Since its inception, the Boy Scouts of America has been training boys and young men to become active leaders of the future, with troops across the nation hiking up mountains, kayaking down rivers, and organizing community service projects across America. Established in 1908 by entrepreneur William D. Boyce, the organization has been looking to expand their sphere of membership. Between the years 2013 – 2015, LGBT scouts and leaders were finally formally admitted into the BSA organization. However, not all of these changes have been met with positive feedback, with many Eagle Scouts, churches, and other organizations protesting the membership policy changes. With the news that Boy Scouts will soon be adopting a policy of accepting girls into its Cub Scout pack, the organization has thrust itself into the public spotlight once more.
Despite their supposed intentions of becoming more inclusive, this recent change reeks of desperation for more new members. In 2016, the organization reported about 2.3 million youth scouts, an 18% decline from 2012, which had reported 2.8 million scouts. This was largely due to the BSA’s membership policy changes over the past few years causing several members to leave, citing the reversal on the ban of LGBT members as the primary concern. In a desperate attempt to boost membership, the Boys Scouts committed a faux pas when they failed to consult the Girl Scouts before announcing the landmark decision. The intentional lack of communication between the two organizations further reinforced the image of the BSA’s distress towards its dwindling member count.
If the BSA are in desperate need of new members, why don’t they focus on recruiting more boys and showcasing what the Boy Scouts can do for young men instead of trying to go behind the back of its sister organization and appeal to a group that already has a dedicated program? Why bother with the change at all if the organization already has a co-ed group? The Boy Scouts have a separate program called Venture Scouting that is open to both boys and girls between 14 to 21 years old. The program offers almost the same activities as the Boy Scouts. Besides, the Girl Scouts already focus on developing leadership skills for girls and young women. For proponents who wanted the Boy Scouts to adopt this new change, why not change the Girls Scouts curriculum to focus more on camping, hiking, and other strenuous physical activities along with more leadership activities?
There’s no need to drastically modify a 109-year-old organization that focuses on the development of leadership skills for boys and young men to cater to girls when the Girl Scouts already does just that: develop young women into responsible, honest, and productive citizens and leaders. To include the girls into Cub Scout packs and then into Boy Scouts would destroy the individual identity of organization. If people really want a co-ed option as opposed to the BSA and the GSUSA, then they should create a separate organization dedicated to just that.
There is some merit in the new policy, however. The girls who join Boy Scouts will have a chance at obtaining the Eagle Scout rank – an award known for its rigorous requirements and its status as a mark of a person with strong character and fine leadership. Though the Girl Scouts have a similar award called the Gold Award, it isn’t as well known as the Eagle Scout award despite the similar requirements to obtain it. Even if it isn’t well known, the Gold Award recipient exemplifies someone with a strong character and leadership skills so it should possess as much merit as the Eagle Scout rank.
A viable alternative, then, is to publicize the Gold Award more and advertise the benefits of achieving the Gold Award while pointing out how Gold Award alumnae are viable students and employees to companies and colleges around the U.S. That way, employers and college admission boards will weigh the Gold Award as much as the Eagle Scout award when selecting candidates.
However, it’s still too early to make final judgement calls. The programs haven’t even been implemented yet, so there is still room for changes or even a complete reversal of the announced policy. While the decision may be worthy of praise in some respects including reducing discrimination, there are a range of options that may prove to be more beneficial to both boys and girls. Only time will tell whether this new development will fly to new heights in the annals of history, or crash and burn into a forgotten memory.