The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) have made a historic decision to let girls join their century-old ranks. Starting in 2018, Cub Scout packs can include girls, though the dens within the packs will stay single-sex. In 2019, the Boy Scout program will develop a track where girls can join their dens and become Eagle Scouts as well.
According to a BSA survey involving parents both in and out of the program, 90 percent of parents are interested in getting girls involved in a program like Cub Scouts and 87 percent are interested in getting their girls involved in a program like Boy Scouts.
The great news for these parents is that this program has existed for over 100 years! It’s called the Girl Scouts of America (GSA).
As someone who was a Girl Scout for 12 years, following through five of the six levels, the program left an impact on me as a child. I learned leadership and service from my work with my troop and even to this day the Girl Scout Law is part of my personal motto. The program offers a supportive environment for girls to learn and grow, and I felt like it was an escape from the stress of my daily life.
Girl Scout programs function similarly to those of the Boy Scouts. The girls meet in troops that are grouped together in service units. Girl Scouts also have different titles based on grade levels, with kindergarteners and first graders known as Daisies while 11th and 12th graders are Ambassadors.
GSA already has a merit system similar to the process of becoming an Eagle Scout. Girls may earn a Bronze, Silver and Gold Award throughout their time in the program. Traditionally, scouts go for the Bronze Award in elementary school, the Silver Award in middle school and the Gold Award in high school. These awards are earned through service projects that can sustain themselves within the community.
In addition, several campsites run by Girl Scouts have opportunities for girls to camp with their troops and for them to participate in summer camp. Activities at these camps can include high ropes courses, zip-lining, sailing, archery, hiking, kayaking, rock climbing, horseback riding and more. Many troops go on their own camping trips separate from these camps, so they provide their own food and pitch their own tents.
Both programs focus on building young children into leaders and well-rounded adults. They have similar motives, programs and structure. Neither program has considered a merger, which could help solve their decline in membership that has been occurring over the past few years.
The problem with BSA trying to open membership to everyone is they are taking away from a program that already works building girls into strong leaders. This change is for business purposes. By opening up their program to both genders, it doubles the amount of children that can join. This will help BSA, no doubt, but will hurt GSA at the same time.
If BSA really cared about helping these girls join a great scouting program, they would merge with GSA and the two organizations would be one, unisex scouting organization. This would save both of them money by lessening the staff running their organization. Plus, it would combine their numbers and their resources like Boy Scout training centers, Girl Scout council buildings, and Boy and Girl Scout camps, allowing more opportunities and more places for troops to meet.
With the two organizations combined, there’s an endless amount of possibilities for programs and opportunities for children across America. Scouting is a proud tradition around the country, with millions of children who have gone through the program over the past 100 years in both organizations. The BSA and GSA can make history if they decide to come together.
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