For the longest time in the United States, division between the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts has survived for a reason. Historically, the Boy Scouts have always been more oriented towards fulfilling the character development found in frontiersmen, while the Girl Scouts have been dedicated to teaching their scouts more domestic and outdoorsy skills in urban environments. While both of them came from the same founding family – a brother and sister duo – both of them have remained separate for the time they’ve been in the US, even going so far as to be considered on rocky terms when it comes to social issues.
Times are changing, however, and what was once two organizations may soon become one. The Boy Scouts announced recently that it plans to allow girls into the Boy Scouts. “I’ve seen nothing that develops leadership skills and discipline like this organization,” said Randall Stephenson, National Board Chairman of the organization. “It is time to make these outstanding leadership development programs available to girls.”
The idea has been met with support, especially from mothers who have felt that the atmosphere of a Girl Scout troop can clash with a girl’s personality. “The problem with the Girl Scout curriculum is that it’s very focused on who your leader is for your particular troop,” said Rebecca Szetela, a Michigan mother. “If you have a mom who’s really into crafts and girlie stuff and being a princess, then that’s what your Girl Scout troop is going to be like. If you have a daughter who’s more rough and tumble, it’s not going to be a good fit.”
Beginning in 2018, girls will be allowed into the Cub Scouts program, the younger grouping of Boy Scouts. Integration programs for older children are expected to pop up around 2019, eventually giving girls the opportunity to become Eagle Scouts. Integration in itself is nothing new – girls have been allowed into certain parts of the Boy Scouts before, but they have never been allowed into the core programs before. The programs have even integrated internationally, the US being one of the few that doesn’t integrate its programs.
While many seem to be in support of the integration, there is still push back by major organizations to keep the scouts separate. Why? To many, girls need time to just be girls. “[The purpose of the Girl Scouts] wasn’t to necessarily liberate girls from all of the roles they were expected to perform, it was to emphasize education and preparedness,” said Tammy Proctor, author of the book Scouting for Girls: A Century of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. Integrating both groups into one defeats the purpose of having separate ones to begin with, and in not keeping them separate, some argue girls might miss out on prime opportunities crucial to their growth.
This is one of the reasons why the Girl Scouts aren’t exactly supportive of allowing the move – in fact, they have even downright criticized it. “We’ve had 105 years of supporting girls and a girl-only safe space,” said Lisa Margosian, the Chief Customer Officer for the Girl Scouts. “The need for female leadership has never been clearer or more urgent than it is today – and only Girl Scouts has the expertise to give girls and young women the tools they need for success.”
On another note, some are against the merge not because they believe in the idea of girls being educated with other girls, but because they still staunchly believe in the idea of a boys-only club. “Boys and girls should have separate organizations for activities,” explained Joseph Carbello, who’s been a scoutmaster for 30 years. “There is an organization for girls. It’s called the Girl Scouts.”
But with an ever-growing division between boys and girls, shouldn’t it be high time the two begin to knit together?
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