Anything you can do, I can do better

Do gender-specific scouting groups still make sense?

By Sarah Sidlow

Did you hear about the one where Boy Scouts of America (BSA) are now accepting girls? We thought so.

Long considered a traditional American bastion on the order of baseball and apple pie, the Boy Scouts of America have taken the last half-decade to do some soul searching—to surprising ends. Not long ago, the group agreed to accept openly gay youth members and adult volunteers, as well as transgender boys, into their club. Now, they’ve made headlines yet again by announcing they’re removing the “No Girls Allowed” sign from their treehouse.

Under the new girls-allowed hybrid model, Cub Scout dens (the smallest unit) will remain single-gender, while the packs (made up of multiple dens) will have the option to remain single-gender, or to welcome dens of both genders.

Another big component of this change is a plan to create a scouting experience for older girls, which will enable them to earn the same Eagle Scout rank that is so important in Boy Scout tradition. This new program is expected to start in 2019.

For the Boy Scouts, the move is about extending the reach of their training in a world of increasing female success and inclusion.

“The values of scouting—trustworthy, loyal, helpful, kind, brave, and reverent, for example—are important for both young men and women,” said Michael Surbaugh, chief scout executive.

But the Girl Scouts aren’t budging. Opponents of the Boy Scouts’ original proposal to break down gender barriers, Girl Scouts of the USA are remaining steadfast in their single-gender mission—providing a safe environment for girls to learn and grow. And they’ve said some pretty harsh things about BSA—including accusing the organization of inviting girls as a way to combat declining revenue.

Let’s take the long view on this one for a minute. What if Scouting was a co-educational activity—as in, boys, girls, and children with fluid gender identity were all part of one group where they learned how to commune with nature, give back in their communities, and always be prepared? Similar scouting groups exist all over Europe—there are nearly 150 in Germany alone. Yet in America, where youth co-ed community athletic, art, and scholastic options exist, they stand in twin shadows of Boy Scouts of America and Girl Scouts of the USA. Some would argue that aside from those addictive cookies, the principles instilled in children of both groups are roughly the same—honor, integrity, preparedness, community—and that there’s no reason to incur separate building fees.

Yet, others maintain that, especially for young girls, a place of female empowerment is necessarily female-only. Perhaps there are lessons that young Americans need to learn that are specific to their genders?

And then there’s this: Zach Wahls, the Eagle Scout who played an active role in encouraging the BSA to include gay members, has upped the ante on his organization—to end its exclusion of atheists and non-believers who do not profess a “duty to God.”

In the meantime, pass a thin mint.

Reach Dayton City Paper forum moderator Sarah Sidlow at SarahSidlow@DaytonCityPaper.com.


Welcome to the pack

Merging to “Scouting” is long overdue

By Tim Smith 

It’s amazing how many trivial tug-of-war contests we’ve witnessed lately. On one side, we have a POTUS who doesn’t hesitate to ridicule his brain trust in public, and anchoring the other end of the rope, is a Cabinet member who thinks it’s okay to call his boss a moron within earshot of the media. In keeping with this week’s topic, one of them was a Boy Scout and one of them wasn’t. You can probably figure out which is which.

Now, the main event—the battle royal between the Boy Scouts of America and the Girl Scouts of the USA. Both are wonderful organizations, with a long tradition of teaching the youth of America the principles of truth, honor, patriotism, preparedness, tolerance, and community service, many participants of both programs have gone on to pursue higher callings while still remembering these life lessons.

The Boy Scouts of America (or BSA) recently expanded their mission of accepting openly gay members, Scout Masters, and transgender youth to offer an invitation for girls to join America’s oldest established “boys only” club as Cub Scouts beginning next year. The response from the Girl Scouts of the USA? A terse “No thank you” followed by “How dare you suggest such a thing!”

Why not combine the two organizations under the umbrella name of Scouting? In today’s co-ed world, it makes perfect sense. They both teach the same principles and frankly, I’m surprised it took this long for one group to suggest a membership offering with the other. The century-old Boys Club of America did it in 1990 when they joined ranks with their sister organization and renamed themselves the Boys and Girls Club of America. Look around and you don’t see too many YMCA’s, but instead, simply, The Y. This was changed in the 1970s when they opened their facilities to women and families. Co-ed sports have been the norm for decades in schools and community leagues, and these programs have produced some exceptional athletes of both genders. And how many public school curriculums still offer Home Economics, the last bastion for grooming future June Cleavers of the world?

By the numbers, there are 1.26 million boys ages 6 to 10 in the Boy Scouts. That number decreases as the members get older, down to 823,000 boys ages 11 to 17. By comparison, there are 136,626 boys and girls involved in the co-ed branches called Venturing and Sea Scouts. Venturing and Sea Scouts are BSA programs that are open to young men and women ages 14 to 21, to learn advanced life skills and reinforce the basic tenets of scouting.

The executive leadership of the BSA maintains that scouting has always been a family affair, especially in Cub Scout packs, where female siblings of Scouts participate in various activities. Additionally, the wives and families of Pack Leaders and Scout Masters are often involved in Troop functions. They have stated that the decision to open the organization to girls came after years of requests from families and girls to make it co-ed. There are also many young women who have expressed a desire to earn the coveted rank of Eagle Scout.

In rebuttal, the leadership branch of the Girl Scouts of the USA insists that girls want and need a female-only environment to feel safe and nurtured. They want to hold fast with their “girls only” charter, claiming that this is the best environment for young women to learn how to succeed in the world. It would appear that someone needs to check their calendar and remember what year we’re in.

It’s been proven that women in the military are every bit as capable as, and in many cases superior to, their male counterparts. Look at the number of women who have ascended the ranks of high command in all branches of the military. Until forty-some years ago, that was a “boys only” club, too. So was Wall Street and the executive suites reserved for CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies. Women being elected to political offices such as Governor and United States Representative were once a rarity, as well. So was appointing a woman to the Supreme Court of the United States. Much of the “old boys network” has gone the way of the full-service gas station. Maybe it’s time for the Boy and Girl Scouts to follow suit.

Scouting, whether it’s Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, teaches valuable life skills and lessons. As we get older, we learn how to interact with members of the opposite sex in the workplace and to accept others regardless of gender or ethnicity. What’s wrong with starting that lesson at a young age? As a society, we seem to have lost sight of the importance of tolerance. Why not have boys and girls in the same organization to reinforce that, while their minds are still open and their opinions haven’t been formed yet?

If they did merge the two groups and called it Scouting, I only have one question—will they still sell cookies?

Tim Smith is an award-winning, bestselling author. Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Smith at TimSmith@DaytonCityPaper.com. 


So girls want to be Boy Scouts?

That’s the rumor anyway

By Missy Mae Walters

Those delicious Thin Mint and Carmel deLite cookies we all know to be a trademark of every Girl Scout will soon be traded in for a lesser known Boy Scout enterprise of popcorn. The enterprise of scouting, in general, is a big business known for their organization’s products, but is selling popcorn more exciting than selling those cookies we look forward to every February?

Whatever your preference, the Boy Scouts apparently seem to think they might have more to offer girls.

The Boys Scout’s claim they chose to open their membership to offer young women to join them, and even be able to achieve the coveted rank of Eagle Scout, to be more accommodating to modern-day families. We all know the family that is constantly serving as the taxi shuffling kids back and forth between all those extracurricular activities, and I’m sure it can be a daunting task going in every direction, but do you really think the Boy Scouts is the way to go for your little girl?

The world we live in is filled with gender expectations. Every single day, young peoples’ lives are being defined, and it is important to have programs that provide focus on the growth and development of girls into young women. Programs like Girl Scouts benefit everyone by having a safe environment where these young ladies are going to be able to develop not only self-confidence, but a sense of self that will not be possible in a mixed gender environment.  Girls-only programs are few and far between.

To add fuel to the fire, the Boy Scouts chose a gender-themed advocacy day to make their announcement.

International Day of the Girl (Oct. 11) is an advocacy day established by the United Nations in 2011. Obviously the symbolism of the announcement on such a day was purposely done by the Boy Scouts and proved to be a little bit too much for the Girl Scouts. The Boy Scouts not only stole their headlines, but are taking their members. Is the enthusiasm just not there for the Girl Scouts anymore?

Don’t the Girl Scouts have a merit badge in conflict resolution? The boys, who might not have earned that badge under Girl Scout standards, avoided several resolution techniques including collaborating, compromising, or accommodating. Rather, they decided to take the more assertive stance of competing.

While I’m sure the Boy Scout’s view their decision as a kind and welcome step in the right direction for gender equality, this former Girl Scout is a little skeptical.

If I had been told this while I was a Girl Scout some twenty years ago, I would have looked at you like you were absolutely crazy. Girls allowed in a boy’s club? No way. Did they do a poll of current Boy Scouts and ask if they wanted to allow their little sister in the clubhouse? This shouldn’t be much of a surprise for any of us. The importance of such an organization as the Girl Scouts and this decision by the Boy Scouts should not be taken so lightly.

It is true. The modern family has changed significantly, kids are growing up much faster. But this shift in the modern family is why the Girl Scouts and a single-gender organization is more important than ever. Turning on the news, it is one story after the next about the societal pressures being placed on our younger generation. Girls are in need, more than ever, of focus on them, and guidance during the difficult stages of adolescence.

I get the financial issues of both organizations. Membership rates are seeing some hard times as they compete with all the other activities kids can participate in.

For over 100 years, both the Boy Scouts and Girls Scouts have been thriving organizations. Just to put this in perspective, today there are over 2.6 million Girl Scouts and 3.4 million Boy Scouts, and this number includes their adult leadership. At the Girl Scouts peak, only a little over a decade ago in 2003, there were 3.8 million members. The Girl Scouts alone have lost over a million members in just over a decade.

I am no mathematician, but membership is not climbing, and it’s not just one year—it has proven to be a trend. In a business with such declines, something must be done to survive, but I disagree that poaching members from the Girl Scouts is the answer. There are answers to the Boy Scouts problems which could have been discussed prior to opening the doors of their entire organization to girls. What about the other 90 percent of boys in the United States who are not current members?

While changing the gender inclusion rules of the organization captured a lot of headlines and will probably bolster membership in the short run for the Boy Scouts, no favors will be done long-term to either organization, or especially to the most important part of the discussion: the over 35 million young women under 18 who are in need of gender exclusive organizations like the Girl Scouts.

So let the games begin between Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. A new merit badge and patch may be created in hand-to-hand combat between the two!

Missy Mae Walters serves as the senior associate of campaigns and public affairs at JSN & Associates. Walters served as the regional political director for the Trump for President Campaign in Ohio and is a former executive director of the Montgomery County Republican Party. Reach her at MissyMaeWalters@DaytonCityPaper.com.

 

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