Last Wednesday the Boy Scouts of America announced it is becoming Scouts BSA in February 2019 to reflect its decision to include girls. The announcement took a lot of people like us by surprise. We always thought the Girl Scouts took care of the female side of scouting.
The all-male Cub Scouts program for younger children was the first to open its ranks to girls. Thousands of girls have already joined under an early adopter program. Other Boy Scout programs like an outdoor program called Venturing were already open to girls. But none of these programs offered girls the opportunity to earn the highest rank of Eagle Scout.
You have to wonder how all of this is going over in the world of Girl Scouting. It certainly can’t be good. Those officials are probably not too excited about this change which is bound to affect its membership. We can’t imagine the Girl Scouts changing their name to include the opposite gender. The Boy Scouts just beat them to it.
Apparently both the Boy and Girl Scouts are experiencing some membership issues. The Boy Scouts went from a high of 6.5 million members in 1972 to a then low of 4.3 million in 1980. Losses were blamed on changes in advancement requirements.
In 2014 the Boy Scouts admitted openly gay boys into scout troops and membership dropped 6 percent, the largest decline in membership in the history of the organization. Membership in the Boy Scouts is about 2.4 million today with another nearly one million volunteers.
Girl Scouts today number 1.8 million with another 800,000 volunteers. Both organizations trace their roots back to the early 1900s. The Boy Scouts were organized Feb. 8, 1910 and grew rapidly to become the largest youth organization in the country. It had early ties to the YMCA. The Girl Scouts were organized March 12, 1912.
“As we enter a new era for our organization, it is important that all youth can see themselves in Scouting in every way possible,” Boy Scouts of America chief executive Michael Surbaugh said in a statement last week. “That is why it is important that the name for our Scouting program for older youth remain consistent with the single name approach used for the Cub Scouts.”
We are perplexed by this line of thought. Maybe we are showing our age if we make such a controversial statement like boys and girls are different and are interested in different things. Some programs are designed specifically for a certain gender and are a reflection of their life goals.
It’s not unusual today to have all-male or all-female organizations. One only has to look at college campuses of higher learning to see that both fraternity and sorority programs are alive and well today. We don’t see a big movement for either of these types of social organizations to admit those of the opposite sex.
Both scouting programs are some of the country’s largest and most prominent. They are both values-based youth development organizations that help build character for young people. It seems that both will be watered down by this move by the Boy Scouts to become Scouts BSA and include girls. It certainly can’t possibly benefit the present-day Girl Scouts.