The Boy Scouts of America caused an uproar with the announcement that girls soon will be allowed to join its Cub Scouts program and eventually could achieve the highest rank, Eagle Scout.
The move to create dens for girls and packs with boys and girls, announced Oct. 11, takes effect a year from now and follows other recent decisions by the Boy Scouts that created controversy: the lifting of a ban on openly gay Scouts in 2013 and on gay adult leaders in 2015 and the allowing of transgender members this year.
“We are at a time in America when more options are available to girls and to women,” Tracy Techau, the CEO of the Boy Scouts’ Atlanta Area Council, said in an interview. “It’s a highly adaptive organization. The Scout Law remains unchanged, and now girls can participate. There were times when we moved slowly, and other times when we moved in contemporary step with the needs of parents and volunteers. We’ve had a lot of input from people saying they’d like girls to have the same types of benefits their sons have.”
But Amy Dosik, the CEO of the Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta, sees the situation differently. “I don’t know that they have the knowledge and skills and expertise to serve girls. Any parent will tell you that boys and girls are fundamentally different. They are motivated by different things, interested in different things, and so the programs that serve both have to appeal to their differences.”
The Boy Scouts explained that existing packs can choose to establish parallel female packs, change to include dens for girls and dens for boys within the pack, or remain all-boy packs.
In 2019, the organization will make available a program in which girls can attain the rank of Eagle Scout using the same curriculum as the Boy Scouts.
Dosik cited research that girls flourish in a single-sex environment. “Kids’ lives today are mostly co-ed, so we’re a little disappointed to see this decision from the BSA because we think both boys and girls need single spaces to grow and develop in a healthy way.”
Theresa Schroeder, a former Gold Girl Scout still active in the movement, told the Atlanta Jewish Times the change is unnecessary. “I’m all for girls getting an equal opportunity when it comes to any other organization. You want to play with the boys? Fine, but there’s no need to intermingle. These organizations are built the way they are for a reason, and you don’t have to join the Boy Scouts to achieve a high level in Scouting.”
The inclusion of girls, however, is not unprecedented. Exploring and Venturing, both co-ed initiatives, have been offered since 1971, and the STEM Scout pilot program is available for boys and girls.
“I’ve earned every badge there is, so I don’t understand what experience I would get differently if I joined the boys. It’s not sitting around sewing and baking a cake. Girl Scouts is real hard work. We don’t have boys in the organization so that girls can thrive and get their confidence,” Schroeder said.
Atlanta Scout parent Mitch Leff thinks the BSA decision is open to interpretation. “We don’t know yet how the curriculum will differ, if at all. It’s a wait-and-see situation. They will leave some of the implementation to the local chartering organizations. Each will have the decision on how this will work for them, which to some extent is the beauty of it, in that it’s somewhat customized to the community it’s in.”