Photo courtesy of Matt Horbal | Newswire Campus News Editor Jack Dunn poses with the Camp Ma-Ka-Ja-Wan Reservation Staff. Scouting BSA, formerly Boy Scouts of America, is now incorporating girls into its main scouting program as of Feb. 1.
The views expressed in the following article are the opinion of the writer(s) and do not reflect the opinions of the Newswire staff as a whole.
I am a third generation Eagle Scout.
My grandfather was an Eagle Scout. My uncle is an Eagle Scout. My brother is an Eagle Scout.
And now my sister will have the opportunity to be an Eagle Scout too.
As of Feb. 1, the Boy Scouts of America have officially become Scouting BSA, and now, after more than 100 years, young girls will finally be able to join the standard 11 to 17 year old main scouting program. It is something that has been long overdue and will provide opportunities to thousands who have long been capable but not permitted.
Naturally, decisions such as this do not come without controversy. There are those who firmly believe that scouting is unique because it provides a space for boys to ‘be themselves’ without any girls around. Others argue that there already is a Girl Scouts, so why should we allow girls into the Boy Scouts? Others feel that the reason why the rank of Eagle is so special is that it has been done a certain way for decades, that having girls in will somehow lower some of the requirements to be more accommodating.
This all culminates in the idea that there is a war on men somehow leading to the “wussification” of America, that somehow all this will leave scouting dead.
I’d like to call them out on their bullsh*t.
First, let us look at the facts. Women have been a part of scouting for more than 50 years as members of Venturing, Exploring, Sea Scouts and STEM Scout programs. They have been scoutmasters and camp counselors and even executives. To say a young man can enter scouting and never have a woman help him on his way in some capacity is impossible.
Now let’s take a look at the two organizations that make up scouting. Up until Feb. 1, the United States was one of the few countries in the world that did not have co-ed scouting in their standard program (a list that included Saudi Arabia). From their very beginnings, both the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America have acted as separate organizations with different end goals for their scouts. In their respective early years, the Boy Scouts focused more on wildlife and living on the frontier, whereas the Girl Scouts were a more urban movement that focused on domestic and outdoor skills. These goals have since evolved into the Boy Scouts focusing on being scout leaders, while the Girl Scouts focus on careers in science and technology alongside an emphasis on community service.
And I’m not saying that one organization is clearly better than the other. Like anything else in the world, good things have come from both. But what I’m trying to get at is that now people will have a choice of what their kids want to pursue.
Finally, this change is not a promise that girls will all automatically obtain Eagle. Currently, only about two percent of all boys who enter scouts will obtain the rank of Eagle. The requirements have not changed. The only differences are the name change on new uniforms (scouting has always held a ‘once official, always official’ policy with uniforms) and more pictures of girls in the handbook. Any concerns about the physical requirements are pointless. If you can’t complete the swimming merit badge, there are alternative badges that can be completed. That’s the way it’s been for years, no matter who has been allowed to try.
I can only speak from my own experience. My sister has bounced around three different Girl Scout troops the past few years. She hasn’t really felt quite at home in any of them. This has been in stark contrast to my younger brother and I, where we both not only made some of our lifelong friends in scouting but also gained invaluable skills and had life-changing experiences in Boy Scouts. It has been something that we have been able to plant our roots in and grow from.
This is something our parents have noticed. My mother in particular has found that she likes the patrol method of Boy Scouts (where scouts lead each other on various activities and campouts) better than the leader-driven experience my sister has had in the Girl Scouts. This has contributed to my family’s decision that we should have my sister experience the newly minted Scouting BSA for a year to see if it is for her. We fully understand that it might not be for her but feel the importance of letting her test the waters and see is important.
This is what makes this opportunity important not only for my family but also for thousands of families across the United States. There have been millions of people like my sister throughout the decades. She has been to hundreds of meetings, dozens of campouts and even helped us to complete our Eagle projects. There are those girls who have thought, “Why can’t I do that,” and have gone as far as to start the journey toward Eagle Scout, even if it went against national policy. There have been millions of parents who have found that Girl Scouts may not quite be right for their daughter and wished that she could have had the same experience as her brothers.
And now those people will get to have their chance.
I will not pretend to be naïve to the issues that Scouting BSA is facing. The national organization is at risk of going bankrupt because of lawsuits from sexual assault cases. Numbers are at their lowest level in decades. More conservative groups have splintered off over recent —and in my opinion, proper — decisions to lift bans on gay scouts and leaders, as well as allowing those who identify as male into scouting. Summer camps are closing, and councils are being consolidated.
Having girls in the main scouting program may not solve all these issues and the controversy surrounding the organization, but it is at the very least a step in the right direction. Scouting cannot begin to address these issues if it isn’t open to letting everyone in to help be a part of the solution.
I have had the very fortunate opportunity to have made scouting a close part of my life. Since the summer of 2015, I have worked at Ma-Ka-Ja-Wan Scout Reservation in Pearson, Wisc. I have made some lifelong friends whom I would consider brothers and sisters. In my time there, I have met many men and women who will go on to be the leaders of tomorrow. And I know that this decision will go on to benefit not just scouting but the entire country. Simply, I’m just glad that my sister will now have the same opportunities I did.
Jack Dunn is the U.S. & World News Editor for the Newswire. He is an Eagle Scout and has been involved in scouting for the last 15 years.