The Boy Scouts of America may have been chasing the wrong goals when they decided to allow young girls to join their ranks.
The Boy Scouts will launch “Scouts BSA,” a program where girls can partake in traditional Boy Scouting programs, in February 2019. The name change is only to the program for sixth through 12th graders known as Boy Scouting. The name of the parent organization will remain “Boy Scouts of America.” As an Eagle Scout and supporter of the Boy Scouts, I supported their previous changes to be more inclusive. However, this change puzzles me with its complexities and motives.
Some opponents of the decision have argued that allowing girls into the program will hinder the development of boys, but having girls in Scouts BSA does not mean that boys and girls will be integrated into one troop. There will be all-girl and all-boy troops. A pair of troops can either operate together or separately. A linked troop would have both troops joined by a Troop Committee under one Chartered Organization. Separate troops would have different committees and charters.
Furthermore, all-girl and all-boy troops cannot have the same scoutmaster. Every component of troop meetings except opening and closing will be run separately for boys and girls (if they decide to meet at the same time and place). There will be no coed patrols (smaller groups of scouts within a troop). Patrol Leader Councils of each troop will also plan their own troop specific events however, troops can plan joint events and attend other events together.
But, here is the kicker. If a chartered organization does not have the minimum number of youth of the same gender to form a troop, girl and boy patrols cannot combine to form a single troop. In that case the chartered organization could consider the linked troop model. Even then, girls and boys are not integrated.
What is the purpose of change if girls and boys cannot have meetings and troop specific events together? From my own experience, merit badges and rank requirements are completed then. Integrating would be the most ground-breaking move would it not? I thought the Boy Scouts would integrate to show that they are progressive thereby attracting good press and bolstering their image. I suppose it is a relief that no one will be told they have cooties during Emergency Preparedness merit badge.
The fuss should not be about how boys will be affected. But, rather how the Boy Scouts are biting off more than they can chew. The Boy Scouts want to do what the Girl Scouts have been doing for years. But why have girls in Boy Scouting if they already have a home? I do not think the Boy Scouts have girls’ best interest in mind.
Scouts BSA is being launched as an attempt to remedy a number of image problems. As society’s priorities have changed with increased diversity, the Boy Scouts have had a difficult time operating without scrutiny of old-fashioned membership standards.
First, the decision to lift the ban on gay boys joining Boy Scouts created disagreement before and after the change. Organizations for LGBT rights such as the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) called for an end to the ban. GLAAD heavily campaigned against the Boy Scouts with the help of celebrities and Jennifer Tyrell, a Cub Scout den leader who was removed because she was lesbian.
After the reverse of the policy a new youth group for boys developed in opposition. Eagle Scout John Stemberger, a leader in the opposition to the Boy Scouts’ policy change, started Trail Life USA. The vision of Trail Life USA is to be a Christian alternative to Boy Scouts. Trail Life USA had 26,000 boys in January 2017. I do not know if there are 26,000 girls that will join Scouts BSA. In addition, the Boy Scouts now allow transgender boys and gay adult leaders to participate.
Second, there has been opposition to the Boy Scouts barring boys and adult leaders who are not religious. Both boys and leaders have religious standards they must meet. According to the Scout Law “A scout is reverent.” To earn the rank of Scout, the first rank in Boy Scouting, scouts must describe ways they embody the Scout Law. Adult leaders must agree to the Declaration of Religious Principals which states that “The Boy Scouts of America maintains that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God.”
The involvement of the United States government with the Boy Scouts has been criticized because of this standard. The government is secular while the Boy Scouts are not. Pressure from the American Civil Liberties Union resulted in a settlement requiring military bases and units not to officially support the Boy Scouts in 2004.
Last, but not least, the issue at hand. The Boy Scouts have turned away girls who wanted to join. Five girls from California attempted to join the Boy Scouts in 2015. Their request was denied. The girls claimed that the decision was made because of gender discrimination. Families whose daughters wanted to join have sued the Boy Scouts. Most notably Margo Mankes and Katrina Yeaw in the 1990s. However, the Boy Scouts have a loophole to the challenges. Title IX exempts the Boy Scouts from certain standards so they can pick and choose members based on gender.
The Boy Scouts have had a tough time with these challenges. But why cave in on the cornerstone of your organization? Pressure will always be present. Standing by values seems to be harder than changing them for the Boy Scouts. Sometimes change is for the better. In this case, I do not think it is.
I am not saying Boy Scouts is a bad place for your child. The values in the Scout Oath and Law such as kindness, cleanliness and physical fitness can be applicable to all youth. That is obvious. But when it comes down to developing a specific gender at a pivotal time in a child’s life, it is best to let boys be boys and girls be girls.
Towards the end of a Boy Scout’s career Venture Crew is offered. Along with girls, boys can spend time on tougher expeditions in more remote wilderness. This coed form of scouting is introduced after the boys (and girls) have matured through middle school. Why did the Boy Scouts not promote that program? Venture Crew is already established, promotes values of the Boy Scouts and provides challenges for young adults. Logically, it would have made the most sense. Unfortunately, the Boy Scouts do not seem to have an abundance of that.