Girls in Boy Scouts makes sense to me now


By Matthew Fan, Co-Opinion-Editor

But it’s Boy Scouts.

In May of 2018, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) announced that it would begin to include girls in a newly-named Scouts BSA program (originally called Boy Scouts). I was uncomfortable. After all, for me — a scout since I was six years old — it only made sense to have the Boy Scouts program be for boys and the Girl Scouts program be for girls. However, more than nine months removed from implementation, I have realized the reasonableness of this new policy.

BSA conducted its own survey and found that 87 percent of parents not involved with scouting were interested in a program like Scouts BSA for their daughters. Families are busier than ever; there are more single-parent families today; and many underserved communities, including those of Hispanic and Asian ethnicities, prefer to do activities as a family. Brothers and sisters participating in scouting together would help these families.

The inclusion of girls in the BSA is not new. Venturing, Sea Scouts and Exploring, which are similar to Scouts BSA, have been open to girls since 1998, 1972 and 1971, respectively. These three programs have functioned successfully for multiple decades, so it was not an unfounded decision on the BSA’s part to incorporate girls into Scouts BSA.

Moreover, boys and girls have separate troops in Scouts BSA. Therefore, the single-gender model (with transgender children being able to join a troop based on what gender is listed on their application), which enabled the original Boy Scouts program to gain its reputation, is untampered. Moreover, most activities are kept separate, so both boys and girls have the opportunity to take on leadership roles.

I have seen the effectiveness when this model is applied to girls. My troop, Devon 50, established its own girls troop soon after BSA allowed it. In early October, I was working at Camp Jarvis, Devon 50’s campsite, and members of both troops attended. I worked alongside some of the founding members of the girls troop, and it was amazing to see how far they had come in a short period of time. They were following the same organization of leadership, earning the same ranks and completing the same merit badges. I realized that the BSA’s main principles, as outlined by the Scout Oath and Law, were now being taught to everyone who wanted to learn them.

Despite the progress the BSA has made in opening its programs up to all youth of eligible age, the organization has faced backlash, especially from the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. The Girl Scouts sued the BSA over the trademark issue of using “Scouts” in its name (Scouts BSA), claiming that it was making it seem that the Girl Scouts had merged with the BSA. As a result, the Girl Scouts believed that the BSA was taking away some of its potential membership.

The problem with this sentiment is freedom of choice. These two storied programs are not the same, and rightfully so. Girls now have the option to choose the path they want to follow: for example, if they want more emphasis on rank advancements (i.e. Scout rank to Eagle Scout rank), they can join Scouts BSA, and if they wish to gradually develop proficiency in a badge area (e.g. Environmental Stewardship), they can join Girl Scouts. By allowing girls to choose, the BSA creates a group of more passionate scouts who will work diligently to achieve success.

There is a common purpose in both Scouts BSA and the Girl Scouts — to prepare young boys and girls for life by teaching them skills and values. Why should gender restrict someone from learning these lessons? Perhaps one day, the Girls Scouts will afford boys the same opportunity to choose the scouting organization of their choice. But, more importantly, I have learned that there is nothing wrong with Scouts BSA currently being for both boys and girls.    

There are now more options than ever before in scouting. It is important that girls take advantage of this new opportunity. The inclusion of girls in Scouts BSA is not a hindrance to what boys learn in their troops. Instead, now the skills, values and lessons of scouting can be spread to a wider population. There is no need to be uneasy. Change is normal. So embrace it, and scout on.