Today I read the announcement from the BSA Board of Directors that they’re expanding the program to allow girls into the Boy Scouts. I’m saddened by this turn of events because I can no longer in good conscience support the scouting program. For me, the BSA is about teaching boys how to be good men. I believe in order to do this, the focus has to be on the boy. I believe adding girls to the program, no matter how well-intentioned, will inevitably result in a change to both the curriculum and the structure.
Michael Surbaugh, the BSA’s Chief Scout Executive, says,
“We believe it is critical to evolve how our programs meet the needs of families interested in positive and lifelong experiences for their children. 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.”
This is a noble goal and I believe the values described in the Scout Oath and Scout Law” represent worthy attributes to develop in both boys and girls. However, executing on this content at the local level is where I see problems arising.
The Board of Directors say the rationale for the change is,
“Families today are busier and more diverse than ever. Most are dual-earners and there are more single-parent households than ever before, making convenient programs that serve the whole family more appealing. Additionally, many groups currently underserved by Scouting, including the Hispanic and Asian communities, prefer to participate in activities as a family.”
Again, this is noble, but the Board of Directors says Cub Scouts Dens will remain single-gender, which means for families with boys and girls, there will still be separate meetings. The boy’s den will have their own activities and the girl’s den will have theirs. They may be working on the same adventures, but maybe not at the same time and they will each have their own activities. And if they’re different ages, they will be working on different adventures entirely. How is this supposed to help make things easier for single-parent households or allow communities to participate in activities as a family (incidentally, the BSA already allows this with family campouts, etc.)? I think the only way to achieve this goal is to make the dens co-ed…and that’s exactly where I think this is going. When this happens the social dynamic changes at the basic level and this is where the BSA will lose its identity.
The Board also claims,
“Recent surveys of parents not involved with Scouting showed high interest in getting their daughters signed up for programs like Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, with 90 percent expressing interest in a program like Cub Scouts and 87 percent expressing interest in a program like Boy Scouts. Education experts also evaluated the curriculum and content and confirmed relevancy of the program for young women.”
This is great! However, only 10% of boys in the U.S. are currently involved in Scouts. Instead of opening-up the program to girls, why not focus on the 90% of boys in America that could benefit from the BSA’s character and leadership development programs?