You may have heard that the Boy Scouts of America are planning to update their portfolio of ScoutsBSA merit badges to include a new one on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
With the renewed attention being paid to the plight of minorities in America and around the world, brought to the forefront by the myriad cases of violence and brutality against people of color and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, it’s only natural that the premier organization devoted to the furtherance of ethics among our youth should incorporate an element of tolerance and understanding toward others.
In June, the BSA announced its commitment to combat racial injustice. Within the letter to stakeholders was included a mention of a new merit badge on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion to be required for the rank of Eagle Scout. At the time of the letter, few specifics were available.
We are now being told that the requirements have been completed and approved, are coming out December 1, and that the badge will be available for Scouts to earn as of January 1, 2021. And effective with Eagle boards of review held on or after May 1, 2021, the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion merit badge will be required to earn the rank. It’ll become the 14th Eagle-required merit badge, displacing one of the electives.
Education in diversity and inclusion isn’t just for the Scouts. Training for BSA’s professional employees was rolled out over the summer, and a course for adult volunteers is on the way. It’s not on the Online Learning Center just yet, but watch for an announcement soon.
The BSA’s action to further diversity and inclusion is not alone. The World Organization of the Scouting Movement, the global organization that supports Scouting around the world, has included a diversity and inclusion initiative in the triennial plan from 2014, and it’s a pillar of the WOSM’s Vision 2023 strategic plan.
Diversity is really one of the bedrocks of our movement. Any youth can be a Scout, regardless of social status or financial ability. Our doors are open to all. The Scouts in the troop I served for many years represent a wonderful farrago of national origins – Black, Latino, Asian, Indian, and European – all functioning together in patrols and sharing each other’s culture. The Scout Oath and Scout Law have the same relevance whether one was born and raised in our town or made the migration from halfway around the world to our shores.
The concept of diversity encompasses recognizing people as individuals, understanding that each one of us is unique, and respecting our individual differences. Recognizing diversity in Scouting involves valuing and having regard for everyone, and using those differences to create cohesive and diverse local, national and world communities. The WOSM reminds us that recognizing and encouraging diversity within Scouting is important as it brings different and unique opinions and thus strengthens the capacity of the Scouting movement. The step forward in offering the Diversity and Inclusion merit badge is a good one for our youth.
Be sure to promote the new merit badge to your Scouts when it becomes available. Consider it as fundamental to a Scout’s knowledge base as First Aid, camping or cooking skills. And if you feel qualified to impart the concepts of diversity, equity and inclusion in our youth, please consider becoming a merit badge counselor or adding the new badge to those you counsel. Together, we can build a Scouting program – and a world – where all can be respected and included.
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