The Boy Scouts' Future

March 12, 2021 • Volume 31, Issue 10
Can an iconic movement endure in the 21st century?
By Barbara Mantel


More than 130 million youths have participated in the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) since its inception in 1910. But membership has been declining for nearly 50 years, and the organization may be fighting for its life. More than a year ago, it filed for bankruptcy protection after hundreds of men sued, alleging they had been sexually abused as children by adult BSA volunteers. Approximately 85,000 men have come forward since then, and the organization has put forward a proposal to compensate victims and emerge from bankruptcy. But all parties may not be able to agree on a plan, leaving the Scouting community to wonder in what form the BSA will survive. Meanwhile, since 2013, the organization has begun admitting openly gay boys and adult leaders, transgendered youth and, most recently, girls into its flagship programs. The historic changes have sparked a feud with the Girl Scouts of the USA, the loss of many members to alternative Christian organizations and a fierce debate about what values the iconic organization should embrace.

Photo of Boy Scouts in Danvers, Massachusetts, warming themselves at a fire they built during a winter campout. (Getty Images/The Boston Globe/John Tlumacki)
Boy Scouts warm themselves at a fire they built during a winter campout near Danvers, Mass. Outdoor activities have been central to Scouting since the movement was created in the early 20th century. (Getty Images/The Boston Globe/John Tlumacki)
ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Peace Corps, National Service, and Volunteerism
Mar. 12, 2021  The Boy Scouts' Future
Jan. 11, 2013  Peace Corps Challenges
Jun. 30, 2006  National Service
Dec. 13, 1996  The New Volunteerism
Jun. 25, 1993  National Service
Jan. 25, 1991  Peace Corps' Challenges in the 1990s
Oct. 31, 1986  Blueprints for National Service
Jan. 25, 1985  International Relief Agencies
Dec. 12, 1980  Volunteerism in the Eighties
Jun. 15, 1979  Future of the Peace Corps
Apr. 03, 1963  Domestic Peace Corps
Nov. 28, 1962  Peace Corps Expansion
Jan. 04, 1961  Government Youth Corps
Consumer Behavior
General Social Trends
Sports and Recreation
Student Movements
Students and Social Life