Empowerment and equality came from an unlikely source on this year’s International Day of the Girl. On October 11th, the Boy Scouts of America announced that it will begin admitting girls into the Cub Scouts next year. It also announced that it will be creating a new program for older girls that follows the same curriculum as the Boy Scouts. The group has been considering this for months, and the board of directors has now unanimously voted to approve the plan.
“The values of Scouting—trustworthy, loyal, helpful, kind, brave and reverent, for example—are important for both young men and women,” said Michael Surbaugh, the executive BSA’s chief scout executive.
This is not the first change that the Boy Scouts has made to its membership policies recently. Earlier this year it began accepting members based on the gender listed on an application, allowing transgender boys to join. Also, in 2013 and 2015 it lifted former bans on openly gay members and leaders.
Jennifer Bartkowski, CEO of the Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas, is among the individuals who are not viewing this as a positive change. Bartkowski recently said, “We know how girls learn and lead best. I think the country deserves an organization that’s committed and an expert for boys, and an organization that’s committed and an expert for girls.”
Further, the Girl Scouts of the USA has also accused the Boy Scouts of being driven by a need to increase revenue. Samuel Thompson, CEO of the BSA’s Circle Ten Council, defended the decision by saying, “The BSA thoughtfully evaluated how to bring the benefits of Scouting to the greatest number of youth possible and adapt to the changing needs of today’s families—all while remaining true to our mission and core values, outlined in the Scout Oath and Law.”
Ken Teeter, advancement director for the Boy Scouts’ Eastern Skies District, shares other concerns. He has said, “I think it’s going to be more trouble than it’s worth. You get them up there in the Boy Scouts and you go camping, who’s going to stay up all night long making sure they don’t mingle?”
Teeter does make a point. However, under the plan, Cub Scout dens (which refer to the smallest units or troops) will be single-gender, while the packs (the larger units) will have the option to either be single-gender or welcome both genders.
Regardless of how the grown-ups feel about the Boy Scouts’ latest decision, there are sure to be a lot of little girls excited about this new challenge and opportunity.