Thursday, September 30, 2010

Getting a Merit Badge in Axe Grinding

While still an iconic organization of a wholesome boyhood, the Boy Scouts of America are in a seemingly precipitous decline:

The organization, long an icon of wholesomeness in a simpler America, has seen its membership plunge by 42 percent since its peak year of 1973, when there were 4.8 million scouts. In the last decade alone, membership has dropped by more than 16 percent, to 2.8 million.

The declines reflect the difficulties of keeping up with changing times and shifting demographics, as well as of battling a perception that the organization is exclusionary because it bars gay people and atheists ....

This is axe grinding, not journalism.

Full disclosure: My son is on task to become an Eagle Scout, and TOSWIPIAW is on the Troop's executive board.

The membership decline is largely a reflection of an increasingly urban society. Just as hunting has been in a similar decline, people whose primary experiences are in large cities, outdoorsy stuff is remote both physically and conceptually.

Then add to that the knock-on effects of the Baby Boomer generation that used the 60's and 70's to assiduously reject Scoutings basic values. The same organization they wouldn't be caught dead in as boys is unlikely to draw their participation as dads. Even provided they had the loyalty to stay married. The one thing that characterizes the Scout troops my son has been in is married parents and involved dads.

As for battling an “exclusionary perception”? What a load of egotistical twaddle, which is probably the single most effective litmus test for who belongs to the MAL. See the reader comments if you don't believe me.

There is no contradicting the fact that Scouting's bylaws insist belief in God is essential to being morally grounded, and that, by extension, homosexuality is immoral because God has said so.

Newsflash: Scout troops would be hard pressed to care less about any of this, unless one is determined, through hypertrophied ego, to make them conclude otherwise. Beyond mouthing a few brief pieties, both banal and ecumenical (I know, redundant), religion is utterly absent.

My family has never attended church, and views all religions as being equally silly. The Boy Scouts do not know this, because the the only way to make them care is if we took it upon ourselves to expend vastly more energy imposing our religious beliefs upon them than they upon us.

Just so for homosexuality. Scouting is not about sex (just one look at the photo in the cite is iron clad proof); imposing one's orientation among the wider group is merely indulging in flights of self importance over an issue less relevant than a kickstand is to a football.

Yes, presumably the Boy Scouts have been seeing a membership decrease, although you wouldn't know it from my son's troop.

But the only perception battling going in is in this journalist's brain, such as it is, and the rest of her fellow bigots who can't wait to slap derogatory labels on any group they don't agree with.

Without the slightest hint of irony.


Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Your Scout troop must not be sponsored by a Southern evangelical church.

You probably have a good point about Scout fathers (or stepfathers) being married to Scout mothers. When my son was in Scout about 25 years ago, I believe all the boys had married mothers, although the troop leader was not married and was, I believe, uninterested in women.

And that would be my explanation for the decline in scouting, at least of boys who stay in to reach the higher ranks. Boys get involved with girls much earlier than they did in the '50s.

My son was on his way to Eagle till girls discovered him.

October 01, 2010 11:50 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

My son has been in three different troops.

I have no idea if any of them were "church sponsored".

SFAIK, more troops are using church facilities for some meetings, but that is due to many localities fighting the perception that Scouts are homo- and gyno- phobic, preventing them from using schools and libraries.

Unless boys are getting more interested in girls sooner these days, the decline in Scouting participation must be due to other reasons.

October 01, 2010 5:27 PM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

I have seen a lot of decline here and it's primary that scouting is "lost in the noise". There are *so* many activities that it's hard to find boys but especially parents willing to put in the time to keep a troop going. The ever increasing form filling, background checks, and training required to help out a troop at all is a big issue as well.

October 01, 2010 8:13 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

I have seen a lot of decline here and it's primary that scouting is "lost in the noise".

[Cue sound of face-palm]

I didn't even think about the proliferation of things like traveling sports teams that didn't even exist when I was a kid.

No doubt the vitality of my son's scout troops is due not only to the opportunities Alaska has to offer, but also its hostility in terms of both climate and distance to all those other distractions.

October 01, 2010 11:36 PM  
Blogger Peter said...

I had a few thoughts to throw out about the changing cultural context of things like wood-carving and Indian lore, but then I thought, it has been so long since I was a member, I had better do some research on what the Scouts are actually teaching these days. Fearing there might now badges in personal counselling and life-coaching, I must say I was more than a little blown away to see they now offer merit badges in nuclear science and robotics. I guess they aren't going down without a fight.

October 03, 2010 6:30 AM  
Blogger erp said...

A friend sent me this amazing video of a father/son project that might be something a scout troop might undertake. The pride and admiration in the boy's eyes tells the whole story.

October 03, 2010 7:25 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

erp -- that was beyond cool.

October 03, 2010 10:51 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

I had better do some research on what the Scouts are actually teaching these days.

That's a list of some evil stuff, isn't it.

I notice the Scouts haven't gotten around to establishing merit badges for religious indoctrination and gay bashing.

October 03, 2010 10:55 AM  

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