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Tuesday, November 21, 2017
HomePolicyBoy Scouts’ membership solution: Girls

Boy Scouts’ membership solution: Girls

A MOMENT FOR NOSTALGIA, THEN ONWARD

More than 2.4 million boys were enrolled in Boy Scouts of America in 2014. Membership had dropped 13 percent over the previous two years.

This was almost as bad as the drop that newspapers are experiencing in subscriptions. It couldn’t continue.

But it did. In spite of BSA allowing openly gay and transgendered boys to join, by 2016 the enrollment slid another 4 percent, even while the population of eligible boys grew.

This year, the venerable scouting organization will try to staunch the bleeding by allowing girls to join. After all, there are plenty of girls who might prefer being a cub scout rather than remain in girl scouts, for any number of reasons.

While BSA ranks have been thinning, Girl Scout enrollment has dropped just as fast:  it’s down to 2.66 million, a drop of more than 15 percent over three years. GSA is now miffed that BSA is trying to raid their girls-only clubhouse by allowing girls into the boys’ club.

“The value of the all-girl, girl-led environment offered by Girl Scouts cannot be overstated, and is so important to the social-emotional and personal development of girls,” said Andrea Bastiani Archibald, whose job title is “chief girl expert” at Girl Scouts of the USA. “Girl Scouts is a place where girls are free to be girls; to try new things, experiment, and have fun learning from and leading one another. There is no other leadership development program in the world that offers girls this inclusive, safe space, without the distractions and pressures of school and other social settings.”

Well, maybe. They make a convincing argument. Girls and boys are different, and we’re not just talking biology.

But Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts have missions that have adapted through time even since their founding in 1910 and 1912 respectively. They were once overtly Christian. Now, not so much. Boy Scouts once focused on the outdoors. Now, it’s robotics and technology. Girl Scouts were a lot about making crafts and selling cookies. Now, they too focus on robotics and technology.

Maybe it’s time that scouting be scouting. Let the kids choose where they want to participate, and let’s get them back outdoors, camping, hiking and learning to tie knots. And earning merit badges. Let’s help them with structure, in a world where they may have dysfunctional families that provide little or no structure. Let’s instill in them the virtues of walking an old person across the street and standing and saluting the American flag. And they can all do crafts and robotics, especially if the weather is lousy.

Girl Scouts of America will just have to get over it. Change is how the proverbial cookie crumbles. In fact, these organizations, competing for time in the busy lives of families, will have to change or die.

This time, it’s the boys that got it right.

(Disclosure: The writer is a Girl Scout dropout, as there were too many crafts involved.)

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

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