On Wednesday, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) announced that the organization will begin to allow girls to enroll in their programs. Starting next year, girls will be admitted to Cub Scout Packs, with plans being made to allow girls to earn the rank of Eagle Scout. The announcement comes following a unanimous vote by the Board of Directors of the Boy Scouts of America.
In their official statement, BSA claimed that by opening Boy Scouts to girls the organization would be more appealing to busy families. They hope that they can make the Boy Scouts more “family oriented” by opening the doors to girls, and that this would help attract Hispanic and Asian families to the organization, which they say are underserved by Scouting. The statement also claimed that parents of children in their programs show a high interest in getting their daughters involved in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts.
The statement outlines the initial plans for allowing girls to join:
“Starting in the 2018 program year, families can choose to sign up their sons and daughters for Cub Scouts. Existing packs may choose to establish a new girl pack, establish a pack that consists of girl dens and boy dens or remain an all-boy pack. Cub Scout dens will be single-gender — all boys or all girls. Using the same curriculum as the Boy Scouts program, the organization will also deliver a program for older girls, which will be announced in 2018 and projected to be available in 2019, that will enable them to earn the Eagle Scout rank.”
This means that there will still be a separation between boys and girls, but they would earn the same ranks.
As shocking as this news seems to many, with myself included, this news does not come as a surprise to the Girl Scouts. In August, the organization accused BSA of covertly recruiting girls into their organization and in a letter to the President of BSA, the President of the Girl Scouts wrote:
“I formally request that your organization stay focused on serving the 90 percent of American boys not currently participating in Boy Scouts … and not consider expanding to recruit girls.”
The two organizations share a proud history of working together, but this move may drive an irreparable wedge between them.
The motive behind this move is likely the decline in membership over the past decade. The BSA has been experiencing problems with enrollment for many years, with recent years seeing memberships decline over 7%. Some of those losses can be attributed to the recent moves to allow openly gay scouts and leaders in the organization, a move that prompted backlash from groups like the Church of Latter-Day Saints, which has a large presence within the BSA. Boy Scouts also has had problems attracting Hispanic and Asian families to join the organization. It appears that their goal is to boost membership under the guise of making the organization more “family friendly.”
As an Eagle Scout, and as someone who has experienced the Boy Scouts program firsthand, I must say that I am confused and disappointed by this announcement. This will fundamentally change how the Boy Scouts of America operates and will do great harm to its sister organization the Girl Scouts of America. I see this move as a virtue-signaling attempt at a cash grab by BSA at the expense of the Girl Scouts.
What really strikes me as suspicious in this move is how the BSA went about it. The decision to admit girls came as the result of a unanimous vote by the Board of Directors of the organization. This is in stark contrast to another headline-making change that occurred in 2013, the decision to allow openly gay scouts to participate, which came as a result of the 1,400 members of the National Council voting in favor of that change.
The decision to admit gay scouts, an adaptation that only slightly changes the rules of admittance and minimally affects how troops operate, was the result of a vote by a nationwide representative body, yet the decision to admit girls into Boy Scouts, an adaptation that fundamentally changes how the organization will operate from the highest levels to the most small-scale operations, came from the Board of Directors without hearing the opinions of Scout Troops nationwide. That is just not right.
I completely understand why people would like to offer the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts programs to as many youths as possible. I spent 11 years in the organization, going from the lowest rank of Tiger in the Cub Scouts and progressing up to the rank of Eagle Scout, and I plan to continue to give back to my troop, even through college and my adult years. I know firsthand that BSA is a wonderful organization that can make substantially positive impacts on the lives of young men. Many of my best memories come from scouting events, and the friends I’ve made through scouting will be my friends for life. I would love for every youth to be able to experience Scouting. However, that does not mean that the Boy Scouts should open their doors to girls.
There is an argument to be made about how this fundamental change in Boy Scouts will hurt the organization, but I don’t want to make that argument here. This article makes a very compelling argument for how this change undermines the foundations of Boy Scouts.
As an Eagle Scout, I object to this move by the BSA. The Boy Scouts was founded for boys and has existed that way for over a century. There is already an organization for girls, one that can have equally positive impacts on the lives of girls and young women. The Girl Scouts of America is a fantastic organization that provides many great opportunities for girls, and this decision by BSA will severely hurt their sister organization.
Undoubtedly, the victims of this move is going to be the Girl Scouts. I will not be surprised if we see membership rates in the Girl Scouts suffer a sharp decline in the coming years as girls choose to go through the programs offered by the Boy Scouts instead of Girl Scouts. A significant reason why I predict this will happen is because of some complaints I’ve heard about the organization and how they don’t feel like they are taken seriously, especially in how their highest award, the Gold Award, is not treated with the same level of prestige as Eagle Scout. This, I predict, will cause many girls to switch over to the Boy Scouts in order to achieve this ranking. This is not the fault of the Girl Scouts. On the contrary, the Boy Scouts of America is taking advantage of this common complaint in order to boost their own numbers.
I recognize that the membership decline in the Boy Scouts is a massive problem and may spell doom for the organization, however, I do not believe that this is the best solution to fix that problem. Instead of fundamentally altering how the whole organization runs, why not try to fix the membership decline in a different way? In their official statement, BSA noted that Hispanic and Asian families are underserved by Scouting. Why not try to tailor programs that reach out to those populations? If membership numbers are declining, why not try to rebrand the organization so more families will be interested in enrolling their sons? There are plenty of solutions to the membership decline, but it seems that the organization has gone with the option to boost their numbers by throwing out everything that BSA used to stand for while throwing their sister organization under the bus in the process.
I have yet to see a good reason to make this massive change, especially without consulting the opinions of Scouts and Scout Leaders throughout the nation. I hope that at the very least, the BSA chooses to get this move approved by the national council, so that the real stakeholders in the organization, Scouts and Scout Leaders, will have their voices heard in this decision. This change is massive, and the boys and men who made this organization what it is today deserve to have their voices heard in the decision-making process.
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