Re: Minority Recruitment
Bruce E. Cobern (bec@PIPELINE.COM)
Mon, 4 Aug 1997 17:34:52 -0400
> From: Branden Morris <email@example.com>
> Date: Monday, August 04, 1997 12:01 PM
> >So, I am all for expanding the traditional Scouting program into the
> >minority community. But I am opposed to doing so at the expense of the
> >program which has worked so well for the communities it has served.
> I ask this out of curiosity; I don't have the answer (being a white male
> who wasn't a Scout during the program experiments of the 1970s), but am
> interested in hearing of examples of this potential problem.
I, too, am the white male who has never lived in an inner city. I was,
however, involved in Scouting during the 70's, and I DO live in a city
that has more than its share of inner cities. I also have a couple of
minutes before I have to leave, so let me see if I can, in fewer than my
usual number of words, take a stab at what went wrong in the 70's. After
I get home I will reread the Smithsonian article, if I can find it, post
the actual date for those who are interested, and possibly provide more.
One of the things that created the problem was an attempt to be "all
things to all people." This was the era where they believed that, since
some parts of the population wouldn't have strong access to camping the
program shouldn't require it. This was the era when the handbook included
a picture of a rat in the wildlife section. There was a feeling that they
were taking the "outing" out of Scouting.
The problem was that it still didn't sell in the inner city and it
alienated those not in the inner city.
> What obstacles or barriers exist in Scouting that specifically deter
> 'minority' membership? Besides from the usual program components that
> appeal to some youth, what in Scouting (Boy Scouts of America)
> is a deterrent to their membership?
Mike has named quite a few very valid reasons for the inability of
Scouting, in many but not all areas, to take roots in the inner city, and
he certainly has a much better perspective on this than either you or I
do. I might add that I wouldn't be so quick to rule out economics.
If we want a troop to engage in what we consider the "traditional"
Scouting program, then there is a significant investment necessary by both
the youth members and the unit. To go out camping once a month, at some
point, requires the acquisition of adequate camping equipment, especially
if the unit is in the northern climes. Tents are not cheap. If you are
expecting four season tent camping then they are even more expensive.
Winter camping, even in cabins, requires adequate sleeping bags and the
winter bag might really not be suitable for summer. Clothing suitable for
the season is not always readily available. And, I didn't even mention
uniforming because I believe that can be handled, eventually, at minimal
What it boils down to, IMO, is that Scouting is NOT a cheap hobby. It
certainly is worthwhile, but it is NOT cheap. Sure, funding can be found
for much of this, but that adds one additional level to the administrative
headache of getting the units started and maintaining them.
Add to this the movement, a number of years ago, to eliminate cabins and
leantos at many of our camps because "real Scouts only camp in tents" or
some such nonsense, and you then reduce the opportunities for the inner
city troops to camp without the higher end equipment.
These are just some random thoughts. Now I need to leave for an
> [My first impression of the news article was less than favorable; I
> felt that it gave the impression that the program was flawed because it
> didn't include a large number of minority/urban youth. It begs the
> question, though, is this really a problem? Is it something specific to
> BSA program, or is it inherent in the urban culture and lifestyle? Do
> youth programs have more, less, or the same success as we have?
I, too, felt that the tone of the article was NOT complimentary, and still
Bruce E. Cobern
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City