Bob Bestler

My teenage ego survived being a poor Boy Scout. Why today it would have no chance

Boy Scouts from Troop 1571 in Poulsbo, Wash., present the flag during the singing of the national anthem before a baseball game between the Seattle Mariners and the Houston Astros, Monday, July 30, 2018, in Seattle.
Boy Scouts from Troop 1571 in Poulsbo, Wash., present the flag during the singing of the national anthem before a baseball game between the Seattle Mariners and the Houston Astros, Monday, July 30, 2018, in Seattle. AP

I’ve always had a soft spot for the Boy Scouts, but I was never a very good one.

Well, for instance, I never mastered the skill of tying a half-hitch - and don’t ask me about a clove hitch.

I always had trouble starting a campfire, but I found that a cold can of beans wasn’t that bad when you’re hungry and Mom’s not around.

And I never earned a merit badge - possibly because I missed so many Monday night meetings while I joined fellow scofflaws in Monday night mayhem.

Now, if this display of Scouting ineptitude had occurred in front of, you know, Scouts who happened to be girls, I’m not sure my fragile teenage ego could have survived.

That was in the ‘50s, of course; now we’re in a brave new world and a brave new century of broken glass ceilings.

In a few months, girls will join boys in an organization renamed “Scouts USA,” a term that is replacing “Boy Scouts of America.”

It’s the latest move by the Boy Scouts to be more inclusive and, frankly, to replenish its dwindling membership.

The Boy Scouts took a hit earlier this year when the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints announced it was pulling out its 2.5 million Scouts - fully one-fifth of the BSA membership.

The move terminated a 105-year relationship between the Mormons and the Scouts, when any boy who was a church member automatically became a Boy Scout.

Cracks in the relationship began in 2013 when the BSA welcomed gay Scouts and then, in 2015, gay Scout leaders. Earlier this year, it offered the same welcome to transgender Scouts and leaders.

Those decisions, along with the inclusion of girls, apparently were too much for the church.

The BSA said it made the decision to provide girls the same opportunity as boys to achieve the prestigious rank of Eagle Scout.

That was the point made by Randall Stephenson, BSA board chairman:

“I’ve seen nothing that develops leadership skills and discipline like this organization. It is time to make these outstanding leadership development programs available to girls.”

But there’s more to it than that. The Boy Scouts are trying to keep pace with a fast-moving societal changes in a world that is welcoming diversity in virtually all walks of life.

“Had it not done so,” one pundit wrote, “the institution would have relegated itself to a slow process of becoming a cultural backwater, not the stand-in for commonly held cultural values that it aspires to be.”

And, honestly, if there had been girls back in my day, they may not have helped me with my knot-tying merit badge or my campfire chores, but they might have helped me show up more often on Monday nights.

Contact Bob Bestler at bestler6@tds.net.

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