The magazine, in my days, proudly proclaimed that “it’s for Boys of all ages…” but then added, “….but girls like us too!”
Boys’ Life still exists today, and still in most part does the same things that it did for Mike Walton when he was in first and second grade. It is that proclamation which has come home to us, and which is the source of discussion among longtime Scouters like myself and newer Scouters just being introduced to the program.
Many of you cannot recall — I cannot recall, for I was too young or not even conceived yet — how the BSA worked through similar efforts in its earlier days. Then as now, societal changes pushed communities from the rural to the suburbs; “forced” us to recognize that the black and brown and olive-colored people are more than servants, cooks, porters and laborers — that they are PEOPLE and most importantly AMERICANS; and technologies made our lives easier but also gave us some freedom to spend with our families.
How will we spend that time between wars and conflicts? Scouting became one of those ways. Boy Scouting, Girl Scouting, Campfire Girls, 4H Indian Guides — there were a lot of those groups around and families enrolled their kids into them and signed up to be leaders or trainers or cheerleaders. The programs of the BSA emerged as the leader of youth programs simply because we did our homework. They have an idea of what families and young men wanted to do. Adventure. Fun. Long term friendships. A year-round program.
With lots of twists and turns, the BSA still remains as America’s leading youth program provider. The program has once again come to crossroads with regard to it’s future. Will the BSA remain a single-sex organization? Not likely. Our national officers will say this now. Society will not allow us to be remain so. We will get to a point whereby *parental pressure* will be so strong that we have to become a program open to any young person who wants to become a Boy Scout.
Note that I wrote “Boy Scout” and not “Scout” nor anything else. For us to change our corporate and communicative names — we tried that before, with “Scouting/USA” — invites disaster again. People KNOW who we are. People REACT to who we are. While history can be revised and changed, the name “Boy Scout” and “Boy Scouts of America” should remain who we are. It defines our outdoor education-based character building program for youth.
Females in our program have no problem with being associated with the “Boy Scouts of America” or being called “Boy Scouts” — many LOVE IT. We don’t have “Scoutmasters and Scoutmistresses”, but rather just “Scoutmasters” — male and female. We are constantly trying to tell Venturers that they “are not Scouts”. Deaf ears. They know the deal — that’s why they are in the program!
Families want to engage with the Scouting program, but they are frequently turned away because “Scouting’s just for the boy…you support your boy”. We need to move away and adopt a point of view that “Scouting is for the family…the family supports your child”. There are nice slides which outlines one way it could be accomplished at the Cub Scout level — with male only Packs and Dens, female only Packs and Dens, and Packs with “girl dens and boy dens”.
Schools don’t have “boy classes” and “girl classes”. Nor do our church schools and education, although many faiths do separate boys and girls for specific religious instruction. Got it. In a nation and world however, which has males and females interacting on a regular basis, there really is no reason why young men and young women cannot work together on existing Cub Scout and later Boy Scout advancement.
So if we are welcoming girls into Scouting, they need to be a part of ALL of the programming — soup to nuts. We’ve been doing this with our Venturing, Sea Scouting and Exploring programs. We take crews to all of our national outdoor adventure bases with little issue or problem. More importantly, this is how young people – and their parents – interact TODAY.
I have a daughter who cannot wait to attend the Army’s Ranger qualification course – the pinnacle for Army officers. She wanted to be among the first to try to qualify, but I gave her my hand and led her off that platform a couple of years ago. I told her to wait until they got things stable and then qualify. She’s training and wants to put in the paperwork once she returns from leading Soldiers in Poland.
“The standards are the same NOW, ” she told me. I can’t argue with that. As an Eagle Scout, there is only ONE standard, ONE set of requirements, ONE way to earn the Boy Scout program’s highest rank (okay, there are some alternative requirements for Scouts with disabilities). If a girl can meet the First Class rank requirements, and then the Star and Life rank requirements, there is NO REASON WHY a girl cannot become an Eagle Scout.
Or a member of the Order of the Arrow. We already have female adults as members, including Vigil Honor members, so it now becomes an issue of the BSA upholding the standards.
This means that a lot of “old guys clubs” hiding as “alumni groups” have to also admit “old gals” too, as the average age of a BSA volunteer increases to 38 years old.
Boys’ Life has NOT changed its’ name to “Kids’ Life” or “Scouts’ Life”. The BSA likewise does not — can not — change its name just because we are being more inclusive. We need to think this through smartly, reflect upon what we’ve been through as an organization, and look to a brighter and larger future with increased youth, more supportive families, and national and local partners to help the organization get where we need to be.
All by tightly holding onto the core ideas in our Scout Oath/Promise and Law.
Let’s bring the families as FULL members of ALL of our programs. It’ll be painful, like wearing a new pair of shoes. It gets comfy with time!