As a proud Eagle Scout and the father of a young man who is close to attaining the same honor, I received more than a few questions from family and friends about Wednesday’s announcement that Boy Scouts of America will begin accepting girls next year.
The Scout Motto, as many know, is “Be Prepared,” but the BSA’s news caught me totally off-guard.
My initial reaction was that Lord Baden Powell, the founder of Scouting, must be rolling over in his grave.
Boys already mature at a slower rate than girls, and by junior high when they transition from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts they are a roiling mess of hormones, puberty, insecurity and just general goofiness.
Being in Scouting gives them a chance to challenge themselves, fail and try again in — for lack of a better term — a safe environment. Male leaders, along with older Scouts, are there to lend a helping hand, provide encouragement and guidance and help younger Scouts progress while learning life-long skills.
Throw girls into the mix and common sense among boys pretty much goes out the window.
The Boy Scouts say its decision is based on research and polling data. The Girl Scouts, headquartered right down the road in Savannah, are calling foul. They say the move is an attempt by the BSA to shore up declining numbers. The Boy Scouts say their desire is to extend their time-tested leadership training to a wider audience.
After looking into the plan, it appears the approach will be a “separate but equal” platform, despite the negative connotations of that phrase.
Starting next year, girls will be allowed to join Cub Scout dens, which are age-based units from kindergarten through fifth grade. A collection of dens make up a Cub Scout Pack. The dens will be gender-specific. The details for Boy Scout Troops are a little less specific, but apparently in 2019 a program will be rolled out for older girls to join Boy Scout Troops and work toward the rank of Eagle.
Becoming an Eagle Scout is no small feat. Only about 4 percent of boys who join Scouting ever get there. It is held in such high regard that it is the only rank an adult leader who holds it can wear on his uniform, and the Eagle Scout Oath — in which a new Eagle reaffirms his commitment to the values of Scouting — closes with the words “To this I pledge my sacred honor.” Sound familiar? Yes, it’s taken directly from the last line of the Declaration of Independence.
I can see why a lot of girls would want to join Boy Scouts. Outdoor adventure, rifle and archery shooting, camping, the list goes on. When I became an adult leader of my son’s Troop back in Michigan, I attended some training seminars and one was focused on providing the kinds of activities Boy Scouts are known for.
The guy leading the workshop asked what the Boy Scouts would be without all the fun outdoor adventures and a voice from the back of the room simply responded, “Girl Scouts.”
We all had a good laugh, but humor is only funny if there’s an element of truth to it. No disrespect toward the Girl Scouts, but I know our daughter grew tired of it very quickly. For a girl who got a kick out of learning the different ways to build a campfire and never shied away from baiting her own fishing hook, I know which organization she would have gotten more out of.
I think part of the reaction by the Girl Scouts to the BSA’s decision runs along these lines. There is a prestige that comes with being an Eagle Scout that the Girl Scouts are envious of. I actually had to look up what the highest award in Girl Scouts is (the Gold Award, by the way). People my age and older most likely remember a BSA commercial from the 1970s that featured famous Eagle Scouts such as Hank Aaron, Gerald Ford and Neil Armstrong.
When girls are allowed to join Boy Scouts, there will have to be strict rules about certain activities, particularly when it comes to camping, and obviously a lot of moms will have to volunteer in order to make it work.
As my son pointed out when we talked about this, maybe having girls around showing they can excel at the same activities and challenges will make boys act less goofy toward girls and foster more respect toward women later in life.
And future generations full of men and women who better respect each other and show leadership, integrity and self-sufficiency isn’t a bad thing at all.