As you might have read, the Boy Scouts of America has declared bankruptcy as protection against 275 abuse lawsuits in state and federal courts around the country, plus another 1,400 potential claims.
It has nothing to do with the recent decision to allow homosexuals to be leaders although I think that decision is monumentally stupid. It was also monumentally stupid to allow girls to join. The Boy Scouts have gone completely mad!
What this has to do with are two things:
- Boy Scouts became childcare.
- Organizations of all types react to protect themselves.
When I was in scouting, the ratio of adults to kids who went camping was probably one man for every three kids or so. A great many of the men were WWII and Korean veterans who wanted to give their boys a taste of the “good parts” of the military and how these things would be useful and fun in the civilian world.
My father hated camping but he loved being around other men with shared experiences. For years and years he talked about the time he and another man got blisters hiking the 21 mile Mische Mokwa trail in the Cumberland Gap, Tennessee. They practically carried each other to the end. I think my dad was more concerned about dying right then and there rather than in the Philippines!
When I became a Scoutmaster in 1977 of that same Boy Scout troop, the ratio of men to boys was about one to eight or “if we have sixteen kids, we probably need two station wagons.” The one thing we knew how to do was stuff a station wagon!
If there weren’t station wagons available, we simply cancelled the activity. There were occasions where the moms drove the station wagons and dropped the kids off at the camp leaving me and another adult to handle twenty or so kids.
It was after one of those that I finally put my foot down and said that if enough dads weren’t willing to go, I was going to cancel the trip. I did it twice in a row and parents were livid since I messed up their weekend plans.
I eventually dropped out of Scouting since being an unpaid babysitter wasn’t for me. And that’s what Boy Scouting turned into to — unpaid babysitting. Is it any surprise that sex offenders would see this as a target rich environment?
Sex offenders were never a problem in the Boy Scouts until the 1980’s. Why? Because there were still enough veterans around as well as other men who actively participated that any such concern would be swiftly and decisively dealt with.
By the 1980’s, the notion of formalized (Center-Based) child care jumped and the Boy Scouts became another type of formalized child care — except they never knew or acknowledged it.
Sex offenders were moving into the Scouts and parents simply saw this as a place to send the boys for the weekend. In hindsight, the Boy Scouts should have seen this perfect storm coming. But they didn’t.
What they did was — nothing. The organization relied on all volunteer leadership at the troop level and sexual assault wasn’t an issue — or if it was, it was handled quietly and efficiently.
As the inevitable assaults began to occur, the Boy Scouts saw them as an anomaly. In the late 1980’s, the Youth Protection program was implemented. However, the Boy Scouts resisted background checks until 2003. The implementation of background checks fully transferred responsibility of parents to protect their children from sexual predators to the government.
So here we are. An organization that thrived in an era where men wanted to share a bit of what it was like to be in the military along with sharing an experience of being outdoors has fully morphed into just another kind of government regulated childcare. The Boy Scouts will not survive this — and maybe they already haven’t and just don’t know it yet.