It is a busy week for alternatives to the Boy Scouts of America. On Tuesday, OnMyHonor.net announced that they sponsored a meeting to organize “a new scouting-like organization for young men”. In today’s San Francisco Chronicle, I read about DIY.org a maker-inspired group, Online DIY startup lets kids make good (sorry about the paywall). Odd that both groups actually use their URL as the group name. I’m waiting for that to go out of fashion.
The OnMyHonor.net-sponsored group is a direct reaction to the recent BSA membership policy change. It is planned to be an explicitly Christian Scouting group, “founded on principles and values that reflect a Christian worldview.” They have promised that the policy “read, in part: ‘the proper context for sexual relations is only between a man and a woman in the covenant of marriage.'” The membership policy “will focus on sexual purity rather than sexual orientation”, so it appears that homosexual youth will be allowed membership, though they obviously will be considered impure.
DIY.org is described in the SF Chronicle article this way:
The San Francisco startup is trying to modernize the Boy Scout and Girl Scout model with dozens of awards, some conventional (Sailor, Woodworker) and other not so much (Open Sourcerer, Sys Admin).
DIY.org operates primarily through the website and phone app, with family participation. There are on-line groups and ad hoc meetups, but no local organized units.
So what do I think?
The OnMyHonor.net group takes US Scouting in a direction common in other countries, with faith-specific Scouting groups. France has many local and national Scouting organizations, including national ones described as: interreligious, Catholic, Traditionalist Catholic, Protestant, Eastern Orthodox, Jewish, and Muslim. There is also a regional group, Ecuyers Saint-Michel, organized around fencing. Obviously, faith-specific Scouting can work, but it seems like an uphill hike to get it widely established in the US. Our tradition of separation of church and state extends to other, non-government groups. The new group will likely be successful among conservative Christians, but I wouldn’t expect it to get a lot bigger than the Royal Rangers.
Also, note that their Christian worldview is not my Christian worldview, nor the worldview of my family or my denomination, the Protestant Episcopal Church in the USA. I was already tired of conservatives assuming that their family values were my family values. Now they are assuming that their Christianity is my Christianity, and they are still wrong.
As for DIY.org, well that story was in the business section. Despite the mention of Scouting, anything without patrols isn’t even close to being Scouting. I’m sure it will be fun, but it mostly points multiple big holes in the Scouting program in the US: no presence in the mobile-connected world, split organizations for boys and girls, and disconnection with the technical world. The BSA already blew it big-time by not getting Venturing involved in FIRST Robotics. The teamwork in robotics competition is tailor-made for Scouting skills.
Neither group will have an impact on the BSA or the GSUSA. The fate of those groups is in their own hands. They need pay attention to what is working for the other groups and how to incorporate that into their own programs.