Has been a few months since I’ve had cause to post to Modern Scouting but BSA’s announcement of girls joining has peaked my interest. So, as usual, here goes a blast of a personal opinion that will probably upset everyone. Oh, well.
I’m in favor of both girls and boys having a place within Scouting. That will surprise a lot of people who know me since I’m always the guy pushing for more gregarious activities, more room for boys to become men, and such. Probably seems counter to my personal trend.
Some observations and reasoning for my opinion:
- On the whole, as compared to Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts sucks. My daughter tried it when younger after watching my son enjoy Cub Scouts. This is where my family coined the term “doily making” to describe Girls Scouts. Tons of arts and crafts, tons of social indoctrination to concepts that are debated in society that young girls were neither aware of or prepared to deal with, and virtually no outdoor concepts at all. Girl Scouts did do an amazing job at socializing girls and the adult leaders were very dedicated. But it didn’t appeal to my daughter. The Girl Scouts offers the Gold award but it is hardly a worthwhile debate as to whether it compares to the Eagle. Everyone knows it doesn’t. Predictably, Girl Scout national leadership has reacted negatively to the BSA announcement. Their leadership is ripe with self-victimization and protest. BSA shouldn’t pay any attention to them.
- Girls have been in BSA for a long time. Venturing includes them and there are many girl counselors at summer camp, Philmont, Bechtel, Seabase, and other activities.
- Women leaders have been involved in BSA for as long as anyone alive remembers. When I was Scoutmaster, my Committee Chair was a woman who camped in freezing temps, hiked the Appalachian Trail, led a contingent to Sea Base, and completed Woodbadge. One of the best Scoutmaster’s in our Council is a woman who is also a Major in the Marine Reserves (or some such).
- BSA has announced that girls can join Cub Scouts in 2017 and will be able to pursue Eagle in 2018. BSA has not given clear direction on whether girls will join existing troops, have separate patrols within those troops, or create new troops. For that matter, whether they will be in troops at all. Only that they will be able to pursue Eagle. So not all of the questions are answered yet and how much leeway local troops will have in organizing their programs is still to be shared.
- I have one niece who is a second-year cadet at West Point and another who will enter there next year. Women are in combat roles throughout the military and the military has adjusted. My son is a senior at Massanutten Military Academy which is co-ed. There are real problems posed by a co-ed military. But they are dealt with successfully. The military has always been a model for Scouting.
- Everywhere else in the western world, the national Scouting movement falls under one umbrella organization. That is not to say that there aren’t differences in the program to adjust to gender, just like there are differences to adjust to age.
- The term “gender neutral” doesn’t apply to Scouting. We teach our Boy Scouts to dig a hole next to a fallen log, hang their caboose over the log, deposit in the hole, and cover it back up. Venturing teaches older girls to do the same. But Venturing has to account for gender differences, tenting arrangements, personal hygiene differences, personal relationships and other icky stuff in the wild. Scouting will have to do the same. There are differences in gender which are highlighted in the outdoors. But they can be dealt with.
- If BSA’s decision “feminizes” Scouting with a doily merit badge (and similar) or allows girls a path to Eagle that is different from the gregarious path Boy Scouts follows, then you’ll have a “Girl Eagle” and a “Boy Eagle” that won’t be the same. Eventually, both will suck. Girls must be scouts – including all of the camping requirements, knots, knives, rifle shooting, wilderness outdoors, and winter camping that boys do. Female scoutmasters must lead by example. I don’t worry that requirements will change in the short run. The “slow creep” is the threat. If BSA sets a goal that 50% of Eagles are girls, then the program will change to encourage that. It must not. BSA must be prepared to accept 10% of girl Eagles or 90% of girl Eagles – however the chips may fall.
- BSA should change its name. “Scouting USA” or something similar. Girls Scouts should accept boys. BSA and GSA must never merge; the middle ground between them leads nowhere.