PRO: Too cemented in tradition
The Boy Scouts of America are trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent. On the other hand, the Girl Scouts of the United States of America sell delicious chocolate covered cookies every year from January to April.
Since the beginning of the 20th Century, the BSA has been teaching teenage boys how to be capable and self reliant, paving the way for a new generations of leaders built on a strong moral code and responsibility.
Starting in 2018, the program is opening itself up to allow girls to join, and have the same opportunity of obtaining the prestigious rank of Eagle Scout.
This decision has faced backlash, and much of it is based on a closed minded traditionalist take on the program that including girls into the program takes away from the original purpose of raising a group of capable young men.
Outlets such as Fox News argue that boys and girls are fundamentally different, and that a Girl Scout program already exists. They advocate that keeping the groups exclusive further contributes to having a safe environment where kids can grow into their potential.
This “separate but equal” mindset does not take into account years of sexism and misogyny that already exists in our present society. In an ideal world, the GSUSA would hold as much prestige as its male counterpart, and the programs would parallel one another, paving the way for a new generation of capable and responsible leaders, regardless of gender.
Unfortunately, the reality of the world we live in deems that even a complete reformation of the Girl Scout program would still fall short to the opportunities offered by the BSA.
For decades, the title of Eagle Scout has garnered respect and admiration–something even the highest ranking Girl Scout cannot compare with. While the GSUSA offer practical skills, the program does not compare to the BSA, and is mostly well known for their yearly sale of cookies.
With the GSA falling short of giving young girls in America a chance to make a name for themselves, it is understandable that the BSA has opened up their program.
Those who prioritize the traditionalist idea of a gender-exclusive troop over equality must realize the importance in providing a chance for girls to have access to the same opportunities as boys from a young age.
This integration is allowing a new generation of young girls to finally garner respect in one of the most distinguished programs in America.
Self sufficiency, responsibility and a strong moral code are not principles exclusive to the male gender, and young girls in America should be allowed to have the same opportunities as boys to achieve respected titles and rankings in the largest scouting program in the country.
CON: Modification, not demolition
As the old saying goes, boys will be boys, and after the Boy Scouts of America’s recent announcement, girls may be as well.
Beginning 2018, girls will be allowed to actively join Boy Scout troops and achieve the Eagle Scout rank. The announcement is ostensibly to eliminate the 109-year-old organization’s history of gender discrimination, but there are much better ways to do so.
The announcement only serves to plaster a new façade over the problems facing both the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts of the USA. Instead of recruiting girls to join the BSA, the GSUSA should be improved. GSUSA leaders have criticized the decision, claiming the need for single-gender environments to promote leadership development.
“The benefit of the single-gender environment has been well-documented by educators, scholars, other girl- and youth-serving organizations, and Girl Scouts and their families,” the organization said. “Girl Scouts offers a one-of-a-kind experience for girls with a program tailored specifically to their unique developmental needs.”
They are correct. The two organizations must remain separate in order to truly benefit our nation’s youth.
Since girls and boys learn differently, by segregating the two by gender, the programs are better able to cater to each’s specific needs. According to BBC, girls learn better in groups and discussion-based learning while boys tend to take control over in such situations.
By siphoning girls away from the GSUSA, the BSA is brushing its sister organization’s woes even further under the rug and out of sight.
The first step in solving any problem is to acknowledge that there is one, and with a smaller influx of girls into the GSUSA, its issues will be forgotten instead of resolved.
On the other side of the spectrum, accepting girls into the BSA is only covering up a larger problem—Scouting as a whole is in decline, and this slide must be stopped.
The GSUSA were likely on the mark when its leaders criticized the move as an attempt for more members. The BSA peaked in 1972 with 6.5 million members and has been losing them ever since, reporting only 2.3 million last year, according to CNN.
If the BSA are really that desperate for more members, other measures should be taken.
As an Eagle Scout myself, I watched many of my friends drop out of the Scouting program entirely after reaching high school due to other time commitments. There needs to be a greater incentive for boys to remain in the program other than the Eagle Scout distinction, which will, in turn, increase membership, a better alternative to recruiting girls.
The integration of boys and girls in scouting is detrimental for both sides, and other options must be explored, chiefly the reformation of the GSUSA.