Out of the many scouting groups American kids could join in the early 1900s, two emerged to rule the century. In 1910, several boys’ scouting groups—like the Woodcraft Indians and the Sons of Daniel Boone—came together to form group number one, the Boy Scouts. The Camp Fire Girls was founded later that same year; but was eventually overshadowed by group number two, the Girls Scouts. This group was founded in 1912 by Juliette Gordon Low, who drew inspiration from the British Girl Guides.
In the beginning, both the Camp Fire Girls and the Girl Scouts taught outdoor skills while still focusing on domestic skills more than the Boy Scouts did. Yet male Boy Scout leaders were far more accepting of the Camp Fire Girls, writes Leslie Paris in Children’s Nature: The Rise of the American Summer Camp.
“The Girl Scouts’ khaki uniforms and their adoption of military drill threatened the Boy Scouts’ leader, James West, who considered the Camp Fire Girls a more appropriately gendered counterpart,” she writes. “West rallied particularly against the Girl Scouts’ use of the term ‘scout,’ fearing that if the term became feminized it would become unsuitable for boys’ adventure.”
Over time, these gender politics shifted. In 1975, the Camp Fire Girls became Camp Fire, a gender-neutral organization for all kids. The Boy Scouts of America and Girl Scouts of the USA, which grew to be the most popular scouting groups in the country, also expanded their badges to include more types of skills.
Yet in the last couple of years, a feud has developed between the Boy and the Girl Scouts. And in October 2017, it finally came to a head.
That month, the Boy Scouts announced that it would accept girls in some of its initiatives. The move was met with the expected yays and nays about gender inclusion on social media, but the paper trail behind the decision suggests it has more to do with the Boy Scouts’ bottom line than gender equality.
In August 2017, Buzzfeed published a letter from the Girl Scouts to the Boy Scouts accusing them of running a “covert campaign to recruit girls into programs run by the Boy Scouts.” Both groups have seens declining membership in recent decades, and the letter charged that the Boy Scouts were trying to increase membership by targeting girls “rather than working to appeal to the 90 percent of boys who are not involved in BSA programs” (ouch).
The letter also accused the Boy Scouts of making “disparaging and untrue remarks about Girl Scout programming.” The day that the Boy Scouts announced they would open up some of their programs to girls, Slate’s Christina Cauterucci wrote that the Girl Scouts “had been hearing from several local councils that their Boy Scouts counterparts were recruiting parents into coed programming by saying the Girl Scouts wouldn’t be around much longer” (ouch).
The Boy Scouts have not yet announced any plans to fully integrate girls into its organization, and it remains to be seen how many girls will end up joining the Boy Scouts. But rest assured, this feud is far from over.
Why Do the Boy Scouts Want to Include Girls?
The organization’s decision overturns a historic and defining separation, raising questions about their timing and how they differ from the Girl Scouts of the USA.
On Wednesday, the Boy Scouts of America announced it will soon allow girls to join the organization as Cub Scouts and earn the rank of Eagle Scout, marking a significant policy shift in the organization’s over 100-year history.
“The values of Scouting—trustworthy, loyal, helpful, kind, brave and reverent, for example—are important for both young men and women,” said Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh in a statement. “We strive to bring what our organization does best—developing character and leadership for young people—to as many families and youth as possible as we help shape the next generation of leaders.”
Boy Scouts Will Accept Girls, in Bid to ‘Shape the Next Generation of Leaders’
The Boy Scouts of America announced plans on Wednesday to broadly accept girls, marking a historic shift for the century-old organization and setting off a debate about where girls better learn how to be leaders.
The Boy Scouts, which has seen dwindling membership numbers in recent decades, said that its programs could nurture girls as well as boys, and that the switch would make life easier for busy parents, who might prefer to shuttle children to a single organization regardless of gender.
“I’ve seen nothing that develops leadership skills and discipline like this organization,” said Randall Stephenson, the group’s national board chairman. “It is time to make these outstanding leadership development programs available to girls.”
The decision was celebrated by many women, but criticized by the Girl Scouts, which said that girls flourish in all-female groups.
“We’ve had 105 years of supporting girls and a girl-only safe space,” said Lisa Margosian, chief customer officer for the Girl Scouts, who added that the organization felt “blindsided” by the announcement. “So much of a girl’s life is a life where she is in a coed environment, and we have so much research and data that suggests that girls really thrive in an environment where they can experiment, take risk and stretch themselves in the company of other girls.”
For families involved in scouting, the announcement led to a scramble of questioning phone calls and frantic Facebook discussions as parents and scout leaders wrestled with tentative plans for the transition. Next year, girls will be allowed into the Cub Scouts program, which had been limited to young boys. A program for older girls is expected to be available in 2019, giving them a path to earn the prestigious rank of Eagle Scout.
The Boy Scouts has offered girls limited access to some programs before, but it has never before welcomed them into its core Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts programs. And the introduction of girls still does not mean that Boy Scouts’ gatherings will necessarily include both genders. The smallest groups of Cub Scouts will continue to be single sex.
Michael Ver Duin, a third-generation Eagle Scout and troop leader in Grand Haven, Mich., said he was “super excited” for the change — an opportunity, in his view, for girls to have the same choices as boys.
“The closest I’ve had to a negative comment is ‘I know there will be some who do not welcome this,’ ” he said. “The two biggest things I see as a challenge to explain to parents are, ‘What kind of problems are you going to have if you had boys and girls on the same camping outing?’ and ‘Do boys need time to be boys and girls need time to be girls?’ ”
Others were deeply skeptical. Joseph Carballo, 70, has been with the Boy Scouts for 30 years, most of that time as a scoutmaster of Troop 65, in the Bronx. His two sons, both Eagle Scouts and now in their 30s and 40s, have been with the organization since the 1990s. “And we all have the same view: no girls,” he said.
“Boys and girls should have separate organizations for activities,” Mr. Carballo explained, as his troops entered the cafeteria of St. Helena’s Church for their Wednesday night meeting. “There is an organization for girls. It’s called the Girl Scouts.” (His granddaughter, he pointed out, is a member.)
For the Boy Scouts, the change is also a chance to boost its sagging membership. The group says it has 2.3 million members between the ages of 7 and 21 and nearly a million volunteers throughout the United States and its territories. At its peak in the 1970s, the organization, incorporated in 1910, was closer to five million members.
The Boy Scouts has significantly loosened its membership requirements in recent years, but not without lengthy debates among its leaders and members. In January, the organization announced it would accept transgender members. In 2013, the group lifted a ban on openly gay members, and in 2015, it stopped barring gay Scout leaders.
In April, the Boy Scouts began exploring the possibility of opening more widely to girls after receiving inquiries from its members, a spokeswoman for the Boy Scouts, Effie Delimarkos, said. She said the group collected input from families over the summer and, on Wednesday, its directors unanimously voted to allow the expansion.
For some parents, the announcement came as an answer to longstanding complaints that offerings by the Girl Scouts were lacking, particularly for girls with less traditionally feminine interests.
“The problem with the Girl Scout curriculum is that it’s very focused on who your leader is for your particular troop,” said Rebecca Szetela, a mother of four from Canton, Mich. “If you have a mom who’s really into crafts and girlie stuff and being a princess, then that’s what your Girl Scout troop is going to be like. If you have a daughter who’s more rough and tumble, it’s not going to be a good fit.”
Some girls, like Ella Jacobs, 12, of Sebastopol, Calif., have long argued for the chance to be allowed into the Boy Scouts.
“My point has always been that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the Girl Scouts, but they weren’t the right fit for our family,” said her mother, Danelle Jacobs, a lawyer. “Girls should have the choice.”
Brian Seeton, a scoutmaster in Canton, Ohio, predicted that the acceptance of girls would play out much like the acceptance of gay Scouts and leaders. “Parents and kids didn’t care one way or the other,” he said. “It’ll only be an issue for the first couple of years and then it’ll carry on as it always was.”
Bryan Spellman, a scoutmaster in Fishers, Ind., pointed out that there already were girls in some scouting programs, and that while the announcement was somewhat sudden, it would ultimately work out.
“Honestly, I don’t mind it at all,” Mr. Spellman said. “I think Scouting is one of the greatest youth organizations that we have in this nation. And if that’s something that can be shared with all sexes, it can be fantastic.”
He said he suspected not everyone would feel that way. “There’s resistance to change,” he said. “People hate change, and people love tradition.”
Perhaps most vulnerable in all of this, he said, are the girls’ organizations that may be at risk of losing members or potential members. “Everybody knows an Eagle Scout,” he said. But the Girl Scouts’ top award “is just not held as high or as valuable in people’s minds, and I’m not sure why.”
Boy Scouts to open ranks to girls, but historic change may not alter Mormon church programs
(Jake May/The Flint Journal - MLive.com via AP) FILE - In this Monday, May 29, 2017 file photo, Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts salute during a Memorial Day ceremony in Linden, Mich. On Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017, the Boy Scouts of America Board of Directors unanimously approved to welcome girls into its Cub Scout program and to deliver a Scouting program for older girls that will enable them to advance and earn the highest rank of Eagle Scout.
In a historic swing to bolster its declining numbers, the Boy Scouts of America announced Wednesday that girls will be able to join the Cub Scouts and even rise to the rank of Eagle.
But Mormon girls may not be decked out in neckerchiefs and blue uniforms in LDS Church-sponsored troops anytime soon.
The Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, traditionally the nation’s largest Scouting sponsor, said its programs for girls will remain unchanged.
“The Activity Days and Personal Progress programs of the church have long been in place to meet the needs of girls and young women in these age groups, and no change will be made in church programs,” spokesman Eric Hawkins said in an emailed statement. ”We recognize that the desire of the BSA is to expand their programs to serve more young people in the United States. The church, too, continues to look at ways to serve the needs of our youth worldwide.”
When asked to elaborate, including whether girls would be allowed to participate in LDS Church-sponsored Cub Scout packs and whether the faith’s Young Men program would continue to include Scouting, Hawkins declined to answer.
“At this point,” he said. “The statement is all we have to offer.”
The LDS Church has a longstanding, though recently scaled-back, relationship with the BSA, with Mormon boys encouraged to join Scouting groups hosted by local congregations.
But in recent years, LDS leaders have promoted and further developed internal programs, like the Mormon doctrine-aligned Duty to God, while stepping away from the BSA’s Venturing and Varsity programs for teenage boys older than 14. That latter decision peeled away more than 180,000 Mormon boys from those groups.
The church has noted previously that it is looking to develop its own program to serve LDS young people around the globe.
Mormon officials have expressed concerns with the loosening of membership restrictions for the BSA, particularly the 2015 move to allow gay men to be Scout leaders. Gay men are allowed to serve in some Mormon leadership roles, including working with a congregation’s Scouting troop, if they do not act on their same-sex attractions and remain celibate in accordance with LDS Church teachings on morality.
The BSA has no corresponding ban on gay leaders who are sexually active or in same-gender relationships. But the organization did allow the church to operate its Scouting programs in adherence to the faith’s standards.
An announcement posted on the BSA website attributed the policy change to years of requests to allow female members and an interest in offering families additional options for the character development of children.
Michael Surbaugh, BSA’s chief Scout executive, said in a prepared statement that Scouting’s values, which include trustworthiness, loyalty, friendliness and kindness, are important for both young men and young women.
“It is critical to evolve how our programs meet the needs of families interested in positive and lifelong experiences for their children,” Surbaugh said. “We strive to bring what our organization does best — developing character and leadership for young people — to as many families and youth as possible as we help shape the next generation of leaders.”
Founded in 1910, the BSA since 2013 has opened its membership to gay youths and gay leaders, along with transgender boys.
BSA spokeswoman Effie Delimarkos told The Associated Press there currently are no plans to alter the organization’s name to reflect the addition of female Scouts.
Mark Griffin, Scout executive for the BSA’s Great Salt Lake Council, said sponsors such as the LDS Church will continue to have flexibility under the new policy, and the ability to dictate membership and leadership of local Scouting packs.
“It’s up to the chartering organization,” he said.
Griffin said the intention of the new membership policy is not to intermingle children of either gender. Instead Cub Scout Dens — the smallest unit of the Scouting organization — will remain gender-specific, with boys’ and girls’ dens getting together for larger activities like pack meetings and day camps.
Surbaugh told the AP there would continue to be a ban on mixed-gender overnight outings for Scouts ages 11 to 14. Cub Scout camping trips, he noted, are usually family affairs with less need for rigid policies.
For older girls, a new program is expected to launch in 2019 that will be based on the Boy Scout curriculum and will include advancement to the rank of Eagle Scout.
“We know that girls develop differently,” Griffin said. “Girls mature much faster than boys do.”
The Girl Scouts of America criticized the new policy, according to national reports, accusing the BSA of damaging the bond between the two organizations.
Janet Frasier, CEO of the Girl Scouts of Utah, said she respects a family’s right to choose the best options for their children, but that Girl Scout leaders remain confident in their program’s value.
“There will continue to be families who really will choose the value of a girl-only experience,” Frasier said.
The Girl Scouts of Utah includes roughly 7,500 girls, Frasier said.
There are no discussions of opening the Girl Scout program to boys, she added, while declining to speculate on whether the BSA is improved by female members.
“I am a mother of three daughters so my personal experience with Boy Scouts is pretty limited,” Frasier said. “I wouldn’t want to comment on the way they’re viewing the market.”
Griffin said the question of whether to add girls to Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts has long been a point of discussion among Scouting leaders. The organization also has made public overtures toward a membership expansion in recent months, polling its Scouting councils and gauging the interest of potential girl Scouts.
The Great Salt Lake Council includes more than 75,000 Scouts in Salt Lake, Tooele, Summit and southern Davis counties.
“We’ve been talking about it for two years,” Griffin said. “It went through a vetting process with local councils.”
The BSA already allowed girls to participate in its Venturing program for youths older than 14. And Griffin said it is common for girls in Venturing to participate alongside their male counterparts in both small-unit and larger activities.
He said the new policy is intended to add convenience to Scouting families. Both male and female children could attend their respective den meetings as part of a single Scout pack.
“A family can go to one place in one night,” he said.
The move to allow girls into the Boy Scouts was praised by Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski, who tweeted that the shift was “Great news!” followed by a picture of a flexing bicep and the hashtag “DayoftheGirl.”
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BOY SCOUTS ARE GOING TO ADMIT GIRLS INTO THEIR PROGRAMS
The Boy Scouts of America just announced a BIG change yesterday . . . for the first time in their history, they've decided to admit GIRLS.
And that decision will certainly make a bunch of people angry, as all decisions relating to gender equality do these days, but here's who's REALLY angry: The Girl Scouts. Because, you know, admitting girls is already kinda their thing.
The Boy Scouts decided to start letting girls who are between seven and 10 years old join the Cub Scouts as of next year. And they're going to let them start working their way up to Eagle Scout as of 2019.
Each local scout organization can decide whether to have both boys and girls together in the same troop, or to have separate troops for boys and girls.
So why would girls want to join the Boy Scouts? A study found that the Girl Scouts tend to push more activities like art and, of course, selling cookies . . . while the Boy Scouts push more science activities and individual problem-solving skills.
Also, being an Eagle Scout tends to be seen as more prestigious by the public . . . who might not even know of the highest rank in the Girl Scouts, which is a Gold Award. The Girl Scouts don't agree with ANY of that, though.
They've been against the co-ed idea since the Boy Scouts first started tossing it around earlier this year . . . and one of their executives said yesterday, quote, "We are unparalleled in our ability to build great female leaders."
Boy Scouts Will Now Admit Girls
The Boy Scouts will now be adding girls to their ranks.
That’s the announcement, which was posted on the Boy Scouts of America’s website after their board unanimously approved the decision today.
Historically, the organization has been boys only since its founding in 1910 but offered some co-ed opportunities since 1971.
At the moment, they now have over 2.3 million members between the ages of 7 and 21.
“We believe it is critical to evolve how our programs meet the needs of families interested in positive and lifelong experiences for their children,” said Michael Surbaugh, chief executive of the Boy Scouts.
Surbaugh tweeted this after the news broke,
Today the BSA opens a new chapter in our history w/a unanimous vote to welcome girls to Cub through Eagle Rank. https://t.co/CYl8tU1yJJ
— Mike Surbaugh (@BSAchief) October 11, 2017
Girls would be allowed to join starting next year in the Cub Scout units, more commonly known as dens. The dens will be single-gender, so all of the new girls joining will be with other girls.
Due to the rapidly changing nature of American life, the organization felt like the move was needed to reflect needs of all families.
Another major reason for the change was due to years of requests from families with requests to allow girls to join.
“I’ve seen nothing that develops leadership skills and discipline like this organization,” said Randall Stephenson, Boy Scouts national board chairman and CEO of AT&T. “It is time to make these outstanding leadership development programs available to girls.”
In the past couple years, the Boy Scots have been in the news multiple times for big stories.
In 2015, the Boy Scouts announced that they would be lifting a ban on gay scout leaders in the days following the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states.
Even more recently, President Trump spoke at a major Boy Scout national jamboree. The event almost seemed like a campaign-style speech, with a crowd that was mostly kids ages 12-18.
The Girl Scouts are reportedly furious with the decision, primarily due to the fact that their membership has dropped almost 25% in only a few years.
The news is currently trending on twitter and many people are talking about the significance of this historic decision.
Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts are two different orgs w/ two different approaches. Both are great, but I like that girls have a choice now.
— Charles Clymer🏳️🌈 (@cmclymer) October 11, 2017
Boy Scouts lost me a long time ago when they banned water fights because they are “unkind.” Wouldn’t want to promote hyper masculinity!
— Katie Pavlich (@KatiePavlich) October 11, 2017
I welcome @boyscouts decision to integrate girls in their programs. On #DayoftheGirl, we reaffirm #Scouting commitment to girls empowerment. pic.twitter.com/0t5a2Z6W1t
— Ahmad Alhendawi (@AhmadAlhendawi) October 11, 2017
What are your thoughts on the decision to allow girls? Are you for it or against it? Let us know!
Boy Scouts’ Moral Collapse: Will Allow “Trans” Girls in Ranks
It’s the Boy Scouts — or something like that, anyway.
There was a time when the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) spent money fighting a lawsuit brought by a girl who wanted to be a “boy” scout. The organization won that battle. Now it has lost its mind, deciding to let a girl join its ranks simply because she claims to be a boy.
The BSA will now judge applicants based on their “gender identity” and not, as had been the policy, based on the sex indicated on their birth certificate. Because birth certificates are, as Barack Obama proved, so yesterday.
As CNN reported, the birth-certificate “‘approach is no longer sufficient as communities and state laws are interpreting gender identity differently, and these laws vary widely from state to state,’ BSA spokeswoman Effie Delimarkos said in a statement Monday.”
The Girl Scouts had already capitulated some years ago, allowing a boy masquerading as a girl to join their organization.
CNN further explains that the BSA’s collapse “comes a few months after an 8-year-old Cub Scout in New Jersey accused the organization of expelling him for being transgender. The Boy Scouts did not specifically cite the New Jersey case in its statement. But Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh acknowledged the group recently had been ‘challenged by a very complex topic … the issue of gender identity.’”
This brings to mind the apocryphal saying, “Moral issues are always terribly complex for someone without principles.” Of course, the psychology causing an individual to believe he’s a member of the opposite sex, a different species (“species dysphoria”), or Napoleon may be complex. The psychology causing CNN to, as is de rigueur among mainstream media now, refer to children such as the expelled N.J. Cub Scout as “him” may also be complex. But the simple fact of the matter is that the child is a girl. There’s nothing complex about that.
Meanwhile, girls who actually claim they’re girls again want to be Boy Scouts. One of them, 15-year-old Sydney Ireland, posted a petition at Change.org stating, in part, “I cannot change my gender to fit the Boy Scouts’ standards.” No? I guess poor Sydney didn’t get the memo.
I don’t know if such rejection of the Made-up Sexual Status (MUSS — “transgender”) agenda qualifies Ireland as a hater she’s right in a way, however, since by “gender” she means “sex.” As former “transsexual” Alan Finch said in 2004, “You fundamentally can’t change sex…. Transsexualism was invented by psychiatrists.”
Note that while most people identify the word “gender” with “sex,” psychologists define it as a person’s “perception” of what he is and say that this can be different from his “sex,” which is a biological classification.
And what do people perceive? The list of “genders” grows like the national debt, with the literally scores of them including designations such as Agender, Bigender, Cis, Gender Fluid, Genderqueer, Pangender, and Neutrois.
Maybe this is why it sounds so “complex” to Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh, but let’s cut through the noise. The thesis behind the MUSS (“transgender”) agenda states that, put simply, a person could be a woman trapped in a man’s body, or vice versa.
The idea is that at issue is not a psychological problem, but a biological one. But is there any proof of this? As I wrote last year:
What physiological markers will the physician look for to verify that I truly am, legitimately, “transgender,” suffering with a supposed brain/body incongruence? Don’t feel bad not knowing.
There isn’t a so-called expert alive who could answer the question.
There is no brain scan for gender dysphoria. There is no genetic test. There is no hormonal test. There are no physiological markers of any kind. Yet on the basis of “strong and persistent feelings of cross-gender identification” — and on that basis alone — psychiatrists can and do refer patients for the mutilation known as “gender-reassignment surgery” (GRS). And on that basis alone, doctors may recommend that a young child be allowed to live as a member of the opposite sex. It’s no different from telling a cardiologist you feel certain you have heart disease and, without performing tests to confirm the diagnosis, his saying, “Oh, have the feelings been strong, persistent and extant for longer than six months? Okay, well, then I’ll cut open your chest and do a bypass.”
But it’s a brave new world, where identity is reality. Thus, why draw lines based on biology at all? Why can’t a man such as 54-year-old “Stefonknee” Wolscht, who claims to be a six-year-old girl (video below), join the Girl Scouts? Inclusiveness, right?
Really, the BSA should just get ahead of the curve and rename itself the Gender Fluid Scouts. After all, the notion of a “boy” is so passé. Why bother following the spirit of the age when you can lead it? Aren’t the scouts about leadership?
The BSA development is instructive. First, it illustrates how political revolutions (which Donald Trump may be ushering in) can do little to restore the culture, whose moral decay continues apace.
Second, a beneficiary of the BSA’s collapse may be Trail Life USA, an alternative, Christian scouting group launched three years ago after the BSA decided to admit openly homosexual boys. This is, of course, the market at work, but it also underlines how fractured our civilization has become.
There was no need for such alternatives many decades ago because, by and large, people’s sense of virtue was explicitly the same. Today, however, with our emotion-guided decision-making causing millions of people to march to the beat of a million different drummers, there’s less and less we can unite around.
As for the BSA, along with its name, maybe its oath needs some tweaking as well. Scouts could be told that you should keep yourself “physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight — or whatever works for you.”
Selwyn Duke (@SelwynDuke) has written for The New American for more than a decade. He has also written for The Hill, Observer, The American Conservative, WorldNetDaily, American Thinker, and many other print and online publications. In addition, he has contributed to college textbooks published by Gale-Cengage Learning, has appeared on television, and is a frequent guest on radio.
Boy Scouts Of America To Admit Girls Into Some Programs Beginning Next Year
NEW YORK (AP) &mdash In its latest momentous policy shift, the Boy Scouts of America will admit girls into the Cub Scouts starting next year and establish a new program for older girls based on the Boy Scout curriculum that enables them to aspire to the coveted Eagle Scout rank.
Founded in 1910 and long considered a bastion of tradition, the Boy Scouts have undergone major changes in the past five years, agreeing to accept openly gay youth members and adult volunteers, as well as transgender boys.
The expansion of girls’ participation, announced Wednesday after unanimous approval by the organization’s board of directors, is arguably the biggest change yet, potentially opening the way for hundreds of thousands of girls to join.
Many scouting organizations in other countries already allow both genders and use gender-free names such as Scouts Canada. But for now, the Boy Scout label will remain.
“There are no plans to change our name at this time,” spokeswoman Effie Delimarkos said in an email.
Under the new plan, Cub Scout dens &mdash the smallest unit &mdash will be single-gender, either all-boys or all-girls. The larger Cub Scout packs will have the option to remain single gender or welcome both genders. The program for older girls is expected to start in 2019 and will enable girls to earn the same Eagle Scout rank that has been attained by astronauts, admirals, senators and other luminaries.
Boy Scout leaders said the change was needed to provide more options for parents.
“The values of scouting &mdash trustworthy, loyal, helpful, kind, brave and reverent, for example &mdash are important for both young men and women,” said Michael Surbaugh, chief scout executive.
The announcement follows many months of outreach by the BSA, which distributed videos and held meetings to discuss possibility expanding girls’ participation beyond existing programs, such as Venturing, Exploring and Sea Scouts.
Surveys conducted by the Boy Scouts showed strong support for the change among parents not currently connected to the scouts, including Hispanic and Asian families that the BSA has been trying to attract. Among families already in the scouting community, the biggest worry, according to Surbaugh, was that the positive aspects of single-sex comradeship might be jeopardized.
“We’ll make sure those environments are protected,” he said. “What we’re presenting is a fairly unique hybrid model.”
During the outreach, some parents expressed concern about possible problems related to overnight camping trips. Surbaugh said there would continue to be a ban on mixed-gender overnight outings for scouts ages 11 to 14. Cub Scout camping trips, he noted, were usually family affairs with less need for rigid polices.
The Girl Scouts of the USA have criticized the initiative, saying it strains the century-old bond between the two organizations. Girl Scout officials have suggested the BSA’s move was driven partly by a need to boost revenue, and they contended there is fiscal stress in part because of past settlements paid by the BSA in sex-abuse cases.
In August, the president of the Girl Scouts, Kathy Hopinkah Hannan, accused the Boy Scouts of seeking to covertly recruit girls into their programs while disparaging the Girl Scouts’ operations. On Monday, Latino civic leader Charles Garcia, just days after being named to the Girl Scouts’ national board, wrote an opinion piece for the Huffington Post calling the BSA’s overture to girls “a terrible idea.”
“The Boy Scouts’ house is on fire,” Garcia wrote. “Instead of addressing systemic issues of continuing sexual assault, financial mismanagement and deficient programming, BSA’s senior management wants to add an accelerant to the house fire by recruiting girls.”
Instead of recruiting girls, Garcia said the BSA should focus on attracting more black, Latino and Asian boys &mdash particularly those from low-income households.
The BSA recently increased its annual membership fee for youth members and adult volunteers from $24 to $33, but Surbaugh said the decision to expand programming for girls was not driven by financial factors. He expressed enthusiasm at the possibility that the changes could draw hundreds of thousands more girls into BSA ranks over the coming years.
The Girl Scouts, founded in 1912, and the BSA are among several major youth organizations in the U.S. experiencing sharp drops in membership in recent years. Reasons include competition from sports leagues, a perception by some families that they are old-fashioned and busy family schedules.
As of March, the Girl Scouts reported more than 1.5 million youth members and 749,000 adult members, down from just over 2 million youth members and about 800,000 adult members in 2014. The Boy Scouts say current youth participation is about 2.35 million, down from 2.6 million in 2013 and more than 4 million in peak years of the past.
Earlier this year, the National Organization for Women urged the Boy Scouts to allow girls to join. NOW said it was inspired by the efforts of a 15-year-old New York City girl, Sydney Ireland, to emulate her older brother, who is an Eagle Scout.
Unlike the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts have maintained girls-only status for all their programs. The empowerment of girls is at the core of its mission.
“We know that girls learn best in an all-girl, girl-led environment,” said Andrea Bastiani Archibald, a psychologist who provides expertise on development for the Girl Scouts’ national programming.
The Boy Scouts’ new policy on girls was hailed by Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout who played an active role in pressuring the BSA to end its ban on gays. However, he urged the Boy Scouts to take one more step and end its exclusion of atheists and non-believers who do not profess a “duty to God.”
It's Boy Scouts vs. Girl Scouts as BSA moves to admit girls
NEW YORK – Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts pledge to be friendly and helpful. But their parent organizations may find that promise hard to keep as they head into a potentially bitter competition triggered by the Boy Scouts of America's dramatic move to admit girls throughout its ranks.
The BSA's initiative, announced Wednesday, has already chilled what had been a mostly cordial relationship between the two youth groups since the Girl Scouts of the USA was founded in 1912, two years after the Boy Scouts.
"We have always existed in a space with competitors," the Girl Scout's chief customer officer, Lisa Margosian, said Thursday in an interview. "What happened yesterday is that we have another new competitor."
Rather than altering its message, Margosian said, the Girl Scouts will "double down" with a commitment to empowering girls.
"We believe strongly in the importance of the all-girl, girl-led and girl-friendly environment that Girl Scouts provides," the GSUSA said, describing itself as "the best girl leadership organization in the world."
The Boy Scouts' official announcement of their new plan made no mention of the Girl Scouts, although BSA board Chairman Randall Stephenson said girls should have the chance to benefit from his organization's "outstanding leadership development programs."
The BSA's chief scout executive, Michael Surbaugh, said in an interview that the Girl Scouts offered "great programs" but argued that many parents viewed the two sets of programs as significantly different and wanted the option of choosing between them for their daughters.
Under the Boy Scouts' new plan, Cub Scout dens — the smallest unit — will be single-gender, either all-boys or all-girls. The larger Cub Scout packs will have the option to remain single gender or welcome both genders. A program for older girls — mirroring the Boy Scout curriculum — is expected to start in 2019 and will enable girls to earn the coveted rank of Eagle Scout.
The Girl Scouts learned back in January that the Boy Scouts were considering opening their ranks to girls, Margosian said.
"They never reached out to let us know what was happening," she said. "Given our history, as a courtesy, they could have let us know."
Jan Barker, the long-serving CEO of the Girl Scouts' Heart of Michigan Council, suggested that Boy Scout programming would not be appropriate for many girls.
"The Boy Scouts' approach is very militaristic and top-down, and I don't know if that's the best environment for girls to feel nurtured," said Barker, whose base is Kalamazoo, Michigan. "Girls and boys are wired differently — you can't just put out the same curriculum."
Barker noted that many of the older girls in her council were interested in talking about issues such as the sexual-assault problem on college campus. She questioned whether that was an issue of concern to boys in the Boy Scouts.
The new challenge from the Boy Scouts is only the latest in a string of difficulties faced by the Girl Scouts over the past 15 years. There was a wrenching realignment in 2006-2009 that slashed the number of local councils from 312 to 112. There have been layoffs at many councils and at the national headquarters as the organization grappled with a large deficit. And there have been deep rifts between leadership and grassroots members over the direction of programming and efforts by many councils to sell summer camps.
Suellen Nelles, who heads the Farthest North Girl Scout Council in Fairbanks, Alaska, suggested that the series of problems caused the Girl Scout leadership to neglect their relationship with the Boy Scouts.
"All of our issues have weakened us to the point where the Boy Scouts now see opportunities," she said.
Nelles also said she was embarrassed by the harsh tone of some GSUSA statements assailing the Boy Scouts, such as one written this week by Latino civic leader Charles Garcia, a new member of Girl Scouts' national board.
"The Boy Scouts' house is on fire," Garcia wrote in the Huffington Post. "Instead of addressing systemic issues of continuing sexual assault, financial mismanagement and deficient programming, BSA's senior management wants to add an accelerant to the house fire by recruiting girls."
Joni Kinsey, an art history professor at the University of Iowa, has been both a youth member and a troop leader in the Girl Scouts and fought against the possible sale of camps in her region.
She is among many Girl Scout alumni concerned that camping and other outdoor activities have lost their prominence in the programming now promoted by the GSUSA. As a result, she has mixed feelings about the Boy Scouts' new overture to girls.
"I'm very happy that the girls who want to do the kind of camping I grew up with have a place to go — more power to them," she said. "I just wish it were with the Girl Scouts."
Mixed feelings also were expressed by the president of the National Organization for Women, Toni Van Pelt. She welcomed the Boy Scouts' decision to admit girls, yet in the same statement bemoaned the fact that Girl Scouts seem to struggle more than the BSA in terms of financial support.
Both the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts have experienced sharp drops in membership in recent years. Both organizations have also faced competition from conservative Christian youth groups, including American Heritage Girls and Trail Life USA.
Those groups said the Boy Scouts' new initiative would not weaken their commitment to single-sex programming.
"As gender blurring only increases, it is more important than ever that someone provides a safe environment where boys can be boys, and where their natural talents and tendencies can be affirmed, encouraged and developed by men who can offer a positive role model," said Mark Hancock, the CEO of Trail Life USA.