Boy Scouts updates its flagship program name to include girls. Here's what to know.
No, the Boy Scouts of America aren't going anywhere.
On Wednesday, May 2, the Boy Scouts of America made a small change to one of its programs, generating a big reaction.
In October 2017, BSA announced plans to admit girls into its programs, marking a pretty massive change to the organization's more than century-old structure. "I’ve seen nothing that develops leadership skills and discipline like this organization," said Randall Stephenson, the group’s national board chairman, at the time. "It is time to make these outstanding leadership development programs available to girls."
The organization has now unveiled its "Scout Me In" campaign, giving the public a broader look at what a co-ed Scouts program will look like.
"As we enter a new era for our organization, it is important that all youth can see themselves in Scouting in every way possible. That is why it is important that the name for our Scouting program for older youth remain consistent with the single name approach used for the Cub Scouts," said Michael Surbaugh, chief scout executive of the Boy Scouts of America, in a press release. "Starting in February 2019, the name of the older youth program will be 'Scouts BSA,' and the name of our iconic organization will continue to be Boy Scouts of America."
To summarize: Other than girls being able to join the organization (which has been known by the public since October), the only major change is the name of the older youth program (which is currently called "Boy Scouts," but will soon be called "Scouts BSA"). The Boy Scouts of America name isn't going away. Confusing? Maybe a little.
Boy Scouts attend an event at Zachery Taylor National Cemetery in Louisville, Ky., in May 2007. Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images.
Some of the early responses to news of the program's name change seem to come from a fundamental misunderstanding of the announcement.
"There's something deeply sad about a society that presses for the Boy Scouts to stop being the Boy Scouts," tweeted conservative commentator Ben Shapiro. It's not clear who, exactly, he believes pressured BSA to change its program's name or whether he understands that the organization's name remains. "The Left will eat you alive if you compromise with them," wrote conservative blogger Matt Walsh, who added that this was a "self-destruction of the Boy Scouts organization."
The truth is that this wasn't some concerted effort on the part of progressives to eliminate the Boy Scouts. The decision appears to have been made out of necessity, with the organization rumored to be in a bit of a financial hole with enrollment on the decline. Allowing girls to join is one way to give enrollment a boost. Regarding the name change, it just seems kind of silly to keep calling that program "Boy Scouts" if it's making explicit efforts to market itself to girls as well. Walsh, Shapiro, and other social conservatives who bemoan "political correctness" and "social justice warriors" are blaming "the left" for something it had nothing to do with.
President Donald Trump addressed the 2017 Boy Scout Jamboree in Glen Jean, W.V. Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images.
The Girl Scouts of the USA, not associated with BSA, wasn't a fan of BSA's plans to try to recruit girls.
In October, the Girl Scouts published a blog post making the case for the continued existence of its organization as the premier scouting destination for girls in the United States.
"The need for female leadership has never been clearer or more urgent than it is today — and only Girl Scouts has the expertise to give girls and young women the tools they need for success," the group wrote. "Girl Scouts works. We’re committed to preparing the next generation of women leaders, and we’re here to stay."
With the launch of BSA's "Scout Me In" campaign, GSA repeated that October point in a tweet, writing, "Girl-led. Girl-tested. Girl-approved since 1912."
Whether or not people approve of BSA's changes and its efforts to include girls in its programs, it's important to separate the fact from fiction behind the announcement.
No, this wasn't the result of overzealous progressives trying to impose their will on a conservative-leaning organization like BSA. This wasn't "political correctness run amok" or anything like that. This announcement has nothing to do with transgender scouts, nor is it an attempt by the political left to strip boys of their own spaces.
This was, as boring as it is, quite clearly just a business decision. BSA might wrap it up in public relations-friendly language about inclusivity, but the truth is this looks like it was simply about trying to keep BSA afloat.
A group of Boy Scouts salute during a 2009 Memorial Day activity. Photo by Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images.