[Note: This post was published on GeekDad two years ago; this year marks the 102nd anniversary.]
Today, February 8th, marks the centennial of Boy Scouts in America. Over the past century, more than 110 million boys, young men, moms and dads have been members of the BSA. However, with such a momentous celebration at-hand, the Boy Scouts, in many ways, are a struggling organization. At a time when shows like “Man Vs Wild” and “Survivorman” are experiencing immense popularity and global awareness of the environment is at a high, wouldn’t it make sense that an organization like the Boy Scouts would see a surge in enrollment? After all, the scouting program specializes in promoting survival skills and enjoyment of the outdoors as its biggest recruiting tools for boys and young men.
But in the past decade, enrollment numbers have seen continuous annual plunges. Not as many boys are interested in the program and fewer parents are making the choice to enroll their sons in Scouting. The published enrollment numbers that the BSA share show that membership has dropped year after year, a tough pill to swallow for any organization, and the BSA has been accused on several occasions that their rolls have been inflated to enhance appearances. Even if you ignore those rumors and accept the BSA’s numbers, with just 2.8 million members, Scouting is half of what it was in 1972 when enrollment peaked. That means that Boy Scout membership in the US is down by 11% in the past decade and Cub Scouts have seen their membership drop by 23% during the same time.
It’s no secret we at Adafruit are working on “Scouts 2.0” for awhile with our skill badges and educational efforts. We’ll be debuting something very cool shortly that we think might just be what the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts may ultimately adopt in some way, or at least get inspired by to consider.
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Having been a Beaver, Cub, and Scout myself; and also having become a leader for my daughters to be Cubs and Scouts (yes…coed now)… I believe that Scouting overall is still relevant. Unfortunately, many parents in today’s world would rather their children do sports, music, dance, etc…as opposed to learning basic and advanced bushcraft, survival, leadership, teamwork, and outdoorsmanship. This combined with the high program fees across the board (including scouting) and lack of extra time many families have…makes for some tough decisions around the kitchen table. While I do not know what the solution should be, I do think that Scouting is an important and valuable part of the growing-up process.
I had a long (and variously successful) Scouting career, and Scouts provided me opportunities to experience things I never would have done myself.
I have a two-year-old son and will be deciding in a few years whether Scouting is an appropriate activity for him. This would be a no-brainer, but the Boy Scouts of America has come out publicly against homosexuality and atheism in recent years, and I have serious questions about whether I’d like my son to associate with a closed-minded organization.
I love the values that Scouting encourages: self-sufficiency, maturity, and honesty. I only wish that the BSA would leave sexual and religious politics alone and commit themselves to instilling these values in all children, not those that meet a particular conservative archetype.
I think the Boy Scouts are still relevant today and they are quite large and my son has lots of friends and makes tons of friends there. In terms of being relevant, what other groups compare with the size?
The Boy Scouts are open to hobbies as we’ve all been invited to share our hobbies. It is a perfect place to introduce electronics if you can teach on a child’s or young adult’s level.
I think you need to add a resistor badge like the sliders on the bottom of this blog to prove that I’m human when responding and not a bot. A resistor badge that also taught the values of the colors would be something that you could always reference.
What could be interesting is an organisation like the Scouts, but for the Maker movement. Teach kids to use electronics, woodcraft and to create things. Some sort of organized hacker spaces or something like that. Perhaps the Scouts could shift their focus into that direction to be more appealing to 21st century society. Geocaching is one example: it combines outdoorsmanship and technology.
The Scouts are moving toward you, here. they just, for instance, launched a robotics merit badge http://goo.gl/L9xmb They also ran a very cool contest in which the first 100 applicants got a robotics merit badge that actually flew on the last shuttle mission.
So, they’re getting there.
Another thought: We are a high adventure base, the newest in the BSA, with huge amounts of outdoor programming. It would be *so cool* to have a giant Maker Space at the Summit.
Not a big fan of the scouts because the do not allow membership to gay (glbt) youth.
I dissuaded my son from continuing with scouts after their anti gay positions were made public. I explained to him what they were doing … Why I thought it was wrong … And he decided to give it up.
The Boy Scout’s current opinion regarding has less to do with the reality of being homosexual or its morality and more to do with the ideal of Boy Scouts being a fraternal order. Homosexuality adds a layer of complexity to that ideal that the current BOA administration feels is counter to their message. With that said I know of many troops that didn’t approve of gay leaders or boys. Other troops didn’t care.
Like any organization they are staffed by people with their own predigests. Deal with it. When I was young I clearly remember having to deal with a leader of troop that believe in his heart of hearts that I couldn’t be a good scout because “my people had killed Jesus” and he made a point of being a dick about it. I left that troop and when to a different one with the second troop it never was an issue.
Basically I what I am saying is that the BSA is good organization and just because it my contain a minority people who disagree with you is no reason to paint the organization with a broad brush.
Now getting back on topic.
I think Boy scouts are still relevant. As a boy I would have never had an opportunity to enjoy nature, camping and learn how to interact with other children not only my age but both older and younger. I also feel that as I got further in the program I learned important lessons about mentoring the younger boys which I would never would have had the chance with out the BSA. Wither the activities are up to date isn’t really the issue. In many ways I feel that the BSA teaches youths to function in society in ways that would not be available to everyone.
BTW If you want to update the merit badges contact the BSA and tell them that you are interested in writing a new one. They will ask you to outline the project and if they like your proposal they will assist you in the process of getting your idea finalized into a badge. Only a few merit badges came from with in the BSA administration and if badges need updating then they need an informed person in the public to step up and make it happen.
>Not a big fan of the scouts because the do not allow >membership to gay (glbt) youth.
I think a clear difference should be made between Boy Scouts of America and scouting in general. BSA is just one single organization and their views don’t represent all scouts in general.
And a little about the subject itself. I think the most important part of scouting is to raise responsible people who think about what they do and how it affects themselves, other people and their surroundings. That’s why I’d say scouting is these days more relevant than ever!
Disclosure: I’ve been a scout for about 18 years. Also I live in Finland and I know there’s a huge difference between scouting here and scouting in the USA.