Shutterstock image purchased by Mike Walton
I have seen this episode several dozen times in my life. Each time, those promoting the episode attempted to convince people -- including me -- that "This is the end. There's no more after this." In my first novel, "Patches and Pins", I talk about the morning in which the world -- everything in it, including its population -- would be sucked into the Sun, and we would cease to exist. This was in the late 70s. Before my book, and when I was too young to realize this, the world came to a collective edge in the 60s during the missile crisis. Again, people -- good intentioned they may be -- attempted to tell us to "get right with our Maker, and prepare yourselves for the end of times!" A Hitchcock story illustrating those last moments as the heat gets so hot that it would literally melt our bodies into mush and those in the teledrama tried to get things right with their neighbors. Scared the bejeebers out of me, but that's what a suspense drama is supposed to do, right? I made it to college and stood in a hallway with a college contract instructor, Shirley, at the exact time that we were all to become -- no, not dust in the wind (great song, by the way) but elements in the universe. I told her then that it wasn’t the end then in those earlier situations. It isn’t the end now.
The edge of the cliff?
So here we are, collectively on the edge of that cliff above. This time around, the "cliff" represents the programs of the Boy Scouts of America or BSA. And this time, it's the fact that the BSA is admitting girls into their traditional Cub Scout and Scout programs starting this fall. It's not the "end of the program" by a long shot. Let's toss out some factual rope and tie them to sturdy parts of the landscape. The BSA has been unofficially admitting females into its programs since the 40s when some gals cut their hair, strapped their breasts to their bodies, and practiced things like crouch scratching, burping loudly and other things "boys did" so that they "fit in" and get to go to the new camping experience called "Philturn Ranch and Scout Camp" in New Mexico. Oh some got caught and there was a lot of "hee-haws" about it -- but the fact remained: girls -- young women -- WANT the SAME experiences that boys -- young men got and they were not ashamed to be called "tomboys" or worse, "boys" -- to get it. Officially, the BSA started admitting young women in its older youth program called "Exploring" back in the late 60s. Young women accounted for more than three-quarters of the Exploring youth membership by the 80s and assisted the overall BSA membership to reach over three million youth. Exploring was and continue to be a career and hobby awareness program which proved to be popular with both young men and women as the workforce started to open to both genders (pay was another thing) in the 70s and 80s. It's still around -- and yes, many of those young women carried membership cards (and a lot of liquor bets were lost to the display of those cards) stating that they were members of the Boy Scouts of America. About that same time, the BSA and the Girl Scouts of the USA (different national organizations, with different national boards and different "core audiences") started to talk "consolidation". It got to a point whereby a new national structure was created -- something called "Scouting/USA" -- which appealed initially to both national organizations. Talks fell apart over management, ownership of local units, and naturally finances, and the BSA was left with a whole bunch of logos, organizational restructuring and shuffling and the loss of "good will" as most Americans did not understand that "Scouting/USA" is really the Boy Scouts of America with a "hip, communicative name". The BSA abandoned and officially buried "Scouting/USA" so deep -- and to this day prohibit their local Councils from using the logos and name in connection with ANYTHING of the BSA. It did not stop families from accepting the premise of that earlier program shift. That with the proper oversight and understanding, their female children can indeed "tagalong" with their male siblings and relatives to Boy Scouting outdoor activities and events. They did. Those leaders did not seek approval -- it was their families and they took responsibility for their family attendance and participation. The BSA stopped fighting it -- it was a losing battle and it would much rather have happy families than grouchy male adults. The BSA officially started a "Family Camping" initiative in the early 90s. Many BSA Councils still have "family camping sites" at their summer camp or other outdoor adventure bases to this day -- complete with the RV hookups, access to bathhouses and even changing tables.
So now, we move forward some years. Exploring went away and was replaced with Venturing -- with an advancement program for young women as well as men. This was nothing really new since male and female Sea Explorers -- now called Sea Scouts -- have been earning their highest rank (called Quartermaster) since 1970. The BSA hired female professional members since 1971 and now has four female Council Scout Executives (the senior-most professional managers) scattered around the nation with three key female professionals working at their National Center. We have female Scoutmasters (since 1980) and female Commissioners (since 1973) all over the nation and this year (2018), the BSA elected its first female National Commissioner.
It was past time that the BSA allowed girls to become members in its Cub Scouting (pre-school and elementary schooled aged) and Scouting (middle and high school aged) programs. The BSA changed the title of what they previously called members in their Scouting program from "Boy Scouts" to simply "Scouts BSA". ("Scouts" for short -- adding the "BSA" part was to prevent the movement from having to explain youth who were not a part of the BSA being a part of other "scouting" programs. "Scouts" and "Scouting" can't be copyrighted or trademarked; "Scouts BSA" can and has been.)
And so we once again stand on the edge of the cliff. People telling us "save yourselves", that "this is the end" of the BSA in our nation. "Might as well just die -- because that's what the program is going to do...die". Without being too religious in a public venue, I just have to remind those that "no person knows the time, or location, or method" in which the Second Coming will occur; or the start of the "end of times". Many good-intentioned researchers, preachers, soothsayers, prognosticators, and "crackpots" have all tried to tell us that our world as we know it is doomed and we need to get off (or out) of it now before it is too late. As one of my favorite church leaders told his audience years back, "It's NEVER too late. God will wait on you forever. It is YOU who must make the decision to come to God." With regard to Scouting, as I mentioned at the top, I've seen, read and heard this episode before...and there's no ring of truth to it. The BSA survived a change in its earlier years and will survive and thrive through this too.
A great Scouting friend of mine summarized how adding girls to our Cub Scouting (which as of the writing of this entry, has more than 20,000 female youth registered with another 14,000 male youth registered -- and this is late September) and Scouting (which does not start accepting female youth until February of 2019) will NOT mark the "end of the BSA". Todd Kelly wrote the following in my "Talk About Scouting!" Facebook forum (I changed the order of items to fit with the BSA's official timeline): "For all the folks who are going nuts over this announcement, I have the following to say, from the perspective of a 45-year member of the organization, an Eagle Scout, a former Camp Director, and professional scouter: It was "the end" when William Randolph Hearst started the American Boy Scouts with massive amounts of capital, military drills and a national network of newspapers to be his advocate. (1910) It was "the end" when William D Boyce was voted off the National executive committee principally because of his extremist racial opinions. (Officially 1914, he started the Lone Scouts of America that same year. The LSA eventually merged with the BSA in the 30s) It was "the end" when all the adult men went off to war in 1917. It was "the end" when we added the younger boy program in 1930 and again, when we changed the name of that program from Cubbing to Cub Scouts in the 40s - something James E West (the BSA's first Chief Scout Executive) advised against. It was "the end" when the 1935 Jamboree was canceled. It was "the end" when Beard, West, Seton and the early founders died. (Boyce in 29, Beard in 41, Seton in 46, West in 48) It was "the end" when we changed the iconic uniform in 1948. It was "the end" when we integrated troops and shut down the segregated camps in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. It was "the end" when Exploring went co-ed in the 70s. It was "the end" when we integrated troops and shut down the segregated camps in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. It was "the end" when we changed the name to Scouting/USA in the early 70s and the strips on our uniforms from "Boy Scouts of America" to "Scout BSA".
Not the End?
It was "the end" when we allowed women to be Scoutmasters.
It was "the end" when we allowed Gay boys to be members. “
I added four more elements: It was "the end" when the OA (Order of the Arrow, Scouting's national camping honorary) allowed female adults to become members.
It was "the end" when the BSA had its first female National Explorer President
It was "the end" when the BSA allowed openly Gay, Lesbian, bisexual and transgendered adults as registered volunteers or employees. It was "the end" when the BSA allowed transgendered youth to register as Cub Scouts or Scouts.
I agree with Todd. Change occurs and for good reason. We matured as peoples and as a nation. American society dictates that we must examine and when it makes sense to make a change. We will see ourselves off that cliff, back to our communities and our Scouting program will grow and be just a bit stronger because we are adhering to American and Scouting values. Values which stood the test of time, have been tempered through our arguing and honest, open discussion and which has been strengthened by realistic guidelines and policies geared to keep the programs open to all who want a challenge and closed to those who want to use it to separate, demean, or otherwise cut or tear the fabric of what makes Americans unique to this world.