Scouts of America
Much has changed since the formation of the Boy Scouts of America in 1910, soon after Lt. Gen. Robert Baden-Powell launched scouting in Great Britain.
It was a world in which men were in control and options for women extremely limited. Women couldn’t even vote in the United States. Scouting was intended to instruct boys in core values — trustworthiness, loyalty, helpfulness, kindness, bravery and reverence — and fill them with a sense of confidence and adventure to become future leaders.
Meanwhile, many upper crust women saw their futures as supporting the careers of their husbands by managing the household and being good hostesses. Middle-class women could aspire to be teachers, nurses or secretaries. Working-class women often ended up with sweat-shop mill work. Most women served as housewives.
Thankfully, this is a far different world, one in which girls can largely have the same ambitions as boys. It makes sense, then, that the Boy Scouts of America has opened its organization to girls.
In Cub Scouts, the BSA rank for young children, the dens, made up of small numbers of scouts, will be organized into separate boy and girl units. The Cub Scout packs, in which the dens come together for meetings and events, can welcome both boys and girls, or remain single gender, based on local decisions.
The organization will utilize a similar format when girls are welcomed into the ranks of older Scouts starting in 2019, which organize as packs.
Camping trips for younger Scouts, which are family events, will feature boys and girls, while BSA will segregate camping excursions for older Scouts by gender. It’s sensible planning. Girls will be eligible to become Eagle Scouts, a top rank often associated with great success and civic contribution later in life.
National leaders of the Girl Scouts of the United States of America, an organization with its own proud heritage dating to 1912, are not happy. Former Girl Scouts helped push for the changes that led to the greater equality of the sexes seen today. They have their own prestigious top rank, the Gold Award, which while not as well-known as the Eagle Scout rank, deserves no less respect.
They see their organization threatened by the BSA move.
Why not merge the organizations to become Scouts of America? Such a move could incorporate the best of both, while better reflecting society as it is in 2017. We won’t fault the Boy Scouts for taking the first step.