Recently, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) announced that they would be introducing girls into their Cub Scout and Boy Scout programs, which among other things, would allow girls to earn the coveted Eagle Scout rank, the highest award available to Scouts. Obviously, this announcement has met all types of criticism. As a scout myself, a few months away from becoming an Eagle Scout, I feel it necessary to respond to some common arguments against this controversial move.
#1. The Boy Scouts of America are just doing this to be politically correct.
The most common complaint I hear when people discuss this matter is political correctness. For some reason, they come to the conclusion that the BSA has felt pressure from outside authorities, such as the government or others, to open its doors to girls. This is absolutely not the case. During an interview, BSA Chief Scout Executive Mike Surbaugh stated that the decision to allow girls arose from the demand from families already involved in scouting. These families simply wanted their daughters to also be able to take part in the unique activities BSA has to offer (see point 3). BSA’s motivation behind the change comes from their goal to extend scouting’s values and lessons to as many people as possible. Through numerous studies, they found this to be in the public’s best interests as well.
#2. The Boy Scouts are just doing this to boost their membership.
Technically, this is true. As stated above, the BSA wants as many young people to be involved in scouting as possible, in order to better achieve their goal of teaching people strong moral codes and excellent leadership skills that could one day make a positive difference in our world (Some notable Eagle Scouts include Neil Armstrong, President Gerald Ford and Sam Walton). Allowing girls to join means twice the potential for this.
#3. Girls can join Girl Scouts, they don’t need to be in Boy Scouts.
Well, yes and no. Girls can indeed join Girl Scouts, but why should that stop them from having the option to join Boy Scouts as well? Girl Scouts of the USA and the Boy Scouts of America are two very different organizations. Some girls would much rather be hiking the mountains of New Mexico at Philmont Scout Ranch, or serving their community through the completion of an Eagle Scout Project, instead of selling cookies or learning how to sew. In my opinion, the Boy Scouts of America is a great organization full of tons of great experiences, and there’s no reason why girls must be barred from this opportunity.
#4. Will Boy Scouts really be a good fit for girls, and will they get the same experience as boys?
Absolutely. The BSA would not be making this change if they did not feel it was in everyone’s best interest. They have made it abundantly clear that the girls who decide to join will absolutely not be put in a second-rate program. Everything will be the same, from the requirements to achieve Eagle, to the wide selection of over 130 merit badges scouts can choose to complete. Some argue that girls will feel unwelcome, as if they are barging in to something uninvited. I don’t believe this will be an issue at all. The Scout Oath and Law teach scouts to be open and kind to everyone, regardless of their differences. I feel that this value, which is ingrained in every scout’s head, will be evident as girls start to join Scouts BSA (which will be the new name for Boy Scouts).
#5. Allowing girls into the Boy Scouts will ruin the organization.
I hear this a lot from people not familiar with scouting. In fact, girls have been involved in Boy Scouts since 1971! Back then, girls were able to join a program called Exploring. Today, there are still notable co-ed programs in Boy Scouts like the Venturing Scouts. In this program for 14-21 year olds, both genders are able to take full advantage of scouting by going on campouts, attending youth leadership programs like NYLT and NAYLE, and braving high-adventure outdoor courses like Philmont and Northern Tier. The success of this co-ed branch of Scouting gives the BSA a good template for how to successfully allow girls into Boy Scouts, which brings me to my next point.
#6. How will the BSA accommodate both boys and girls in Scouts BSA?
Well, for one, girls and boys will be separated into single-gender troops, meaning they will NOT be mixed together. Many people complain that allowing girls into their troops will make both the boys and the girls feel uncomfortable. What they don’t realize is girls and boys won’t even be in the same troops. The troops would meet separately and would operate independently from each other. The only time different gendered troops might meet up would be during special inter-troop events (like the national jamboree) and certain summer camps. Additionally, sponsors such as churches, schools, and youth groups will be able to decide if they want to host a girls troop, boys troop, or both (St. John the Divine will have both a girls and boys troop starting in February). The BSA has been preparing for this change for years, and have determined that their program is 100% relevant to girls as it is to boys, so the lesson plan won’t be much different between the genders.
Through Boy Scouts, the BSA has been teaching young men invaluable lessons and skills for over a century now, and it’s great that they are finally extending this opportunity to young women as well. I urge everyone; if you know someone going into 5th grade or older, boy or girl, to encourage them to join scouting, as its a great organization full of awesome experiences that stick with you for life.