So like KFC (formerly Kentucky Fried Chicken), the SAT (formerly Scholastic Aptitude Test) and NARAL (formerly the National Abortion Rights Action League), the Scouts have clumsily turned its name into an acronym whose letters officially stand for…nothing.
Which is appropriate, actually, given the Scouts’ recent departure from the values it once stood for. In 2013, the organization began admitting openly gay scouts. And in 2015, it ended a prohibition on gay Scout leaders. Last year, it even began allowing girls who identify as boys to participate.
This is a shame. The Boy Scouts used to be a place where boys learned to become men. They were taught not only how to tie a knot and build a fire but also how to work in a team, manage their time, control their emotions and stay fit. They were even taught about the value of faith and patriotism.
When I was growing up, to call someone “a boy scout” was to say that he was morally upright, resourceful and honest—someone you could trust to help your mother out of a jam or would approve of dating your sister or marrying your daughter.
It’s good that girls want to participate in outdoor activities. But as one young Scout told his parents after he heard about the new policy, “I go to Scouts to get away from my sister.”
And it’s not as if there isn’t already a place for girls who want to learn scouting to go. It’s called the Girl Scouts, which released a statement after the Scouts’ decision implicitly accusing them of trying to poach its members.
Ironically, girls and women may end up being hurt most by the Scouts’ decision. Their inclusion into the Scouts takes away one of the few remaining places where boys could learn what it means to be both masculine and a gentleman.
Apparently, in the era of #MeToo and books touting “the end of men,” someone got the brilliant idea to destroy one of the few spaces left where boys could learn what it means to be a man.
This is just the latest example in a trend of eliminating sex-specific spaces. At many high schools, girls can now participate in boys’ sports. In fact 2017 saw more than 2,000 girls participate in football in high schools across the country.
A similar phenomenon is happening among adults. Fraternal organizations such as the Elks and Moose have seen their memberships decline, while others, such as Kiwanis, have begun admitting women. And even religious fraternal groups like the Knights of Columbus are feeling the pressure to allow female members.
Given the changes the Scouts have been making, it’s no surprise that its membership has been plummeting. The Scouts membership peaked in 1972 at 6.5 million members. By 2012 that number had dropped to 2.8 million members.
Over the next four years, the group would lose another half million members.
A couple of days after the Scouts announced its name change, the Mormon Church decided to end its longstanding partnership with the organization. This is a big deal. Mormons make up nearly 20 percent of the Scouts membership. Many Christian churches across the country have made the same decision.
The Scouts insist that their recent changes are part of an effort to be more inclusive. But that concept loses all meaning if, by including everyone, the organization ends up excluding the standards that once made the Scouts worth participating in.