On Oct. 11, 2017, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) announced that they would begin accepting women into their organization after 110 years of being male-exclusive.
In the past several years, membership for BSA has been steadily declining. In 1972 the scouting arm for men had 6.5 million members, as of 2016, that number had dropped to 2.3 million. To many, it appears that BSA’s concern of declining membership and a desire for a more favorable public image, warranted the admittance of girls.
After getting into a debate with several people in my political science class, I was told that girls would want to be and have always wanted to be involved in the Boy Scouts instead of Girl Scouts (GSA) because the boys offer more survival skills. My argument tried to prove them wrong.
I was involved with scouting for 10 years. I was a Girl Scout through middle school, when at the age of 14 I joined a Venture Crew. Venture Scouts are a co-ed branch of BSA for ages 14 and older. My brother was also a Boy Scout, even achieving the prestigious rank of Eagle.
I know that my Girl Scout troop taught survival skills, because there were badges for it and that’s what our troop was interested in. Simply said, if the youth of the troop has no interest in learning survival skills, you cannot expect the leaders to try to teach them, as those leaders are always serving to grow the program.
Another reason to keep scouting separate, at least for those crucial youth ages of five to 14 includes the obvious of physical development. Many scouting practices, among both boys and girls, are maintained based on the need to teach good hygiene and development practices to youth. The Boy Scout Law has a specific line designated to a boy scout being “clean.” This line helps guide leaders to know how to mentor to their youth and guide them. Once girls can join a previously all male organization, the boundaries of how to teach young people change. Females and males clearly observe different ways of maturing and need help with very differing things, this could create uncomfortable situations in troop meetings or on campouts for those not ready to learn about the opposite sex at such a young age.
Both separate entities provide safe places for their members to explore their identity and learn about the changes that they are encountering. Leaving a co-ed organization to be reserved for older kids who have likely already received sex-ed saves youth from experiencing uncomfortable situations too early.
For those who are unaware, Venture Scouts is for all youth, ages 14 and older, who have interest in broader skills such as leadership, entrepreneur skills and high adventure than those which BSA or GSA traditionally offer. Venture Scouts, though a branch of BSA, has many different forms of keeping both sexes safe and in mutual respect of each other.
I grew up around the boys of my brother’s Boy Scout troop and often remember wondering why I was not allowed to go on camping trips with them, and then being grateful that I did not play like and with the boys. I did not want the rough style of activity they were interested in, just the camping. The compromise that ensued was beautiful.
Our two troops had a camporee across a camp site from each other. Our activities during the day were taught by the opposing leaders, our meals were shared and at night we were each sent to our respective camp sights. This kind of compromise and collaboration could be easily achieved if scouting would work harder to encourage participation in each branch all around the world, instead of creating competition amongst the two by creating a mixed market.
I think the quality of scouts has always been the biggest priority for leaders of both organizations. By allowing girls in, BSA has taken away the ability for young men to be themselves without fear of how a girl may see them, and girls have lost the ability for GSA to push them in the same ways. The standards of the Boy Scouts have been re-evaluated several times throughout history and it’s becoming apparent that once again, Americans are changing the views of what used to be traditional values. Some may agree with that and think this is a step in the right direction, but I do not.