Drop in Membership
Michael D. Owens (DocOwens@AOL.COM)
Tue, 21 Mar 1995 16:12:04 -0500
Please excuse this interruption from lurking for a long winded comment
regarding "fall in
membership". I have seen several posts mentioning various theories, but not
controversy. If you are a GSUSA Leader you may wish to follow along as I
will be going through the same process shortly.
As I was born in 1959 and was a member of two different troops from Jan 1971
Feb 1974, I feel that I can shed some insight as to the reasons for the drop.
with me as I set the table for my theory.
Yes, we (1959) were the very end of the Baby Boomer era and I do recall some
in birth rates. Proof of this is the fact that the school system I attended
had about ten
years of growth during my elementary and junior high school years in which
schools were constructed. In fact, I was relocated to a different junior
high prior to
starting the ninth grade because of a new school opening across town. The
district then proceeded to close my first junior high due to a drop in
enrollment before I
graduated from high school. (Don't ask me why the built the new one in the
In addition to the reduction in available candidates for the scouting
program, it became
very uncool to be a Boy Scout. I don't know that anti-military or
sentiment had anything to do with it, but I do know that I experienced a
great deal of peer
pressure to get out.
Both of the Troops that I belonged to had great outdoor programs, but had a
advancement program. For example, it took me three years of scouting to earn
Class Badge which was just a month or two prior to quitting.
As was mentioned in several earlier postings, the BSA drastically changed the
Manual along with the requirements for every single rank of advancement
Also, changes were made to the uniform as well as badges of rank and office,
badges and introduced the now infamous red beret.
The new program established a new badge called the Scout Badge which called
new Scout to know some of the fundamental requirements for scouts (oath,
law, etc.) that is still in place today. What they also did was
substantially change the
requirements to the other ranks to include among other things earning Merit
the newly established skill awards for all of the ranks. Also, the outdoor
less important to the overall Boy Scout program.
Previously, you did not even begin to earn Merit Badges until after you
earned your First
Class Badge. Under the new program, you had to have them for each badge of
from Tenderfoot through Eagle. For several of the ranks there were several
that were required as well as specific skill awards. While the total number
Eagle did not change substantially, this obviously made early advancement
more difficult than it had been up to that point.
Finally, all currently registered Scouts were offered the opportunity to
requirements under the old program and were given 18 months to earn their
or switch to the new program. As for me specifically, not advancing and
coming to the
realization that I would have to earn several Merit Badges just to catch up
to the Scouts
in the new program, I decided to quit and pursue other more rewarding
(baseball, football, girls, etc.).
It is therefore my opinion that a combination of factors had an effect on
membership, however, it is my feeling that the new program in 1972 had a
on the number of boys that actually wanted to stay in scouting. As many of
already aware, the best advertising for scouting is the Scouts themselves.
Fewer boys in
the program means that fewer friends of scouts get to hear all that is fun in
so the less boys show up on recruiting day and so goes the vicious circle.
I am sure that someone up there in Texas realized the impact of the change
many of the old programs and policies were restored just a few years later
with the new
revision of the Boy Scout Handbook, including restoring the outdoor program.
Additionally, I do not feel that the impact of the change has been felt
completely as of yet.
Let me point out that the majority of the Scout Leaders that I know fit three
categories. 1) The Oldtimer - Scouter 60 years of age or older, been a part
as long or longer than Cub Scouts and has been the Scoutmaster for at least
somewhere. 2) The Baby Boomer - Scouter born between 1945 and 1959 who was
Boy Scouts as a lad and grew up believing that America is great, apple pie is
of choice, and probably had The Oldtimer for a Scoutmaster. 3) Young Scouter
leader between the age of 18 and 25 that "came up through the ranks", earned
and wants to give something back in return.
Notice who's missing? It's that 25 to 35 year old group (Generation X) that
belong to scouts, didn't think it was important, are in the process of having
late in life, are a two income family and who won't have the interest or the
participate in BSA, GSUSA or whatever. It is my opinion that we will be
drastic shortage of volunteer leaders within the next several years due to
the same three
influences I detailed much earlier.
Not to mention the fact that I see Youth Soccer taking a bigger chunk of our
every year and predict that it will become bigger than Little League Baseball
was when I
was a youth.
As stated, this is just my opinion and as you can see I offer no "hard
evidence" to support
my theory. I personally believe that the fact that the Boy Scout movement
seventies and appears to be getting stronger by the year is a credit to our
& Co.). They've established a program for boys that will cross geographic
and generations of time and that we must all work together to help it
Mike "Doc" Owens
Cubmaster, Pack 890
Assistant Scout Master, Troop 782
Gemini District, Detroit Area Council
I hope to be something, someday, soon!
"If people don't come to the ballpark, who's going to stop them?"
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City