Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) in 1910, stated, “The purpose of the Boy Scout and Girl Guide [now Girl Scout]is to build men and women as citizens endowed with the three H’s; namely, Health, Happiness and Helpfulness. The man or woman who succeeds in developing these three attributes has secured the main steps to success in life.”
For 90 years, Baden-Powell’s vision seemingly stood the test of time. The past 20 years has seen a test of that vision.
A harsh reality is scouting’s popularity has decreased, and with declining numbers comes less registration dues (i.e. revenue). Both the BSA and Girl Scouts of America recently have experienced cash flow issues and the long-term viability of both organizations has been questioned.
According to CBS News, both Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts encountered a 6% decline in membership from 2015 to 2016. The organizations are down approximately 25% from their peak membership in the early 2000s.
Faced with declines in membership, in October 2017 the BSA announced a historic decision to accept girls into the BSA ranks. This decision has caused consternation at both the BSA and the Girl Scouts, as the BSA has concerns with maintaining high standards, with the BSA poaching their membership during a period of significant declines in participation.
Scouting has declined in popularity as a result of demanding academic schedules, the rise of club and travel-team sports and a marked preference by teens to spend time on gaming and social media with their ubiquitous smartphones.
Especially at Loyola, time is rapidly becoming a scarce commodity for over-committed students but also for time-starved parents, who have become glorified Uber drivers getting children to school, athletic events and musical recitals.
Furthermore, a fundamental difference between the Girl Scouts and BSA is branding—something that, when said, conjures an image that requires no further explanation.
When someone says “Eagle Scout,” most people know what that means because it’s a defining brand.
However, when someone says “Gold Award,” many don’t know it’s the Girl Scouts’ highest award, even though the Girl Scouts have for decades advertised the “Gold Award” as being comparable to Eagle Scout.
Admitting girls into the BSA lays the groundwork for increased registration, maintains high standards, and allows girls access to earning the coveted Eagle Scout Rank. Most importantly, this decision ensures the survival of Baden-Powell’s original vision and opens a door of opportunity and access to all.
At the current rate of declining membership, the BSA must take action to ensure its survival. While adding girls to the ranks could be seen as undercutting the Girl Scouts of America, it is better to consolidate as one strong foundation instead of two weaker organizations.
A stronger organization helps young men and women achieve Health, Happiness, and Helpfulness and, thus, “secure the main steps in a successful life.”