I am a woman and I have been a registered member of the Boy Scouts of America since I was 14 years old. I was a youth in Venture Scouts and Sea Scouts, I’ve been an adult leader in Sea Scouts, I’ve worked at a Boy Scout Camp, I’ve worked in non summer program for my local Council. I will be 25 in a few days and the best birthday present I could have ever received is the announcement that girls will be allowed to join Boy Scouts .
Everyone is proclaiming that finally girls are going to be part of the BSA when they’ve been able to be involved for years. Girls like myself have long been allowed to participate in a few select Co-Ed programs such as Venture Scouts, Sea Scouts, and Varsity Scouts. The ability to be part of the core Boy Scout program, however, is a monumental occasion and worthy of excitement and praise. Even more importantly, young women will be given the chance to earn the highly coveted rank of Eagle Scout. To say that I am jealous of all of the young women that will someday earn the rank of Eagle is an understatement, but I am beyond elated that I will see female Eagle Scouts exist.
This announcement comes with mixed reviews: people like me think co-ed integration is a long overdue change to the scouting program, and others who think that this is detrimental to the scouting experience and that the program will suffer because of the inclusion of females. Those who raise concerns have every right to do so, but it doesn’t mean that I agree with much of what they say.
There are people out there that simply do not want to include girls. “It’s called the Boy Scouts for a reason,” “having girls there will have an impact on letting the boys have a place away from females.” Starting at the Cub Scout level, Packs will have the option to be either integrated, only male, or only female. Those that choose to be all-inclusive will have boys and girls separated into different dens, which are smaller groups that contain children of the same age and grade. Moving into the older group currently known as a Boy Scout Troop, the official statement says that a program will be offered with the same curriculum for females. It has not been said if this will be in the form of integrated troops or troops that are designated for one gender.
There is an argument to be made by those who blossomed in a boys-only activity who maybe would not have done as well in a co-ed environment. Maybe it’s because they were awkward or shy around girls. Maybe it’s because they felt more comfortable around people who were just like them. The truth is, you can never really know for sure if things would have been different for those Scouts. Maybe they would’ve bonded with girls over a mutual love for the Scouting program. The older youth program is expected to be offered starting in 2019, so really it’s a little early to start protesting about the “good old boys’ club” since we don’t know exactly how it will be enacted just yet. I suspect there will probably be the opportunity for integrated troops as well as those that wish to remain either for boys or girls
People also bring up the Girl Scouts of The United States of America, whether it be to claim that girls should stick with that program, or to claim that the program offered by the Girl Scouts is somehow less than substantial than the one offered by the Boy Scouts. I will admittedly state that I am far less knowledgeable about the GSUSA program than I am about the BSA program because well, frankly the Girl Scouts never appealed to me as a youth and being involved with the BSA for the past decade has grown my knowledge about the program. I do know, however, that it does offer young women an incredibly enriching and empowering program. That program was just not for me, and that’s ok. What allowing girls into the BSA program is doing is allowing them to choose which program is right for them.
When stating my stance on girls in scouting, I’m often asked if I would then be ok with allowing boys into the Girl Scout program. I have always responded with “of course,” because I recognize that they cater to different types of people. There is also the claim that the Girl Scouts should just change their program to be what these girls are looking for in the Boy Scouts. I would, of course, have no problem with that and if they had. Maybe I would have been interested in getting involved. But they have shown no desire to change, and in fact, have have criticized the Boy Scouts for trying to recruit females as a ploy to raise membership, which has been on the decline for several years.
There is no question that either scouting movement is an incredible resource for young men and women to grow as people and learn valuable skills. Wouldn’t you want to give as many youth as you can an opportunity to thrive and learn leadership and life lessons?
“The mission of the Boy Scouts of America is to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law.”
I believe this mission is enriched further by giving youth the ability to work with and grow with people who may not be exactly the same as them. I cannot see a way that this mission would be impeded by the inclusion of females. I, a female, can recite the scout oath, law, motto, and slogan by heart. But more importantly, I choose to live by those words as well and show that I can be a good, moral person who greatly benefited from my involvement with the Boy Scouts of America.
An interesting note that this announcement occurred on October 11th, otherwise known as the International Day of the Girl. The mission of this day is “to help galvanize worldwide enthusiasm for goals to better girls’ lives, providing an opportunity for them to show leadership and reach their full potential.” What better way to do this than through scouting?