More Boy Scouts programming open to girls
Darrian Childers is quitting Boy Scouts after joining a local troop about three years ago when his family moved to Waynesville.
The 16-year-old made his decision not long after the Boy Scouts of America announced its decision to allow girls to participate in more of its programming alongside the boys. While Childers has really enjoyed his time with the Scouts, he doesn’t think the organization is moving in the right direction.
“Mainly (because) the fact that Boy Scouts, in their attempt to become more accessible, has lost their focus on what Boy Scouts really was,” he said. “I wanted to do camping and outdoors things without the complication of bringing both boys and girl on a trip.”
While Childers said he doesn’t mind being around the opposite gender at school or working alongside them during other social activities, Boy Scouts has given him and other teenage boys an opportunity to participate in a program that specifically caters to male bonding and growth.
“I like going out on campouts and other activities where boys can be boys,” he said. “It will complicate things and because things will need to be regulated that might make things not as enjoyable.”
Change is coming
The Boy Scouts’ announcement made earlier this month won’t be implemented until February 2019, but already strong opinions have formed on both sides of the issue. Many have praised the organization for trying to be more inclusive, especially since BSA announced last year it would accept transgender members, but others think America’s need for political correctness has gone too far. Can boys and girls truly not have separate but equal extracurricular activities anymore?
Melinda Kuehn, camp director of the Boy Scouts’ Camp Daniel Boone in Canton, said the announcement isn’t as radical as some people are making it out to be. BSA already allows females to participate in a number of events and programs. This most recent decision simply expands the opportunities available for the older girls.
“We’ll start letting girls into the older program for Scouts age 11 to 18 in February 2019, so next summer we might have girls here at camp,” she said.
Another misperception is that Boy Scouts of America is changing its name — Kuehn said that is not true. Scouts BSA is simply the new name of the program that will now include older boys and girls. Allowing females to participate in Scouts BSA means they will be able to earn the prestigious Eagle Scout designation for the first time.
Boy Scouts refers to these inclusive changes being implemented as the ‘Scout Me In’ campaign, and one big change is happening this year as young girls are now allowed to be in the Cub Scouts program.
“Cub Scouts is a lot of fun, and now it’s available to all kids,” Stephen Medlicott, National Marketing Group Director of Boy Scouts of America, said in a press release. “That’s why we love ‘Scout Me In’ — because it speaks to girls and boys and tells them, ‘this is for you. We want you to join!’”
According to the BSA press release, the new campaign reinforces that the mission and core values in the Scout Oath and Scout Law are welcoming, inclusive and foundational for both young men and women. Since announcing the BSA’s decision to welcome girls into Scouting, more than 3,000 girls across the nation have already enrolled in the BSA’s Early Adopter Program and are participating in Cub Scouts ahead of the full launch later this year.
“As we enter a new era for our organization, it is important that all youth can see themselves in Scouting in every way possible. That is why it is important that the name for our Scouting program for older youth remain consistent with the single name approach used for the Cub Scouts,” said Michael Surbaugh, Chief Scout Executive of the Boy Scouts of America. “Starting in February 2019, the name of the older youth program will be ‘Scouts BSA,’ and the name of our iconic organization will continue to be Boy Scouts of America.”
Kuehen said the new Scout Me In campaign won’t have a major impact on operations at Camp Daniel Boone. The camp already has female staff, and the facilities are fully prepared to accept girls for summer sessions.
“Our facilities are already set up with single stalls, lockable bathrooms and locker facilities for our youth’s protection and safety so we’re all set to welcome female campers,” she said. “We already have female leaders that come with the troops — that’s been happening for decades.”
While male and female campers would share a camping site, the sleeping arrangements at camp will still be segregated by age and gender. Overall, Kuehn said she doesn’t have any major concerns about implementing the changes, though she knows not everyone is supportive of the decision.
“It will be an adjustment, but we’re not worried about it. We are aware some troops are embracing the changes and some are not, but the reality of it is we still have leaders that don’t like females in the camp at all, but we can all still get along,” she said. “In my personal opinion, character development, leadership skills and outdoor skills are the main skills taught by Boy Scouts. My Eagle Scout sons learned those skills — why wouldn’t I want my daughters to be exposed to that as well?”
Savannah Schreiber, 10, said she’s excited about the opportunity to join a Cub Scouts troop in Waynesville.
“It looks fun! You go hiking, and get badges and go camping,” she said. “My dad has a lot of badges for all kinds of fun things he did when he was a kid.”
With such a love of the outdoors, Schreiber said she’s never given much thought to joining the Girl Scouts, but Cub Scouts sounds like the right place for her interests.
“I want to camp, hike, fish, play sports and play at the park with my friends,” she said. “I want to be a horse trainer. I love riding horses and I love to be outside a lot. I know a lot about horses already.”
Schreiber’s mother, Nicole Kott, is supportive of her daughter’s interest in Scouting and agrees with the organization’s decision to be more inclusive for females.
“I'm thankful that BSA wants to send this message to our children, because that is a big pill to swallow for some and will potentially be met with hostility,” she said.
Kott has seen her daughter watching all the troop activities happening at the park near their house, and it has piqued her interest.
“They have a cabin and a fire pit designated for their use. She sees how fun it is and wants to participate. All three of my kids jump headfirst into most outdoor activities. They like to fish, camp, hike, play sports and play the usual games like tag and capture the flag,” Kott said. “It isn't right to exclude children from educational and enriching activities just because of anatomy.”
Even though the BSA’s decision is official next summer, Kott said girls are already participating in Boy Scouts camping trips — they just aren’t getting any credit for their participation. The only change coming is that girls will now be able to earn merit badges and feel part of the program.
“It is not exclusive to boys. Many of the boys have sisters that come on camping trips and to meetups,” she said. “Boys and girls will be supervised in the same manner as recent public school overnight field trips and summer camp arrangements, which are already quite common in Haywood County.”
With strong feelings about the inclusion of girls, Kott anticipates there may be some blowback for females wanting to officially join Cub Scouts or Scouts BSA, but she hopes it doesn’t keep them from participating in programs that interest them.
“It's a very real possibility, but we're not going to let fear of the unknown hold us back from living. Perhaps the boys will display kindness and maturity,” she said. “I believe that parental support will play a major role in these girls’ participation rates.”
Jasmine and Holly Porter, twin sisters heading into Haywood Early College this fall, are supporters of the changes and are considering joining a Scouts BSA program next year in addition to continuing their work as Girl Scouts. They see being in both groups as the best of both worlds.
“I think it’s good to be in different troops but being able to do some activities together — it will be good to be with the other gender sometimes,” Jasmine said. “I think doing things together would be a good new experience for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.”
Holly agreed that having more interaction between boys and girls in the different troops would be beneficial for everyone.
“It will help them work better together because the girls’ groups might have different ideas than the boys,” she said. “It might help them work better together and with problem-solving skills.”
The twins admit the integration might be awkward at first, especially with overnight camping trips, but there are ways to work it out to make everyone comfortable. They said they’d be fine with the girls having their own separate campsite and campfire away from the boys’ camp as long as they were allowed to do daytime activities together.
“It will teach them how to connect to one another and not think, ‘Oh, she’s just a girl and we’re completely different,’” Holly said.
With an older brother who is an Eagle Scout, Jasmine and Holly have grown up attending Boy Scouts events as spectators, but would like the opportunity to participate in those events.
“We’ve done the family camps and enjoyed it. If we have the option, I wouldn’t mind joining but I’d also like to stay with Girl Scouts,” Jasmine said. “I started in kindergarten and worked my way up to now so I have that feeling of familiarity with it.”
Separate but equal?
Some opposition to the BSA changes have questioned why the Girl Scouts doesn’t change its mission to offer more outdoor activities for girls or why a new organization can’t be formed to accommodate both genders instead of changing the deep traditions of the Boy Scouts.
Even though the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts formed around the same time to complement one another, they are two separate organizations with their own separate missions.
“We don’t have any control over what the Girl Scouts does,” Kuehn said. “Girls Scouts started alongside the Boy Scouts and they both teach valuable skills, but times change and they’ve both taken different routes.”
Kott agreed that both groups teach different valuable skills all children should learn, which is why she doesn’t think it makes sense to segregate kids based on gender. Girls shouldn’t be excluded from outdoor programs just because it’s considered a “masculine” activity.
“In the grand scheme of things, if you place everything that makes you you over a picture of what makes someone else who they are, you'll see we are mostly alike as humans and there are many more things that define a person than being male or female,” Kott said. “Not only does it not make sense to use anatomy as a criteria for Scouts, it isn't effective. Girls like doing everything that Boy Scouts do. Girls can and should learn these same things.”
Jasmine and Holly Porter said the changes to the Boy Scouts don’t mean there’s anything wrong with the Girl Scouts’ mission, but there are skills BSA offers that Girl Scouts don’t. Both organizations teach the importance of integrity, morality and leadership. Boy Scouts sell popcorn to learn about business and finance while Girl Scouts sell cookies, but Girl Scouts does lack some of the outdoor and wilderness survival skills offered through the Boy Scouts.
“We want to go camping and learn how to fish,” Holly said. “A lot of girls in our troop have brothers of their own in Boy Scouts — working together may help them see the viewpoint of their younger or older brother and have a sense of what they may be thinking.”
“If a brother and sister are not getting along, maybe this would help them understand one another more instead of focusing on their differences,” Jasmine said.
Holly and Jasmine also cleared up a misperception that Girl Scouts doesn’t offer an equivalent to the Boy Scouts’ Eagle Scout designation — the highest BSA honor.
The Girl Scouts have levels of awards as well — bronze, silver and gold. The Gold Award is the community project Girl Scouts have to complete by the time they graduate high school. Like the Eagle Scout status, receiving a Gold Award is rare and looks good on any college or job application because it shows initiative, commitment and community involvement. Both projects require the same number of dedicated hours.
“The Bronze project is mostly done in groups during middle school, the Silver project is pretty much done on your own with leaders supervising and the Gold Award is you on your own and you can get volunteer help,” Holly said.
“It shows you have the necessary skills and you’ve learned how to be a leader,” Jasmine said.
2017 Annual Report – People BSA serves
• 1,245,882 boys age 6-10 in Cub Scouts.
• 834,142 boys age 11-17 in Boy Scouts and Varsity Scouts.
• 87,827 young men and women age 14-20 in Venturing and Sea Scouts.
• 376,837 boys and girls in elementary through high school in Learning for Life character education programs.
• 114,751 young men and women age 10-20 exploring career-based programs
• 99,814 units representing partnerships and collaborations with businesses, community and religious organizations and other supporting agencies.
For more information on how to join an established troop locally or how to start your own BSA troop, visit www.scouting.org.
On my honor I will do my best
to do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
to help other people at all times;
to keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.
A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.