There’s nothing quite as 2020 as the Boy Scouts of America requiring a “diversity and inclusion merit badge” to be an Eagle Scout.
In a Monday “Dear Scouting Families” letter, the organization’s National Executive Committee threw its support behind Black Lives Matter and said it would mandate “diversity and inclusion training for all BSA employees.”
The letter begins innocuously enough, talking of having to reconsider roles and responsibilities as “our country reckons with racial injustice” and saying that the organization is being “called on to be brave.”
“Brave means taking action because it is the right thing to do and being an upstander even when it may prompt criticism from some. We realize we have not been as brave as we should have been because, as Scouts, we must always stand for what is right and take action when the situation demands it,” the letter read.
“There is no place for racism – not in Scouting and not in our communities. Racism will not be tolerated.
“We condemn the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and all those who are not named but are equally important. We hear the anguish, feel the heartbreak, and join the country’s resolve to do better.”
As you may notice, none of this yet would “prompt criticism.” When the organization says that it “stands with Black families and the Black community because we believe that Black Lives Matter,” it seems more pro forma than anything else.
“This is not a political issue; it is a human rights issue and one we all have a duty to address,” the letter read.
The element of the letter that will induce the most eyes to roll is the introduction of “a specific diversity and inclusion merit badge that will be required for the rank of Eagle Scout. It will build on components within existing merit badges, including the American Cultures and Citizenship in the Community merit badges, which require Scouts to learn about and engage with other groups and cultures to increase understanding and spur positive action.”
However, the letter also outlines, in very rough form, the diversity training, an initiative to review “every element of our programs to ensure diversity and inclusion are engrained at every level for participants and volunteers by applying a standard that promotes racial equality and denounces racism, discrimination, inequality and injustice.”
The letter notes that the Scouts have banned use of the Confederate flag for almost 30 years and that reviews of the organization’s properties, insignias and events will continue “to ensure that symbols of oppression are not in use today or in the future.”
So far, so much politically correct pablum. The fact that the Scouts letter pretends this stand is “brave” — when it’s totally in keeping with the flow of popular (and liberal) culture — says more about the once-revered organization than it does about its critics.
The Scouts have long been trending toward the cultural left — beginning with a 2013 decision to admit openly gay members — which has caused issues for an organization with a conservative image and base.
Some of these decisions have been embraced more warmly within the scouting community than others. Perhaps none best encapsulated the controversies as the 2019 announcement that the program had renamed itself Scouts BSA in accordance with prior decisions to allow girls and transgender youth to join.
Ironically, the move to allow girls to join was vehemently opposed by the Girl Scouts.
“The Boy Scouts’ house is on fire,” the Girl Scouts said in a 2017 statement, at the time of the then-Boy Scouts of America’s decision to accept girls into the Cub Scouts and create programs for girls, according to ABC News.
“Instead of addressing systemic issues of continuing sexual assault, financial mismanagement and deficient programming, BSA’s senior management wants to add an accelerant to the house fire by recruiting girls.”
That’s a pretty harsh declaration, but probably not inaccurate. There are other troubles within the Boy Scouts, including the fact the organization is now bankrupt. The main reason for that was a series of sexual abuse lawsuits that left the organization financially crippled, but it’s not like American youths have flocked to the new, hip, liberal Scouts.
According to NBC News, in 2016 there were 1.26 million Cub Scouts, almost 830,000 Boy Scouts and 960,000 adults volunteering with the organization.
Compare that to 2019, when the organization reported having 1.18 million enrolled in the Cub Scouts and almost 799,000 in the Boy Scouts, with roughly 800,000 adult volunteers.
Apparently, opening the organization up to girls — or any “gender” under the sun, really — hasn’t increased membership significantly or been able to stem the tide of members leaving the organization.
A diversity badge isn’t going to change this — and if you don’t think this is what Monday’s letter was about, you’re wrong.
The Boy Scouts are an organization having a midlife crisis in an end-of-life situation. They’re the 50-year-old who, convinced their kids don’t find them hip anymore, start consciously listening to au courant pop music they don’t like and take out an Instagram account even though they don’t have the slightest idea how it works.
“Hey, so you kids like that AOB in Congress, right?” the Scouts seem to be saying. “We’re kind of like that. Look, we’re down with everyone who’s angry. If you want to learn about diversity, we have a badge for that. In fact, we’re going to make everyone get it if they want to be an Eagle Scout. That makes us cooler, right?”
Not to the cultural Sanhedrin, it doesn’t.
Take Northwestern University political science professor Alvin Tillery Jr., who told NBC News, regarding the move, that “[s]ociety is passing [the Scouts] by, and they have to catch up.”
“I think this is a big deal to the extent that all these traditional, Christian-oriented organizations are trying to get their houses in order with regard to systematic racism,” Tillery said. “This is an organization that is super-embattled and they’ve had to adopt more progressive stances because nobody wants to have anything to do with them.”
The question suggests itself: Who is “nobody,” precisely?
Perhaps nobody at the political science department at Northwestern University wants anything to do with them. However, the reason the Boy Scouts’ moves over the past decade have attracted so much attention and caused so much rending of neckerchiefs is that there are a lot of people who care very deeply about what the Scouts represent — members and non-members alike.
Those people have drifted from the organization based on a number of factors, including the fact it’s now prone to making empty political statements that aren’t necessarily conducive to better scouting but might keep the Alvin Tillery Jrs. of the world from sneering at them for maybe a few seconds.
The letter that was put out on Monday details nothing that reckons with racial injustice. It does nothing to seriously address the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery or Breonna Taylor. I doubt there’s going to be any kind of pow-wow between the Boy Scouts and Black Lives Matter movement in the near future because of this statement.
All this does is put the Boy Scouts on a long list of corporate, cultural and political entities that have put out useless statements about How This Moment Is Important, twinned with vague initiatives that’ll likely accomplish nothing and are viewed with contempt by both conservatives and liberals. Even the left knows this is virtue-signaling.
And the radical left — the leadership of Blacks Lives Matters and other “progressive” organizations — know it’s surrender.
If the Boy Scouts wants to stand “with Black families and the Black community,” it can do so the same way the organization has helped every community when it functions correctly: By helping raise good young men and aiding people in a philanthropic fashion.
A mandatory diversity badge for Eagle Scouts is air-quotes “inclusiveness” of the most obvious sort. It adds nothing to the Boy Scouts’ mission.
Let’s hope this formless new program is pushed to the background as quickly as it was assembled.
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