A Scout by Any Other Name …


A decade or so ago, I taught at the Philmont Training Center with my friend Barry Bingham of the Greater St. Louis Area Council. One of the points Barry made to our participants that week was that we should stop using the word “boy.” His reasoning was simple: For African American males, being called a boy has long-rooted, negative connotations. Moreover, few 16- and 17-year-old males of any race like to be called boys; young men is preferable. (I took that lesson to heart when I wrote The Troop Leader Guidebook, choosing the term “youth leader” over “boy leader” whenever possible.)

Well, Barry got his wish this week, although in a way neither of us could have imagined that summer at PTC. With the pending addition of girls (effective Feb. 1, 2019), the iconic Boy Scout program will become Scouts BSA. The name change was announced on May 2, along with the unveiling of the new Scout Me In marketing campaign. (Note that the Boy Scouts of America will remain the Boy Scouts of America.)

I think the name change makes sense, although I agree with William Shakespeare, who once said, “A Scout by any other name would smell as bad after a weekend in the woods.” Or something like that.

Two other points come to mind. First, it’s a good problem to have when an organization outlives its name. I’m sure AT&T is glad that it survived the telegraph era (the second T in its name), something many of its competitors didn’t. And I’m sure AARP has been more successful since it stopped being known as the American Association of Retired Persons.

Second, labels are ultimately irrelevant if organizations are ineffective–and vice versa. If you run a great program, it really doesn’t matter what that program is called. Case in point: A couple of jamborees ago, I saw a group of girls in bright pink T-shirts that read, “Yes, I Am a Boy Scout.” (They were actually Venturers, but you get the point.)

So revel in the new name–or revolt against it. But then roll up your sleeves and make your troop the best show in town.

Need more great troop program ideas? Check out the new edition of The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook, which is now available in both print and e-book formats at https://www.eaglebook.com/products.htm#scoutmasters.



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