In a recent national statement, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) Board of Directors approved a motion to welcome girls into the organization as early as Cub Scouts, the youngest division of the BSA, and allow them to attain Eagle rank. This new fully inclusive policy is monumental for scouting and will benefit both young boys and girls. For an organization that prides itself on teaching its members “how to get along with others,” it’s about time that the BSA removed its membership restriction on half of the population.
The BSA is an institution that has sought to raise young boys with exemplary morals and prepare them “to make ethical and moral choices” for 107 years, but not without its fair share of controversy. The BSA has traditionally taken a hard-line stance against atheism and homosexuality.; however, in the past decade— no doubt, partially due to its steady decline in membership, the Scouting Board of Directors has lifted a number of bans including those on gay scouts in 2013, gay leaders in 2015, and transsexual scouts earlier this year. The newest initiative to allow female membership is the last and most impactful step of the BSA’s transition to total integration of youth.
From the girls’ perspective, they now have the choice between Boy Scouts— spokeswoman Effie Delimarkos stated that for now, the BSA plans to keep the name— or Girl Scouts, both collaborative organizations that strive to develop character and leadership in young adults. While the Girl Scouts of the USA sees the new BSA rule as a strategy to poach members from its community, the rule gives girls the freedom to decide what they want out of scouting, regardless of its intention.
The importance of this newfound choice that girls have cannot be overstated as although there are some similarities between Boy and Girl Scouts with regards to principles, the two groups will offer girls markedly different types of opportunities. Boy Scouts places a greater emphasis on high-adventure and wilderness survival, whereas Girl Scouts does an amazing job teaching girls about entrepreneurship and focusing on important women’s issues. Both institutions teach their youth invaluable skills: what this policy now allows girls to do is experience either and decide which one is more suitable for their preferences.
Perhaps most importantly, another benefit for girls is the ability to earn the rank of Eagle Scout, a distinction recognized throughout the U.S. as a symbol of determination, perseverance, and leadership. Although The Girl Scouts offer a comparable honor in the Gold Award that is just as hard to attain, this rank does not come with the same level of recognition.
Because of a combination of these factors, the Girl Scouts fears that its membership will dwindle, however, there are sufficient key differences between the two groups for both to coexist.
For boys, the introduction of girls in the BSA will help them learn to interact with girls early on. Young boys have often fallen far behind their female counterparts in emotional intelligence, EQ, by the time they reach middle school, but this new co-ed environment can provide boys and girls— although they do not need as much help— with a place in which they can properly learn to communicate with and understand the opposite gender. Moreover the intensity of the adventure and rank advancement in Boy Scouts will foster strong friendships between scouts as they share experiences together.
However, one of the main points of contention among opponents of these new-look Boy Scouts is the abandonment of the single gender environment for both boys and girls: boys through the introduction of girls into their troops and girls by leaving their Girl Scout troops in favor of Boy Scouts.
While several activities could provide this single gender environment instead of Scouting, such as sports teams, co-ed scouting is irreplicable in its ability to forge relationships between boys and girls outside of school.
The BSA’s decision to include girls in its membership has immense advantages for both genders. Boy Scouts becomes even more helpful for young boys while girls can now try both Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts and choose between the two. With the benefits of scouting illuminated by this motion, boys and girls alike should at least give scouting a try, because it may be one of the most valuable experiences of their lives.