Girls will be allowed in the Boy Scouts — and that’s good

Girls will be allowed in the Boy Scouts — and that’s good

Michael Souza,

For over a century, the gender equality movement has been pushing for changes to allow women to have equal opportunity in the workplace, in education and beyond. That push is now happening in the Boy Scouts.

In October 2017, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) announced that it will allow girls to join the organization by the end of 2018. The plan is to allow girls into the Cub-Scouts, the Boy-Scouts equivalent for boys under 12. If the program goes well, by the end of 2019, girls would be allowed to participate in Boy Scouts.

Fifty-seven percent of Americans oppose the decision to allow girls to join the Boy Scouts, according to an NBC News poll. Opponents argue that there is already an organization for the girls — the Girl Scouts — according to the New York Times. Proponents, myself included, argue that this is a great leap for equality and will be an educational experience for both boys and girls in scouting.

The BSA is 108 years old this year and has always been an organization that exclusively allowed boys to participate. However, with this change, the BSA will join the many worldwide scouting organizations that allow both boys and girls into their ranks, such as the Scouting organizations of the United Kingdom, Mexico, Germany, Canada and more.

Allowing girls to join the BSA could benefit the organization. Over the last decade, its membership has been steadily declining, according to the Chicago Tribune. Allowing girls into Boy Scouts may be a clever tactic to increase membership, but it is also potentially a good thing for the scouts themselves.

2017 and 2018 have been momentous years for gender equality with the prominence of the #MeToo movement, a movement created to support survivors and end sexual violence. Allowing girls to participate in Boy Scouts is beneficial because it helps push the boundaries of gender equality even further. Girls will have the opportunity to learn life skills and leadership from the Boy Scout program and the boys’ experience will be enriched as well by seeing the different perspectives the girls bring.

My entire life has been involved with Boy Scouts in some form or another. I spent my childhood in a Cub Scout Pack and later a Boy Scout Troop, eventually earning the rank of Eagle, scouting’s highest honor. After aging out I continued to participate as a summer camp staff member and volunteered for nine years. Even though I appreciate the BSA, I have not always agreed with their policies.

The BSA is problematically slow at allowing progressive change. The Boy Scouts did not allow gay scouts or leaders into the organization until 2010 and even then there is still contention regarding this from some troops according to the Washington Post. It was not until January of 2017 that the BSA announced it would allow transgender scouts into the program.

These recent policy changes are no doubt progressive and positive, but it is hard to look past the conservative politics of the presidents and executives of the BSA. Randall L. Stephenson is the current president of the Boy Scouts of America and he is also the chairman and CEO of AT&T. It appeared as though Stephenson was attempting to use his position in the BSA to gain support from the Trump administration for a high-profile merger between AT&T and Time Warner, according to the Washington Post.

Stephenson hosted President Trump on stage at the 2017 Boy Scout National Jamboree, a yearly celebration of the BSA that hundreds of troops from across the country attend. Trump’s speech on stage was full of political statements and spurred many complaints from parents and former Boy Scouts, according to the Washington Post.

Despite my frustrations with the leadership of the organization, the BSA effectively educates its members on the importance of personal advancement and developing leadership skills. My experience in the organization has reflected this, helping me to persevere and achieve higher goals like earning my Eagle rank or working toward finishing college. These same benefits and greater ones can be achieved by the boys and girls who join the organization in the future.

The Girl Scouts of the United States of America (GSUSA) opposes the decision to allow girls into the BSA, stressing the importance of women learning in an all women environment.  About a quarter of the staff at the Boy Scout camp I worked at were women, most of whom had tried Girl Scouts, but were not satisfied with their experience. The GSUSA is clearly a terrific organization for the  millions of women and girls who enjoy its program, but perhaps for many others the BSA will be a better fit.

For many girls who enjoy the GSUSA but want to try the BSA, the choice is simple: do both. Thousands of girls are signing up to join the BSA by the end of 2019, some of whom will be part of troops whose leaders follow both the Boy Scout and Girl Scout programs according to CBS Sacramento. Hopefully the transition goes smoothly and someday soon we will be welcoming our first female Eagle Scouts.