The Boy Scouts of America has trekked out into the wilderness and lost its way. On Wednesday, the Boy Scouts announced that it will open Cub Scouting to all-girl dens and will explore a path to Eagle Scout for girls. The move undermines the mission statement of the Boy Scouts, does a disservice to the young men in the organization, and creates purposeless competition with the Girl Scouts.
The Boy Scouts is an organization dedicated to cultivating young boys into men of character and leadership. Baden Powell founded the scouting movement in the early 1900’s and recognized the significance of developing young people civic-minded with a broad skillset suitable between polite society and the wild woods. From its inception, scouting drew membership from boys and girls, but even from its infancy, held separate programs for boys and girls. While other parts of the world have blended Girl and Boy Scouts into the same program, the American program has always held separate programs to suit different needs.
Boys benefit from the organization serving exclusively boys. I am an Eagle Scout. I was a Cub Scout, attended summer camp, earned a number of merit badges, and finished my scouting career at the beautiful Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. It was pursuing the Citizenship in the Community merit badge that I found my calling to be a lawyer. It was through late night conversations around the campfire in the mountains of Georgia that I learned from our adult leaders about how to be a man of character and conviction, a father, even about being a good husband in how they spoke of their wives; these conversations might not have happened in mixed company.
What every boy has and gains as his birthright in scouting is something that all boys have felt at one point or another. It’s a tension and wildness underneath our skin when we see a mountain to climb, it’s the swell in our chest when we see someone who has served our country come home to their family, it’s the instinct we have to be the protector even if it means sacrifice. Boy Scouts provides examples of men that lead our scouting troops in that way and teaches how to become men like them.
The reasons for the policy change aren’t particularly compelling. Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh cited a growing co-ed program in Cub Scouting as a reason for the change. Analysis by the Boy Scouts of its program applicability found that the Cub Scouts program was 100% suited for both boys and girls and the Boy Scout program was 80% applicable to both genders. No one disputes that girls belong as much in the outdoors as boys. No one denies that girls need the skills scouting teaches and the civic knowledge gained. The difference is how it is attained and if there is an added benefit of a gender focused program.
There are obvious complications of this policy change. The near limitless issues of teens in the woods together have been cited and I won’t convey their arguments again. But more importantly, the purpose of Boy Scouts has its mirror image purpose in the Girl Scouts of providing a value-based program for young people to become leaders through character. By blending the organization’s purpose without the consent of the other organization, the Boy Scouts mortally sabotages its mission statement of catering to the development of young men while delivering an unnecessary wound to the Girl Scouts.
Boys don’t hold the exclusive keys to the outdoors and civic engagement. Many girls crave sunrise on a mountaintop as much as boys. Girls that want the skills scouting affords and the outdoor activities offered should have access to those same opportunities. The burden to increase access, however, doesn’t rest on the Boy Scouts. Rather, any market amongst girls for these activities requires an adaptation from the Girl Scouts to meet the demands of their members. Though an adaptable organization, the Girl Scouts has long been criticized for putting too much emphasis on household topics rather than the outdoors, STEM topics, or civic engagement like Boy Scouting. Girl Scouting may need to change; Boy Scouting doesn’t need to carry their water.
The Girl Scouts organization agrees. On several occasions, officials for the Girl Scouts organization have criticized the Boy Scouts organization as a “house fire” hemorrhaging from “systemic issues of continuing sexual assault, financial mismanagement, and deficient programming.” Girl Scouts national board member Charles Garcia calls the move an “accelerant” to the burning fire of Boy Scouting. The Girl Scouts recognizes not only the significance of gender focused training and mentorship, but that the Boy Scouts has made a self-inflicted complication that will undermine its capacity to provide tailored, impactful programming. There is a positive good to boys being in the woods with other boys and men. There is a benefit to girls being mentored by other girls and women.
The Boy Scouts has undertaken its own unraveling with its latest policy shift. The move is a betrayal of the purpose of scouting. Allowing girls in an organization designed for boys when a girl equivalent already exists frustrates the purpose of scouting while rendering an unnecessary jab at the Girl Scouts. Boy Scouts has made a wrong turn on the trail doing a large disservice to their young men and the Girl Scouts. Let’s hope they find their way out of the woods.
Perspectives expressed in op-eds are not those of The Daily Caller.