NEW YORK (AP) — For 108 years, the Boy Scouts of America’s flagship program has been known simply as the Boy Scouts. With girls soon entering the ranks, the group says that iconic name will change.
The organization on Wednesday announced a new name for its Boy Scouts program: Scouts BSA. The change will take effect in February, 2019.
Chief Scout Executive Mike Surbaugh said many possibilities were considered during lengthy and “incredibly fun” deliberations before the new name was chosen.
“We wanted to land on something that evokes the past but also conveys the inclusive nature of the program going forward,” he said. “We’re trying to find the right way to say we’re here for both young men and young women.”
The parent organization will remain the Boy Scouts of America, and the Cub Scouts — its program serving children from kindergarten through fifth grade — will keep its title, as well.
But the Boy Scouts — the program for 11- to 17-year-olds — will now be Scouts BSA.
The organization already has started admitting girls into the Cub Scouts, and Scouts BSA begins accepting girls next year.
Surbaugh predicted that both boys and girls in Scouts BSA would refer to themselves simply as scouts, rather than adding “boy” or “girl.”
The program for the older boys and girls will largely be divided along gender-lines, with single-sex units pursuing the same types of activities, earning the same array of merit badges and potentially having the same pathway to the coveted Eagle Scout award.
Surbaugh said that having separate units for boys and girls should alleviate concerns that girls joining the BSA for the first time might be at a disadvantage in seeking leadership opportunities.
So far, more than 3,000 girls have joined roughly 170 Cub Scout packs participating in the first phase of the new policy, and the pace will intensify this summer under a nationwide multimedia recruitment campaign titled “Scout Me In.”
On social media, there was widespread criticism of the name change, generally suggesting it’s a misguided display of political correctness that undercuts the Boy Scouts’ legacy. But many other people dismissed such criticism as an overreaction.
“Get over it,” Kevin Aldrich, a member-at-large with a Boy Scout council in central Indiana, told The Indianapolis Star. “There is every reason to be co-ed. The Future Farmers of America is co-ed. 4-H is co-ed. Band in school is co-ed.”
Dr. Eugene Gu, a physician at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and CEO of a biotech company, said on Twitter that the outrage is misplaced. He views the name change as a business decision.
“With declining membership, they need the girls or it would be called Bankrupt Scouts,” Gu tweeted.
The name change comes amid strained relations between the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts of America.
Girl Scout leaders said they were blindsided by the move, and they are gearing up an aggressive campaign to recruit and retain girls as members.
Among the initiatives is creation of numerous new badges that girls can earn, focusing on outdoor activities and on science, engineering, technology and math. The organization is expanding corporate partnerships in both those areas, and developing a Girl Scout Network Page on LinkedIn to support career advancement for former Girl Scouts.
“Girl Scouts is the premier leadership development organization for girls,” said Sylvia Acevedo, the Girl Scouts’ CEO. “We are, and will remain, the first choice for girls and parents who want to provide their girls opportunities to build new skills … and grow into happy, successful, civically engaged adults.”
The Girl Scouts and the BSA are among several major youth organizations in the U.S. experiencing sharp drops in membership in recent years. Reasons include competition from sports leagues, a perception by some families that they are old-fashioned and busy family schedules.
The Boy Scouts say current youth participation is about 2.3 million, down from 2.6 million in 2013 and more than 4 million in peak years of the past.
The Girl Scouts say they have about 1.76 million girls and more than 780,000 adult members, down from just over 2 million youth members and about 800,000 adult members in 2014.
The overall impact of the BSA’s policy change on Girl Scouts membership won’t be known any time soon. But one regional leader, Fiona Cummings of Girl Scouts of Northern Illinois, believes the BSA’s decision to admit girls is among the factors that have shrunk her council’s youth membership by more than 500 girls so far this year.
She said relations with the Boy Scouts in her region used to be collaborative and now are “very chilly.”
“How do you manage these strategic tensions?” she asked. “We both need to increase our membership numbers.”
Surbaugh said BSA’s national leadership respected the Girl Scouts’ program and hoped both organizations could gain strength.
“If the best fit for your girl is the Girl Scouts, that’s fantastic,” he said. “If it’s not them, it might be us.”
Diverging values lead to Mormon retreat from Boy Scouts
By BRADY McCOMBS
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — For more than a century, the Boy Scouts of America and the Mormon church formed an ideal pair as they helped each other expand their organizations and build their brands while molding countless young men through bow knots, pinewood derby races and campouts.
But as the calendar flipped to the 21st Century, the longtime partners originally drawn to each other by shared values began drifting apart. The Mormon church continued expanding into far off countries where Boy Scouts wasn’t offered and began eyeing its own program. Amid declining membership, Boy Scouts of America recently opened its arms to openly gay youth members and adult volunteers, transgender boys, and girls while the Mormon religion clung to its opposition of homosexuality and stuck to its traditional gender roles.
On Tuesday, the two sides announced what had become inevitable: They will split permanently starting in 2020.
The memories will live on in Norman Rockwell paintings, the Boy Scouts training complex named after a former Mormon church president and in the pictures from the church’s 2013 extravagant theatrical production commemorating their 100th anniversary together.
But, their futures are now headed in divergent directions.
The Boy Scouts will try to make up for the loss of its largest sponsor through the addition of girls and a welcoming message that all are invited. Last week, the organization said it will change the name of its flagship program next year to Scouts BSA to account for the inclusion of girls.
The organization says its current youth participation is about 2.3 million, down from 2.6 million in 2013 and more than 4 million in peak years of the past. So far, nearly 4,000 girls have joined roughly 170 Cub Scout packs participating in the first phase of the new policy, and the pace is expected to intensify this summer under a nationwide multimedia recruitment campaign.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will bank on nurturing its youth in a still-to-be developed program set to launch in 2020 that will likely include outdoor activities and character building similar to Boy Scouts but be tailored for the church’s doctrine and designed to roll out around the globe.
Unhitching from Boy Scouts will trigger nostalgia for American Mormons who grew up aiming for the important life milestone of Eagle Scout, said Mormon scholar Patrick Mason, professor of religion at Claremont Graduate University in California. Mason, who is Mormon, said his mother told him and his three brothers they couldn’t get their driver’s license until they earned Eagle Scout.
Joining the Boy Scouts is practically automatic among Mormon boys, and the religion has long been the biggest sponsor of Boy Scout troops in the United States. The 425,000 Mormon boys who will be leaving represent about 18.5 percent of youth in the Boy Scouts. Another 185,000 Mormon boys ages of 14 and 18 already left the Boy Scouts this year to focus on church-related activities and community service.
Mason said the time had clearly come for a split — with the Boy Scouts following shifting American culture that no longer matched church’s core principles. The Mormon church, which opposes gay marriage and considers homosexual relationships a sin, initially said it was “deeply troubled” by the Boy Scouts’ 2015 policy change on gays but stayed after receiving assurances it could appoint troop leaders according to its own religious values.
“The church remains concerned about cultural drift. The church doesn’t want to move with the culture. So actually this is kind of a counter-cultural move,” Mason said.
The move also shows the Utah-based religion’s efforts to solidify its global footprint. More than half of the church’s 16 million members live outside the U.S.
“The great challenge that Mormonism is facing right now is if it can make that leap from being simply a religion that is present all around the world and become a religion that is rooted all around the world,” said Matthew Bowman, a Mormon scholar and associate professor of history at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas.
The church’s announcement also revealed that its existing program for girls will be shuttered and replaced by the new youth program, leading Mason and Bowman to predict that more parity could be in store for girls and boys even while the church stops short of allowing women in the lay priesthood.
The church has long spent more money on Boy Scouts than the internal girls program and given more recognition to boys who earn Eagle Scout than girls who earn the highest medallion in their program, they said.
The new program will also give the Mormons a shot at putting young members on a path closely tethered to the church that can then lead to a mission, and hopefully, lifelong membership, Mason said.
“It’s great to get the boys out in canoes and shooting bows and arrows but that’s not going to do them any long term good if they leave the church,” Mason said. “The focus is going to be on faith because they’re worried about the rising tide of secularization.”
Associated Press national writer David Crary contributed to this report from New York.
Follow David Crary on Twitter at http://twitter.com/CraryAP