands come); success at the former is less so. As for the effect on the organization and its Scouts — only time will tell.  It also shows how decisions are made by America’s leaders, and why the results are so often unexpected. Here’s a brief description of this revealing story.

I write this based on my research — and my 15 years as a Boy Scout volunteer leader, at all levels from Den Leader to Council Vice-President and Director.

The numbers

Membership in Boy Scouts of America peaked in 1973 at 4.8 million and has dropped relentlessly since then. In the first decade of this century it fell by 16% to 2.8 million. Since then it has dropped another 18% to 2.3 million. During these decades they tried many ways to “modernize” the BSA, all unsuccessful. The result has been decades of downsizing, a steady sale of camps, and consolidation of its local councils (many of which were financially broke). The problem is structural and probably unsolvable:

(a)  The principles of Scouting have been unfashionable since the cultural revolution of 1965 – 1975. There have been countless rounds of modernization — multiculturalism, admitting girls into four of their programs, accepting gays and transgendered. These have made BSA acceptable but not fashionable.

(b)  The deeper problems are less fixable. Scouting is a middle class organization. It requires extensive parental involvement — far more than competing youth organizations (such as sports). This works well only for two-parent financially stable families. That market has been shrinking since the 1970’s, with no sign of it stopping.

(c)  The demographics are growing worse. The population of young Americans is shifting to groups who are poorer and with higher rates of fractured families. Scouting has found that these families can be reached by Scouting — but only if the local groups are subsidized. Since Scouting can barely support its existing groups, that kind of expansion is not possible.

(d)  America’s youth are changing. Kids are raised by helicopter parents who tightly grip their reins (and so prefer regimented sports teams), raised watching TV in day care centers, whose play consists of pushing buttons and watching screens — have less interest in outdoor treks than previous generations. Offering merit badges in video games won’t attract enough of them.

Venture Scouting

Two things have keep Boy Scouting alive. First, Mormons — themselves outsiders in modern America — use Scouting as their youth program for boys. Without their boys — and more importantly, their adult leaders and financial support — BSA might enter a death spiral (unable to afford their infrastructure).

Second, the reputation of Eagle Scouts has kept BSA alive. The record of BSA’s best and brightest over generations — despite their class — made the Eagle rank one of America’s most respected certifications. (Girl Scout’s equivalent Gold Award has, unjustly, not developed the same reputation.) As David Halberstam said in The Best and the Brightest

“In a nation so large and so diverse there are few ways of quantifying intelligence or success or ability, so those few that exist are immediately magnified, titles become particularly important.”

This has brought in many parents seeking to bolster their boys’ college applications. Troops become Eagle “factories”. Parents complete the projects. Outdoor treks are done only as needed. All this is antimatter to Scout spirit. Sometimes the parents run troops like schools; boys grudgingly cooperate, and bounce out after getting the little eagle pin — depriving Troops of what should be their Scout leaders.

STEM scouts

The research

The Directors have research showing that opening BSA to girls will produce a bounty of new members. They commissioned two nationwide surveys. They found that many parents not now involved in Boy Scouts wanted their daughters in Boy Scouts.

This shows why leaders so often make bad decisions. Such surveys are easy to do and produce clear results. They often do not ask the necessary questions. Large changes affect every factor in the equation. It is not just a matter of how many girls join. How many boys will decide to join boy-only sports teams instead of Boy Scouts? Why will girls join? How many will join for Scouting’s outdoor activities vs. credential-seeking? The answers to these questions will determine the outcome of this change.

So many of these changes in America are made on the basis of ideology. People, left and right, who just know things. Here’s my favorite response to questioning about the BSA decision (on Twitter).

“Because they’ll be harder workers and better scouts, especially at a young age?”

Needless to say, this person offered no evidence for this claim. Scouts entering existing co-ed programs have not shown this extraordinary jump in performance.

Explorer Scouts

A larger context

This can be seen as another step in the end of American exceptionalism. Just as women are being integrated into America’s Armed forces, as they already are in the militaries of other developed nations — girls are being integrated into Boy Scouting, just as they already are in Scouting of other nations. World Scouting claims to have 33 million youth, with America the largest (but still small) component — and one of the few that is not coed.

So letting girls into more BSA programs is nothing unusual. The default expectation should be that nothing happens. Perhaps a few more Scouts. Perhaps a few less. Only small changes to Scouting.

But every society is unique. America is in the midst of unusual change in its society. Boys losing ground in school and drugged in incredible numbers (summary here), while gender roles are rapidly evolving. We are conducting a social experiment on a scale seldom seen in history. That is the context for this change in Scouting. Lots of potential for unexpected outcomes as we tinker with the deep mechanisms of our society.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Perhaps we should expect the unexpected, with many small changes producing large effects.

For More Information

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all post about women and gender, and especially these…

  1. A brief guide to the new war of the sexes. Both sides are 100% right.
  2. America’s war of the sexes gets worse. Here’s why.
  3. Disturbing next steps in the gender revolution.

The context in America.

The War Against Boys: How Misguided Policies are Harming Our Young Men
Available at Amazon.

I recommend reading The War Against Boys: How Misguided Policies are Harming Our Young Men by Christina Hoff Sommers. For an intro to it see her 2000 article in The Atlantic. From the publisher…

“An updated and revised edition of this controversial classic — now more relevant than ever — argues that boys are the ones languishing socially and academically, resulting in staggering social and economic costs.

“Girls and women were once second-class citizens in the nation’s schools. Americans responded with concerted efforts to give girls and women the attention and assistance that was long overdue. Now, after two major waves of feminism and decades of policy reform, women have made massive strides in education. Today they outperform men in nearly every measure of social, academic, and vocational well-being.

“Christina Hoff Sommers contends that it’s time to take a hard look at present-day realities and recognize that boys need help. Called “provocative and controversial …impassioned and articulate” (The Christian Science Monitor), this edition of The War Against Boys offers a new preface and six radically revised chapters, plus updates on the current status of boys throughout the book.

“Sommers argues that the problem of male underachievement is persistent and worsening. Among the new topics Sommers tackles: how the war against boys is harming our economic future, and how boy-averse trends such as the decline of recess and zero-tolerance disciplinary policies have turned our schools into hostile environments for boys. As our schools become more feelings-centered, risk-averse, competition-free, and sedentary, they move further and further from the characteristic needs of boys. She offers realistic, achievable solutions to these problems that include boy-friendly pedagogy, character and vocational education, and the choice of single-sex classrooms.

The War Against Boys is an incisive, rigorous, and heartfelt argument in favor of recognizing and confronting a new reality: boys are languishing in education and the price of continued neglect is economically and socially prohibitive.”

39 thoughts on “Looking behind Boy Scouts’ decision to admit girls”

  1. Hello Larry, yes I saw this on the news this morning (CNN). So what will they call them now Boirl Scouts, Boy-girl Scouts, Boy-Girl Scouts, Unisex Scouts, the No-Sex Scouts?

  2. Another challenge that Scouting faces is that it is not popular with non-Caucasians. When I was a scout leader I made an effort to recruit Latinos and Asians (not enough blacks in my part of the world to try) and was not successful. The kids would join because their friends joined but rarely lasted more than two years. It’s possible that there were economic factors at work but I suspect other, perhaps cultural factors, were more important.

    I’m not surprised by the headline because every year a number of parents would try to get their daughters into our program and other Boy Scout leaders reported the seeing the same thing. I’ve never figured out why the Girl Scout program has never been as successful as the Boy Scout program. I’m sure that part of it is that the GSA program relies very heavily on the skill of the individual leaders and doesn’t give them the support and traditions of a central pack/troop that has 60-80 years of history but I’m equally sure that there are other factors at play that probably are more important.

    1. Pluto,

      I hinted at that in this post. BSA in California has make several attempts to recruit Hispanic. A few were moderately successful, but required substantial subsidies. Those communities either could not or did not generate sufficient internal support. Since BSA can barely pay its current bills, expansion of numbers via red ink is unlikely to happen.

      Expansion in Black communities is unlikely, from what I hear, for obvious reasons.

      Demography and changing economic structures are perhaps Scouting’s greatest enemies.

  3. Seems discriminatory to me to eliminate the boy and girl alternatives.
    However, there are plenty of precedents for such a unisex approach, especially in the former socialist countries.
    ‘Young Pioneers”, anybody?

    1. Etudiant,

      I’ve written about the march to a unisex society. It was considered utopian by its advocated in the 1960s, yet we’re close to it in 2017. Go to a college campus. Boys and girls dress alike, talk alike, have similar life goals. I suspect that studies of male – female psychology would show the differences shrinking. Each generation of women is more aggressive (look on dating profiles — women boast about being “sassy” or a “bitch”).

      It’s a social experiment on a scale seldom attempted. Welcome, fellow lab rats in another of the Left’s grand experiments. Those in the USSR and China did not produce the expected results, but this one…

  4. Eugene Waldenmaier

    When they ripped God, Godly tenets, discipline, patriotism and rewarded achievement over participation out of scouting, who want to be there. It is a club with a uniform and a proud history that is being stolen by Anti-American globalists.

    1. Eugene,

      “When they ripped …patriotism and rewarded achievement over participation out of scouting, ”

      Scouting is led by volunteers, so that units differ from one another. But 15 years of Scouting — up to a senior Council leadership post — let me say that your statement is quite false.

      The religious basis is gone from most units, reflecting trends in our society. Discipline is far less than in the past, again reflecting changes in America. Scouting is a community-cased movement,and so must reflect the changes in America. But your other claims are false.

  5. Just call them Scouts. The institution will be bankrupt in 10 years from the all the lawsuits. A country stuck on stupid.

    1. Gute,

      “The institution will be bankrupt in 10 years from the all the lawsuits.”

      Why? The sexual abuse lawsuits against Boy Scouts (and the Catholic Church) seem to have mostly run their course. The tightening of procedures begun in Scouting in the late 1990s seem to be working.

      “A country stuck on stupid.”

      That implies there was no response to the problem by Scouting. That’s quite false.

  6. Hi Mr Kummer and all,

    Mr Kummer, you’re killing it with the posts of late, and this one is sensational. There are all these institutions that are crumbling and there is no way to put them back. Some of the structural whys and wherefores are obvious (head got crushed because the baseball hat is hard), but they are less so from one or two removes. I don’t know how many of your posts you sign off with by citing “it will be interesting to see how this play out” but holy schmoly, this is one where four or five exclamation points wouldn’t be appropriate. I was a failed Scout. We shot guns, rode horses, sailed boats, just went and lived in the woods for week or two or three in the summer or over Christmas break. That was all amazing, but the formality of the structure when we weren’t being caveman pirates wasn’t for me (punch line is coming). That said, it *really* was for other guys in the troop. Life altering. As in should have been in prison, but now he’s an investment banker Eagle Scout, and what the hell do I know, but I think it had something to do with Scouting and the slog to Eagle.

    What’s the median age for a Rotarian? Sorosis? You used to drive into even a small, crappy town here in the South and be greeted by the badges of multiple service clubs and the VFW. Where I’ve become much more sympathetic to Conservatives is with religion. If you ever want to know what I look like, look up blaspheming atheist from Hell in the American Heritage Dictionary and there will be my smiling face, but the importance of churches and the community that they re-enforce is not something to take lightly. I am coming to revere these institutions in their more pure essence. We make up the myths because we need the social cohesion they make if we believe them, or even if we just go through the motions of belief.

    These institutions aren’t being replaced by nothing. But the replacements aren’t one-to-one, and they aren’t obvious. It’s very interesting to me that Mormons are the backbone of what’s left of the BSA. I am not surprised. I was born again, but to the essence of the ideals of the Constitution in Utah. I was really irritated to have to buy a bogus membership to a club just to have a glass of wine with dinner. But then, I realized that I was a guest in someone else’s house. Who the hell am I to say what they believe and do, especially when all I get in Provo is kindness, respect, and consideration? Equal protection and live and let live. That’s all well and good, but what springs from that if we’ve torn everything else down?

    Please forgive me for stealing you signature line: it will be interesting to see how this plays out. Great, great, post!

    With regards,


    1. Bill,

      ” you’re killing it with the posts of late, and this one is sensational.”

      These things are not said more often because we don’t want to hear them (so sensible people don’t say them). Traffic is down 1/3. Some of these posts are getting record lows among the 4100 since 2007 (the post on “How we learned not to care about our wars was a record low at ~500).

      “These institutions aren’t being replaced by nothing.”

      True. But they’re being replaced by less and weaker. America’s middle class is downsizing, and can no longer support the institutions that were what we think of as America.

      The Roman Republic died, but for one or two generations few Romans realized it. They just thought they were going thru a rough patch, and did not see the changes as creating a new order. That’s what’s happening to us. Like toothpaste out of the tube, we cannot recreating what is lost when an institution dies. Before long we will have to contemplate not just drastic measures to regain control from the 1% — but building a new structure to replace the one that burned down. That’s much more difficult than repair.

      Welcome to Weimerica!

      1. Dear Mr Kummer,

        What do you think is the source of this rot? There was this totally stupid movie where Russia invaded Michigan if I remember right and a bunch of high school kids banded together to fight the Rooskies. It was total bullshit, but it so captured what seemed to be an essential part of the American spirit, or what I always believed it to be. What? The Russians have landed? Let’s go kick their ass! Or build cars. What are you doing? Oh, I am taking this 289 and a transaxle I got out of an Oldsmobile and I’m going to put it into the VW bug, here. Why? Uh… because I can.

        It’s been a long time, so I might not have this exactly right, but the US needed more airplanes in WW2. The congress critters had a scheme where they wanted Wright to license the plans for the P40 to North American to make up the extra production. The president of North American said “screw that!” and that he’d make a better airplane cheaper and still hit their timelines. And… they made the P51. I don’t know if I have ever seen anything as beautiful as a P51D. That was just how we rolled. Now, people high-five because Stephen Colbert noticed to comical effect that Trump’s grasp of reality is somewhat less than firm because Gummi Bears are not helping make America great again. Water is wet. Up is not down. Now, that’s insight you can’t just have, because now it has to be revealed by snarky celebrities.

        This can get pigeonholed, and I’ll try to use my words carefully. I am not so old that I voted for or against Roosevelt, but I had relatives who did and were in unions and had his picture up on the wall that I remember quite vividly (I like Ike, and still do, though I recognize his quirks). But his brand of progressivism seems to me — and please call me out on this — was grounded in the sense that it was a temporary misfortune that put someone in a bad place, and the hand he was stretching out was one extended because he could. A man lending a hand to another man. The myth of can-do was intact, and it was ok to let someone pull you out of a bad spot, because it is what you would do if the roles were reversed.

        Today it seems that the myth has become we can’t live without assistance from some elite which descends on DC like manna from heaven. All Bill Clinton needs to do is feel your pain. He doesn’t actually need to do anything about it. He feels it, but he’s not going to touch it. And he doesn’t expect you will, either, so he’ll make sure corporate execs can skim whatever they need as long as he can collect enough taxes to have some GS9 write up a study on disparities in LGBTQ access to healthcare in Pott’s Camp, Mississippi. Good work if you get it. Kids that go to GW need to work somewhere doing something, I suppose.

        We’ve jumped the shark with a government who say everyone is screwed and only the government can help them, except they can because they don’t have enough money, so everyone should complain harder. All of healthy-people healthcare could be taken care of with F35 piece-parts and the unlucky sick and dying could be taken care of with of xCOMs where we probably don’t really need to be killing people. The military mind is not inherently inefficient. AFRICOM will get run out of Stuttgart until some jackass politician figures out how to grease some palm to shore up a constituency somewhere. Maybe Athens where we can lend them more because they can pay for more with an increased tariff on toilet paper, or whatever. If Brussels and DC actually does this, it’s not my fault. The answer can’t be, let’s just spend more harder. We take 20/40/60/80% from the 0.001% and now it’s in DC. What happens next? You have ideas, and I have ideas, and lots of your readers have ideas, but I’m not a senator or a representative, and if I was I’d probably get arrested for punching Rand Paul in the face. And I’m a libertarian. Here’s the sad part. I’d get away with it because he’s calcium privileged and my brittle knuckles only buckle under his calcium oppression.

        How do we recover the polis? How do we become people governed by a government of the people? Increasingly, I don’t think we can, at scale. Or, maybe we can, but the robots are going to have to help.

        With many fond regards,


      2. Dear Mr Kummer,

        Thanks for the links. Do ideas and ideals and values and spirit die like bodies do? Cities don’t seem to die. I am in awe of the grandeur that was Rome, as in the Roman Republic and part of the Empire. Scipio Africanus is the guy on your bench. Oh, this Hannibal situation is alarming! No problem. I got it. They have elephants and stuff. Yeah, that’s ok. We’re good. I don’t see the connection between Scipio Africanus, or Marcus Aurelius, or Cincinnatus, etc., and the people who live in Rome today, as lovely as they might be. Maybe some Ovid and Virgil. Maybe. Rome, however, is still with us. Oslo, Stockholm, Helsinki, they’re all home to snuss snorting Europhiles. They should do some Viking raiding (and trading when the terms are right). What happened?

        In WW2, we were rationing gas, collecting bacon fat and had women driving trucks and flying planes to England and out into the Pacific. We were invested. Could we even imagine a mobilization like that today? The great plague of our all volunteer armed services is that we take some of our best kids and have them killed for no purpose and no one cares.

        But the Russians took it on the chin. I’m not going to shinny down that pole…

        Still, we had George Patton on our bench. But it wasn’t Patton the man. It was the spirit he embodied. I am going to disengage here, fly north, smash the German flank, save the day, then ask permission to kick more ass. Now, it’s sorry George, I need that TPS report. Why don’t you fill that out and take that stapler back to inventory, because I don’t think that’s standard issue for your pay grade. Mattis is going to terrorize somebody with his powerpoint, but I’m willing to bet it’s some bureaucrat who doesn’t want to sit through it and not anyone who can be described as Taliban.

        Maybe one of the things that are used to caricature old men (kids these days!) is actually just true. Maybe the American spirit as I knew it is just dying and the people who passed it on to me shook their heads with disappointment and sadness with my destiny of having to pass it down to an incompetent who will pass it down even more bunged up and imperfect to the next generation was gift and curse.

        I am not being cynical to be cynical. I’m just wondering if it’s a foot race we can’t win. I have been keeping ahead of the grim reaper and I’m still running like hell. But I know how that race ends, eventually. Our bodies pretty much spend most of their time replicating their selves, but get progressively worse at it. We get moles, then cancers, bones that veer of in different directions, joints that no longer mesh… it ain’t pretty. Maybe a people only get a few hundred years, on average. A person, their three score and ten (I’m winning!). The Romans were good for a while. So were our forebears. Maybe we have become the cancer. We try to replicate what’s come before, but it’s become so corrupted that the process just has to end.

        That sounds terrible, but there was always something before and the exciting thing is what’s next. I’ll grant Conservatives this, their interest in what is is at least pragmatic. The “polis” in America is not united, and it seems there is one really, really big side wants Citizen Hillary who show us the way (I think she shops with Kim Jong Un, those suits! Seriously? You run for POTUS in that?) and another wants Big Daddy Apricotface with the fizz on top to do random stuff and whelp funny tweets and then the vanishing few who check into Fabius Maximus to see if any of the brothers and sisters are still yet alive.

        Thank you, Mr Kummer.

        With fond regards,


  7. Man, I knew membership has been declining but I didn’t realize it was quite this bad. Though not perfect, Boy Scouting gave me some of my favorite memories as a kid and instilled in me a lifelong passion for the outdoors and wilderness. It’s also great practice for learning, at a formative age, skills like teamwork under challenging conditions, pressing on through adversity, etc. — all the cliched lines about “character building,” but basically true.

    Together with hunting (also in demographic free-fall) Boy Scouts has traditionally been one of the most important mechanisms for instilling an appreciation for wilderness and the environment in young people (well, boys, at least). “Biophilia” as E.O. Wilson called it. It doesn’t always stick, but those for whom it does end up forming the core constituency for the conservation of wildlife and the preservation of our dwindling supply of “natural” places. If one only knows them from pretty pictures on websites and BBC documentaries the appreciation is superficial and fleeting and they won’t be fought for. And all the high-res 3D surround sound virtual reality simulations of what we’ve lost won’t make up for that.

    1. “… the safest road to Hell is the gradual one — the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”
      — From C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, chapter VII.

  8. What a downer to learn page views are down Larry. Your post about America not caring about our wars only getting 500 page views is particularly disheartening.

    Regarding Scouting, I loved it and loved my leaders. It was also rewarding to be a Cub Master and assistant Scout Master as an adult.

    You’ve posted about Crazy Time and Weimerica. It is on the mark. Maybe page views are down because it’s bringing viewers down and they are escaping to wine, bread and circus clowns.

    Don’t quit. I won’t!

    1. Longtrail,

      Thank you for your comments. I look at pageviews as a source of data about America. Like deep-penetrating radar, it shows unseen things in a blurry way.

      The previous record-holders for lowest pageviews were my posts about Reforming America: steps to new politics. The most frequent criticism of the FM website in it first five years was a focus on diagnosis of America — with little discussion of treatment for our ills. That seemed a valid criticism, so I began writing about the many ways to reform US politics. Organizing, focus on truth, how to protest and write slogans and use music.

      Surprise! The criticism was just a way to avoid dealing with it. Readers liked proposals about reform even less than those about the problems. Most of the responses ranged from defeatism to apathy.

      After the 100th post in that series, I realized the problem. All of these posts proposed work, even taking risk, to fix (or save) America. Americans reacted to these like vampires splashed with Holy Water. I can still remember the screams of protest.

      I compared what I was writing with what smart people write about (i.e., those getting mass audiences) at the big left and right websites. Americans want simple tales of good people and bad people. Boo the baddies. Cheer our team! Plus lots and lots of information, but only if it re-enforces our preconceptions. Nothing disturbing to our political beliefs or world view. Doomsterism is great, giving us a thrill (since we don’t connect knowledge with action, that’s fine).

      If you like this content, please pass it on. That’s the best way to gain an audience. Also appreciated is hitting the “tip jar” at the top of the right-side menu bar.

  9. I am a lifelong scouter. From earning a plethora of Cub Scout badges and awards up to Arrow of Light, to earning my Eagle Scout with a bunch of palms, to serving as an Assistant Scoutmaster and a Cubmaster, I have been involved as a Scouter for 40 years.

    This post accurately puts the decline in Scouting as symbolic of the decline in American culture and society. The values taught by Scouting are as important as ever, but discredited by our dominant culture.

    The institutiinal rot happened long ago in Scouting, and has gradually destroyed the branches.

    1st, Scouting covered up sexual abuse by leaders. Having leaders engage in sexual abuse isn’t a indictment of an institution. Covering it up is. The culture declined, but Scouting cared more about protecting the veneer of the institution rather than its mission of turning boys into men.

    2nd, it was 25 years ago when I first learned of rot at the council level of Scouting. I was an energetic young Assistant Scoutmaster and our committee chairman told me of how the scout camps in our area had been sold of to close associates of council board members at below market prices, about how the local council was heavily engaged in providing contracted “outdoor experiences” for the very large mostly urban school district, and starting non Scouting but Scouting like programs, just without the values, culture, etc. I have since learned this happened around the country, as boards did insider dealing for the benefit of cronies and to the detriment of Scouting and the boys.

    3rd, the building of Summit Bechtel was the final straw for the decline. This is the new giant camp for the national jamboree, after Obama kicked the BSA out of its long time location of Fort A.P. Hill. The camp was originally proposed to be reasonably priced, but corporate board members pushed for a super camp at the cost of $439 million. But doing so left Scouting at the control of these same corporate intetests, who had promised to fund it. And so Scouting stopped listening to its long term religious partners and instead obeyed the new corporate masters.

    Several of the recent radical changes have taken place in meetings where the Mormons were not in attendance.

    I expect the Mormons to finally depart now. Mormons first got involved in the BSA in 1910, one year after it started in America. I have heard that the current leader, who will likely soon die, has been a avid proponent of Scouting, and that they are waiting until he dies to leave. They have already cut back their involvement, dropping sponsorship of Venturing and Varsity Scouts.

    I have 2 Life Scouts, a 2nd class scout, and a Bear among my 4 boys. I go with my sons to summer camp each year. My wife has been highly involved with Cub Scouts. Some of my best memories have occurred at scout camp and other scouting adventures, as a child or as an adult.

    I think this might be the final straw. Boys struggle to become men. Scouting was a great institution to help this happen. Adding girls destroys that. No reason to belong to an institution that refuses to adhere to its own goals, values, and principles.

    1. Gaius,

      That’s a sad but true list. The cover-up of sexual predators was an unwashable stain on BSA. And many Councils still don’t prioritize Scouts’ safety.

      The grandiose Summit Bechtel camp was an incredible financial error, excessive spending by a financially weak organization.

      Now we can only guess at the effects of this week’s policy change. But BSA will survive. Institutions don’t die easily, and the almost all of Scouting around the world is coed.

    1. PAT,

      The Boy Scouts’ action has put the Girl Scouts on the skids. They’re unhappy — see their brutal response.

      It would have been generous for BSA to offer a merger with the Girl Scouts. They might not have accepted, of course. But all the parents seeking to add “Eagle Scout” to their daughter’s college ap will shun Girl Scouts.

      Some Scouts, more in touch with girls than 60+ me, say that parents might shoe-horn girls into BSA. But that doesn’t mean most will like it — or stay. The oft-said analogy is with Legos. Parents seeking to raise boy-like girls have bought tons of girl-oriented Legos. Surveys show they are often either ignored, or used to build a house — that remains as a fixed structure to play with (a very expensive doll house).

      Time will tell.

  10. Here in New Zealand, girls have been in Scouts for at least 20 years, as my girls all went through it. The Guides are still girl only. Other than some teething issues, there have been no problems that I know of. The numbers in Scouting have held, while Guides have dropped. The Jamborees are still seen as the highlight of many children’s time in scouts. The NZ equivalent of Eagle Scout – Queen’s Scout, is in high regard, having a ceremony where they are awarded it by the Head of State, and you note it in many achiever’s CVs.
    Despite many predictions when girls were let in, it didn’t kill Scouting. In fact now, many scout troops have waiting lists – they have problems getting leaders and retaining them for longer than their children’s passage through the organisations. There are police checks as part of the leader process – having just one police force makes that a lot easier.

    1. Chris,

      Thanks for the news from New Zealand. The global experience has been, so far as I can tell, a drop in Scouting numbers when they go co-ed — but not terminal.

      I think the concern of most Scouters is more granular than just “it will die”. First, the Mormon’s might leave. Without them, the current BSA infrastructure probably cannot be maintained — either financially or in terms of volunteers. BSA might be forced to drastically downsize. The support lost won’t be matched by new support from the Left that now hates it.

      Second, that Scouting continues does not mean that it continues to be what it is today. I’ve seen no detailed comparisons between BSA and Scouting in other nations. Here it is more than just another youth organization. We already have many of those, and if BSA becomes just another it will continue — but America will have lost something valuable.

  11. For me it’s a bit difficult to understand this problem. I was a (boy) scout in southern Europe, 1980s-1990s, from 8 to 16. Our scouts always accepted girls; but groups were (and still are) coed only between ages 6-10, where sex differences were smaller; and between ages 15-18, when projects were individual. Patrols (right term?) inside the same group were kept segregated between ages 10-15; there were coed activities, but many projects and challenges were handled individually by the patrols, and of course there were large differences between what boys and girls did (and chose to do).

    I think this worked well in our case. It’s difficult to say how things would be different without girls, since they were in the organization since at least the late 1970s. But we had plenty of outdoor activities, and they were physically and psychologically demanding. We marched for days under rain and sun, slept in the rough, caught our own food, built our own watchtowers and rope bridges and rafts, went hungry and cold and tired; at the time, I thought our girl scouts were tough enough, and our bond was very strong.

    Individual education was different for boys and girls, and our approaches to scouting were different, but I think it balanced out at group level. And we felt we could do “boy stuff” when we wanted, especially as we were encouraged to make activities as (single sex) individual patrols as well as inside the group; boy patrols would be more involved with physical activities, girl patrols would do more volunteer social work.

    At the time there was also an all-girl scout organization, but their activities were very different from ours.

    I don’t know how the US scouts will do things differently, and if it’ll matter. But my experience with mixed boy-girl scouting was great! I can add that (according to my brother, who stayed on as leader) we see a decline in scouts, and especially in the level of physical demand, but he ties this with an increased concern of parents with child safety and with the kind of activities scouting is associated with. This, I’m afraid, is true for parents of both boys and girls.

  12. Eagle Scout and 10+year Assistant scoutmaster here. I don’t know how this is gonna shake out for BSA but I’ve heard many times from sisters of scouts they wished they could join a Boy Scout troop because the Girl Scout troops they had access to didn’t focus on the outdoor activities like we did. Yes there were venture and varsity troops that had coed activities, but I saw few actually when I was an active scouter. One thing I know is there were plenty of women staff at the Philmont Scout ranch when I did an 80 mile backpacking trip with my troop and they had outdoor skills that would match the best of the men. Same with the Florida Seabase and scuba diving.

    I had long maintained that the scouting programs needed to be separate so that boys could gain experience without the distractions of girls to fight or flirt with, and to get time around grown men, to learn how to be one. But I can’t say that anymore. I think boys need women around to learn how to become decent men, and that I was mistaken about it all those years. I think it can be a good thing, though I fear enough people will feel like I did and choose other things with their time. Scouting had already enough competing for teens attention, so I hope this will come out ok. It was one of the most positive experiences in my life, and I think I got more out of it as an adult leader than I did as a kid.

    1. gburta,

      “I think boys need women around to learn how to become decent men”

      That’s an extraordinary statement. Do you have the slightest evidence to support it?

      You make it sound as if Boy Scouts grow up in a monastery. Boys are around girls for almost all of the time. What fraction of their time do they spend in Scouting. For most troops, a few hours every week at a scout meeting and or two days per month camping.

      Also, I’ve been working with boys for two decades. I’ve not noticed that Scouts are more deficient in their dealings with or attitudes to girls than boys not in Scouting. Nor have I heard anyone else say so.

      1. gburta,

        My comment was poorly written, conflating two different things.

        My comment discussed your belief that scouting needs to be co-ed to give boys more time around girls. Do you have any evidence that the century-long history of Scouting has produced boys defective in that respect to other boys?

        By your logic, the far larger body of boys in intensive boys-only sports programs must be defective as well. Your evidence?

        But there is also the more general statement that boys need to be around girls to become “decent men”. Do you have any evidence for that? We have a large body of boys raised with less contact with girls than those in co-ed schools. They should show this effect.

        The rich have raised their children in single sex schools for centuries. Plus, there is an even larger body of boys educated at boys-only schools and boys-only boarding schools. Can you point to evidence that these boys raised in these programs became men somehow defective in their relations with women?

  13. Sigh. You so often seem to be combative toward commenters on your blog. I didn’t suggest taking the statement “I think boys need to be around women to learn to be decent men” to cast shadows at all same sex environments, sports programs, etc, nor did the comment exclude possibility that the program as it has always functioned didn’t create decent men. Indeed I hope I am one of them. You also assumed the word “decent” was aimed at relations with women.

    As I’ve grown older and learned more about how people really treat one another, I’ve seen great benefit from having women in a group, on a business team, on a board of directors, and even in the scouting context, as one troop I was in had many active moms who went camping with us. In those contexts it seemed to me for me, boys, and other men, there were more opportunities to learn about ways to be in the world and how to treat one another decently. Simply because of the considerations or awareness of issues that might not occur without the presence of a woman in the group. Not just in the way men treat women, but everyone.

    So I have no concrete evidence to point you to, but for me it is enough wisdom gained to be able to say that I think my former support of gender exclusivity in scouting may have been shortsighted and that I am open to the possibility that this change may be a good thing.

    1. gbutera,

      (1) “I didn’t suggest taking the statement “I think boys need to be around women to learn to be decent men” to cast shadows at all same sex environments, sports programs”

      Irrespective of your intent, your statement does do so. Unless you can explain the different effect of them vs. Scouts. Why doesn’t your logic apply to other similar same-sex organizations — so that the damage you describe is visible and been studied. And your logic applies 10x to same-sex bording schools? After centuries, why has this effect not been noticed?

      (2) “I’ve seen great benefit from having women in a group, on a business team, on a board of directors, and even in the scouting context, as one troop I was in had many active moms who went camping with us.”

      That’s a different claim than your initial one that “I think boys need women around to learn how to become decent men”. Your first claim could be easily (as such things go) empirically tested. You second is a value statement, I suspect. Society is built on such shared values.

      (3) “In those contexts it seemed to me for me, boys, and other men, there were more opportunities to learn about ways to be in the world and how to treat one another decently. … Not just in the way men treat women, but everyone.”

      You are broadening your claim, now saying that boys raised in a fully co-ed environment treat one another more decently (not just women) than those who spend time in same-sex programs.

      I would appreciate it if you would respond to my comment addressing that specific point. I will repeat it, you make the following two claims.

      (a) Most American boys are in a co-ed environment almost all the time. Scouting is roughly 250-450 hours/year of the roughly 4300-4400 hours/year total (depending on the Troop) — 5% to 10% of that time. So that change in their time will make teach them “to treat one another decently.” If so, Scouts (and boys in other same-sex program) must doing so less today than those not in some same-sex programs. With so many in those programs during the past century, this effect should be visible in those boy (and the men they become) vs. others not in same-sex programs You are the first person I’ve seen claiming it.

      This effect must be far stronger in boys raised in same-sex boarding schools. Again, there is a long history of large numbers in such schools. Again, you are the first person claiming such an effect.

      Don’t you it odd that nobody else has noticed this poor behavior by Scouts and other boys in same-sex programs?

      (b) You claim that boys need to be around girls to become “decent men”.

      The same questions apply as to (a) above. Has anyone else noticed this? If not, why are you the first?

      (c) Co-ed groups are somehow better.

      Over my pay grade to touch that one.

      (4) “You so often seem to be combative toward commenters on your blog.”

      There are two aspects to your complaint. First, I am taking your comments serious — and responding in depth to them. How many others have done so? Not just applauding over beer, but giving you a detailed and somewhat analytical response. People have to pay quite a bit to this kind of analysis.

      Second — often people consider asking questions about their claims “to be combative.” My guess is that most Americans spend their time in ideologically unisex internet environments (left or right), where comments are applauded for being political correct — no matter how bizarre. I’ve seen lots of those. They are safe spaces. Which is fine.

      That’s just fine. But it is not this space. I believe America is on the skids (and have marshalled a large body of posts providing dribs and drabs of evidence), and that the best response is a fierce search for truth about our condition and possible fixes. That’s a personal belief, an operating assumption for this microscopic drop in the great internet sea.

  14. Larry,

    I had a fabulous experience as a Scout, but could not interest my son. My high points were the camping and outdoors activities. Being competitive I achieved Eagle, Order of the Arrow, etc., but that did not drive my experience. By the time my son came along almost 30 years ago, Scouts seemed to have lost their way with little focus on the outdoor activities. He quickly lost interest. Sounds like things have continued to drift down since then. Sorry to hear that, but, if Scouting fails, I doubt it will be because of the addition of girls to the program. Looks like Philmont may still be going strong. That was the highlight of my experience; taught me a lot about self reliance. i’m sure there will be lots of girls ready to take on that challenge. Perhaps my granddaughter will take up the challenge one day.

    1. John,

      “Scouts seemed to have lost their way with little focus on the outdoor activities.”

      That’s certainly not true overall. But Scouting is a largely grass-roots operation, and so there is wide variation between councils — and by troop within council. Some troops are great, built around strong high adventure programs. Some are barely alive.

      I led a Troop for 8 years. We had 70 boys and held 40-45 events per year, in addition to weekly troop meetings. Most of those were camps or hikes, including two weeks of summer camp, a 50 mile hike — and visits every few years to one of the BSA national camps.

      BSA troops are like America — they depend on the participating adults to make it work.

      1. Sorry my son didn’t have your troop. Sounds like a wonderful experience for the boys. More like my troop but on steroids.

  15. here in Italy scout and Guides merge in 1974 (the main associations, we have a lot of little not in OMMS) . number have grown, to around 200.000, in 1990 and stabilize after. the main difficult is found adult leaders (no pay or espense refound all free service), to the point that they cannot keep more young boy or girl as they don’t have the necessary adult to support higher numbers (i left in 2008 after 30 years).
    the cost have keep low with a lot of effort from central level, but it depend a lot on sensibility of local level also: but it is possible. now t is around 300-400 $ for 1 year on average (two weeks camp in summer included): so not middle class reserved at all,
    now i ask to one of the former president of Italian scout association, if he can came to comment: they can gave a higher level inside opinion.

    1. Palolo,

      Thanks you for the update from Italy.

      The concern in America is that is not just about the numbers, but the nature of the program. Boy Scouting here is not just another youth organization. Those are commonplace around the world.

      A comparison of the programs around the world would be useful to see if, in fact, they are different from BSA.

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