by Alyssa Rosenberg
Thanks so much to Ta-Nehisi for having me back here again. It's such a pleasure to spend time with all of you, and to share space with a couple of writers I admire tremendously.
I was intrigued this weekend by the New York Times' pieces on the efforts of the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts to rebrand themselves in the face of declining membership; for the Boy Scouts, membership rolls have dropped by 16 percent in the last decade, while the number of Girl Scouts has fallen by 13 percent in the same time period.
Some of the significant cultural issues the organizations face are radically different. The Boy Scouts don't allow atheists or agnostics to participate as Scouts or adult leaders, while the Girl Scouts voted in 1993 to allow members to substitute words or phrases for the promise "to serve God" in the Girl Scout promise. The Boy Scouts officially banned gay people from leadership roles in the organization in 1991, and in 2004 issued a position statement that said "homosexual conduct is inconsistent with obligations in the Scout Oath." The Girl Scouts adopted a policy in 1991 that said there are no rules about sexual orientation with regard to leadership or membership, except that folks should behave appropriately and not promote any sexual orientation to members. And Girl Scout groups are allowed to partner with Planned Parenthood to provide sex education to members. In other words, social issues may play some role in declining membership in each organization, but it's certainly not clear that kids are staying—or being kept away—from Scouting because the organizations have gotten either too permissive or too conservative.