So, I "opted outside" yesterday, along with many hundreds of others along the Battle Road...since it was almost 70 degrees around here yesterday. There's a cold front coming today though, and the northern bits of New England already have some snow on the ground.
But speaking of snow, I bet most of you don't get the "Boy's Life
" magazine, which is the national magazine for the Boy Scouts of America. The December issue is just out, and while we're not quite the cover story, our camp at Milton is one of the feature articles this month.
As it turns out, the merger we went through earlier in the year to become the "Spirit of Adventure
" council has touched off some national shock waves. Remember now, more than a decade and a half ago, then Boston-Minuteman also shocked the scouting world by being one of only four councils nationally to adopt a non-discrimination clause.
For the better part of the ensuing years, 'National' simply ignored us and let us go on our merry way, although I suppose technically they could have swooped in and pulled the plug at anytime for our rebellion. About 5 years ago now, we got a new Scout Executive, and he really started shaking things up. It was he who told me he was on national conference call that was again discussing the membership crisis...and Scouters from elsewhere in the USA stated on the call, "That's Boston - we don't care what they do." He stopped listening to those calls after that.
But then a curious thing happened - the Boy Scouts of America finally caught up to us. The reasons are many, but those of us with a little more inside-track heard from the source that it came down to two things. First and foremost, of course it was money. Most of the larger donations to scouting come from the coasts, and in particular the highly progressive Northeast. Much of that pipeline was dismayed by national policy, and the cash flow had actually started to dry up. The second thing is the North American World Jamboree
, presently scheduled for 2019.
The world scouting organization didn't want to award that Jamboree to the United States alone, primarily because of our membership policies. Mexico and Canada are also co-hosting (even though it's physically going to happen in West Virginia). Both of those programs are more in-line with world scouting's membership policies. Essentially, the global governing body of Scouting shamed the United States into changing direction.
As I had predicted, once resolved, the membership crisis instantly disappeared from the headlines. Of the many hundreds of Scouts and Scouters that I know, only one
has decided that scouting was no longer for him, and he quit. For every other scout unit or leader that I work with...nothing has changed, and the national policy change was essentially meaningless to us, since we were already there.
So now the tough work of rebuilding the brand needs to begin. Again, we seem to be leading the way, and we've transformed our sleepy little scout camp in the Blue Hills south of Boston to "New England Base Camp
". It's still a regular Boy Scout Camp, but now the program areas are open to the general public - it's a recruiting tool designed to let families go outdoors and pretend to be Scouts for a day. The program is literally just 3 months old, but camp was full virtually every weekend during the fall season.
So now, those national leaders that derided us just a few years ago are starting to line up at our doorstep, and they want to know what they can do to follow our lead. As it turns out, the last membership year (2014-2015) was a disaster nationally. Every single council nationwide either stayed flat, or lost members. Except one - Boston Minuteman Council.
I scout for a lot of reasons - probably the biggest of which is to make a difference in one boy's life, maybe teach him something he didn't know, and give him the confidence to try it himself. With what we're doing in Boston...it's entirely possible that we can influence somebody halfway across the country with our methods. That's not insignificant...and it's interesting to ponder that no matter how slight, I have contributed to that change.