Following a controversial 2018 decision to allow girls into the Boy Scouts, the first wave of female Scouts are attaining that most prestigious of honors: Eagle Scout.
Nearly 1,000 girls and young women were recognized by Scouts BSA (the youth program's new, inclusive name) in a February ceremony honoring their achievement on attaining Eagle Scout status.
Only about 6% of Scouts ever achieve the Eagle Scout rank.
A few years ago, the Boy Scouts radically redefined their organization, allowing girls and transgender children into their organization for the first time, which incensed many religious leaders and scores of parents, who say there’s a perfectly good alternative to the Boy Scouts for girls… called the Girl Scouts.
With the historic achievements of these new female Eagle Scouts, the debate has begun anew. Should the Boy Scouts accept girls? Not everyone thinks so.
Scouting the Competition
The initial 2018 decision to allow girls into the Boy Scouts was met with criticism from many. The LDS Church pulled some 400,000 Mormon youth from the program in response to a number of organizational changes at BSA, including allowing gay, female, and transgender Scouts, as well as gay adult volunteers.
Citing the cultural shift, LDS leader M. Russell Ballard said that "the reality there is we didn't really leave [the Boy Scouts]; they kind of left us."
One of the strongest reactions to the Boy Scouts admitting girls was actually from the Girl Scouts. Implying that the admittance of girls was a cynical attempt to bolster flailing membership numbers, the Girl Scouts wrote a letter to Boy Scouts leadership calling the intermixing of the sexes a “a potentially dangerous and bad idea."
The letter asked the Boy Scouts directly, “why, rather than working to appeal to the 90 percent of boys who are not involved in BSA programs, you would choose to target girls," then went on to cite the benefits of single-gender programs for children.
In another statement, the Girl Scouts declared that "the benefit of the single-gender environment has been well-documented by educators, scholars, other girl- and youth-serving organizations, and Girl Scouts and their families.”
Parallels to the Past
Many have pointed out the historic parallels between the Boy Scouts historic hesitance to keep up with the times on other issues. Many Boy Scout troops, especially in the deep South, resisted integration for decades, with some troops being separated by race until the mid-1970s. In certain places, black Scouts weren’t allowed in at all, and in others, black Scouts were allowed – but could not wear the iconic Boy Scout uniform.
Critics of the single-gender program say it’s time to catch up with the times.
There are other factors at play, too. Children who attain Eagle Scout rank, for example, often have a leg up in adulthood. Many college scholarships are only available to Eagle Scouts, and the U.S. military permits Eagle Scouts to enlist at a higher rank and pay grade. Why should girls be excluded from acheiving that honor (and the benefits it brings)?
For others, though, it’s a family matter. The Boy Scouts were founded in 1910, and many families have proudly scouted for generations. Why should that line be broken, just because they had a girl instead of a boy?
A Very In-Tents Debate
Despite the criticism, the Boy Scouts seems committed to integrating and growing troop sizes by allowing girls into the historically boys-only club.
“People recognize Eagle Scouts as individuals of the highest caliber—and for the first time, that title isn’t limited by gender,” stated Jenn Hancock, national chair for programs at the Boy Scouts of America. “This expanded opportunity will empower generations of young people as they see both young men and women earn this rank and become leaders in their communities, in business and our country.”
What do you think? Should girls be allowed in the Boy Scouts for the myriad of benefits that can bestow? Or is there still value in separate-sex youth programs?