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Taking the "master" out of "Scoutmaster": "Scoutmentor"!

There are efforts in various areas to change terms and nomenclature which could reasonably be interpreted as offensive, especially when there is a ready and reasonable substitute.

I propose that the BSA consider officially changing the terms “Scoutmaster” and “Cubmaster” to something more accommodating, like “Scoutmentor” and “Cubmentor”.

These new terms/titles do not suffer a loss of meaning compared to current titles. Indeed, in a properly run BSA Scouts Troop, the “Scoutmaster” should indeed be functioning more as a “mentor” than a “master”, so the new term coveys the role more effectively.

Acronyms like “SM” and “ASM” are preserved.

I know there is tons of history and tradition behind the current titles, but it’s time to be more considerate, inclusive, and respectful.

(Signed, a “Scoutmaster” in title, and a “Scoutmentor” at heart)

1 Like

Not really a fan. I understand the intent/sentiment, but it’s not that kind of master.


Obviously, “it’s not that kind of master”, but the imbalance of power is there. It’s certainly close enough for a re-think.

Open source code repositories are changing the name of their main branch of code from “master” to “main”. A branch of a source repository is clearly “not that kind of master”, either, but the term is loaded.

The power dynamic makes it worse in the context of Scouting.

I think that my concern with *mentor as the adult position name is that, IMHO, all of the adults should be mentoring the youth, not just the unit leader. Personally, I think that the proposed change creates more issues than it solves. Run correctly, the power dynamic is inverted, again in IMHO, with the youth in control defining the program and the adults just pumping the brakes when the youth get going downhill too quickly to steer, figuratively speaking.

I think I understand the viewpoint, I’m just not sure how much this terminology is impacting the scouting community. I’d need to see some pretty strong indications that this is a boots-on-the-ground issue (i.e. actually impacting delivery of scouting) to support such a change. What is your view on the power dynamic that you feel the context is worse in scouting? I’m curious to see another viewpoint on the issue. I’m wondering what pushes you “over the top of the hill”, so to speak, with regard to making the change versus leaving it as-is.

I can easily see the concerns with terminology such as “master” and “slave” nodes, as has commonly been used in engineering analysis software for decades. There’s nothing whatsoever “implicit” in that usage, IMHO. It doesn’t bother me personally, but I can see how it could bother someone else.


Agree with @CharleyHamilton. It would be one thing if Scouts had to address the SM as “Master”. This is not remotely the case. In my many years involved with Scouting I’ve never heard the term Scoutmaster as being an issue in any format. Has anyone else? This is the kind of thread that some reporter looking to make a name for his or herself will read and write yet another hit-piece on Scouting over a time-honored name.


This is trying to create a solution to a problem that isn’t there…

And “Scoutmentor” sounds ridiculous, to boot.


I have a hard time taking this seriously.

With all the other issues facing Scouting, i.e. funding, recruiting, retention, keeping books and merit badges relevant this subject takes away from actual problems.

I agree with another writer that this appears to be a subject for a hit piece upon Scouting. Elsewhere on the internet I would suspect this is not a the serious piece.


Is any respondent so far a person of color?

Things that might seem “ridiculous” or “not serious” to you just might be serious to someone else, might be considered an “actual problem”, might be a barrier to entry which would in part perpetuate some of the problems like funding, recruiting, retention.

The 2018 BSA Annual Diversity Report (http://www.scouting.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/2018-BSA-Annual-Diversity-Report-052819.pdf) shows the of youth members:

  • “Black/African American”: 6.7%
  • “Hispanic/Latino”: 8.9%
  • “Asian”: 4.5%
  • “Caucasian/White”: 73.9%

Census data estimates for 2019 show:

  • “Black/African American”: ~17%
  • “Hispanic/Latino”: ~22%
  • “Asian”: ~7%
  • “White”: ~54%

There’s arguably a diversity problem.

If the “BSA’s Commitment to Act Against Racial Injustice” isn’t just for show, there are some actions which would be pretty easy to take.

Respectfully, there are a lot of “mights” in your response. I’m asking if there’s actually something to support your recommendation. The absence of diversity is a metric, but it’s not clear the the proposed change addresses an actual causal factor, or is just the nomenclature equivalent of virtue-signaling. I want changes we make to matter.

I was serious when I asked you what makes you believe this is a change worth making. How has this been a barrier, not might be a barrier? Is this an “N of 1” (i.e. small sample size) issue, or are there significant numbers of youth and families out there choosing not to join scouting because of this terminology? If we’re adjusting the proverbial curtains to be level while the Titanic sinks, we’re not really doing anything important to start serving the youth who aren’t already being served.


As an person of ethnic decent, I’m offended you value one racial opinion over another instead of treating all opinions equally. oh well.


I’ve always considered the term “Scoutmaster” more of a skill-set statement rather than a power-position statement.


Wandering off topic, because I’ve never been one to think in a straight line…

Ah, if only it were universally true that SMs/ASMs were masters of all scouting skills. Many end up jacks of all trades and masters of none. It’s one of the reasons our unit catalogs the “specialties” we have among us: MD, nurse, retired squad medic, engineer, attorney, contractor, plumber, navigation nerd (here!), knots geek,… Most of us are “good enough” at all of the skills to (in principle) earn First Class. Some of us are not, but are sufficiently cognizant of that to aim the scouts who want more than they can give at scouts (or adult leaders) who have a higher grasp of the skill.

Nowadays it seems like the way I am supposed to start my day is to decide what I should be offended at. People have to walk on eggshells worrying about saying the wrong word or using the wrong adjective to make the SJW’s happy. You can make stats support or oppose your position. To say people of any heritage isn’t joining the Scouts because of one word that has never been considered controversial is as my daddy use to say “stirring up poop just to make it stink”.

Just because a person labels something racially insensitive doesn’t make it so. as @DavidProvenzano said, there are other races in the world. There’s a degree of arrogance to suggest that one word that has never been controversial has suddenly target a specific race.

Adults are the ones making Scouting more difficult. The boys and girls just want to hang out and be Scouts and have fun. The grown ups are the ones screwing their heads up.


Just as there are a number of people who have worked long and hard to become master plumbers, master carpenters, master electricians, etc. I would surmise that most all of these people are proud of their accomplishments, and proud of earning the “master” title. We mustn’t be quick to completely throw out a word just because it can be used negatively in a single circumstance.


I am against the potential change in title. You can call yourself what you want too. But others may not feel the need to change the title.


I can throw in the title of Jumpmaster as well for the military… relating to a paratrooper that is in charge of a parachute jump… it takes quite a bit of time and skill sets for these men and women to earn that badge and that title… For those of us that are longer in the tooth… and have collected over the years the many different BSA Manuals, Scoutmaster manuals, etc… this is not only a historical title… but one that has earned a measure of respect… for decades… really, for over 100 years… Jumpmaster, Scoutmaster… titles of respect.


So, the problem with discussing this here, is that we are a bunch of sentimental old fools. (If you aren’t now, stick around for 10 years, you will be.)

If there are indeed, say 50,000 American parents who won’t let their kids join scouting because they find “cubmaster” or “scoutmaster” offensive, then we need to take that into consideration. I don’t think market research would support that. (By the way, if you want to fork over the cash, I have a friend who will do that sort of surveying for you.)

Otherwise, I say let’s look up the largest world scouting organization and use whatever they would use. Lets see Indonesia … look ye here … Scoutmaster!

More importantly, my observations from being a venturing advisor: changing the title does nothing to decrease the proportion of leaders who lead badly or increase the proportion of those who lead masterfully.


Totally agree and also Quarter Master, Master Chief, Master Sergeant, etc. Respect the history and don’t fix what isn’t broke!


There are a number of things that come to mind, very few of which I will let out. As kindly as I possibly can say it; “Take the spoon you’re using to stir things up with out of the broth and please leave the kitchen.” We have an enormous amount of problems to attend to and work to get done that will actually benefit our youth. We certainly don’t need something plucked from an alternative reality.


I can appreciate your opinion and where I think it comes from. A good hearted place. However, I strongly disagree that this title discourages anyone from joining Boy Scouts. I strive to do my best to honor that title. As I feel the other Scoutmasters do in my area. My view is to embrace the title, give it all the honor, integrity that the Scout Law contains. Live by the Scout Law, lead by the Scout Law and the rest will follow.