Depending on who you ask, the decision is either one of progress — to fulfill a new need for American families — or just the latest example of political correctness run amok.
With change often comes initial resistance and misconceptions, especially when it involves an organization that’s more than 100 years old and has been participated in by more than 100 million Americans.
On October 11, the Boy Scouts of America Board of Directors unanimously approved expanding its rank to welcome girls into the Cub Scout program while offering older girls a scouting program to achieve the highest rank of Eagle Scout. The top honor currently available for Girl Scouts is the “Gold Award.”
“This decision expands the programs that the Boy Scouts of America offers for both boys and girls. Although known for its iconic program for boys, the BSA has offered co-ed programs since 1971 through Exploring and the Venturing program, which celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2018,” according to a press release from the BSA.
Depending on who you ask, the decision is either one of progress — to fulfill a new need for American families — or just the latest example of political correctness run amok. But it’s important to note some facts about the decision — most notably that it leaves the responsibility and choice to individual packs.
“Starting in 2018 program year, families can choose to sign up their sons and daughters for Cub Scouts. Existing packs may choose to establish a new girl pack, establish a pack that consists of girl dens and boy dens or remain an all-boy pack,” the release stated. “Cub Scout dens will be single-gender — all boys or girls. Using the same curriculum as the Boy Scouts program, the organization will also deliver a program for older girls, which will be announced in 2018 and projected to be available in 2019, that will enable them to earn the Eagle Scout rank.”
According to Mike Dimond, assistant Scout executive and reservation director for the BSA Great Rivers Council based in Columbia, the planned changes will allow for scouting troops to serve more kids and families. Dimond, who has worked for the BSA for 33 years, said that’s he’s personally witnessed a lot of changes in the organization and this one he believes has the potential to be “a super strong, positive change” to benefit future scouting generations.
“Let’s take the single mom who has a son and a daughter, she can’t make it to both boy scouts and girls scouts. It makes it tough,” Dimond said. “We can serve all of them, the whole family. Scouting has always been a family organization, now we have the opportunity to put that feeling into action.”
Dimond said the main emphasis is to serve any male or female that wants to be a part of the scouting program, but doesn’t expect a huge bump in enrollment for mid-Missouri. According to a Pew Research Center survey that was conducted in 2015 among young parents — a survey cited by the BSA — the modern family is more diverse and busier than ever with most parents being dual-earners and more single-parent households than ever before.
Groups currently underserved by Scouting include the Hispanic and Asian communities which prefer to participate in activities as a family. That makes the program that much more convenient and appealing, according to the BSA.
“They’re going to work on the same stuff, the program won’t change,” Dimond said. “It doesn’t benefit a single gender. Character development, leadership, fitness — those all pertain to boys and girls, everybody needs that stuff and we believe we do a pretty good job. We’re the only one that’s not co-ed. Canada is, Mexico is, Great Britain is.”
The BSA also conducted two external surveys and four internal surveys online from April to September 2017, which showed that “parents not involved with Scouting showed high interest in getting their daughters signed up for programs like Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, with 90 percent expressing interest in a program like Cub Scouts and 87 percent expressing interest in a program like Boy Scouts.”
Additionally, according to the release, “education experts also evaluated the curriculum and content and confirmed relevancy of the program for young women.”
There will be no changes in 2018 to Laurie’s Camp Hahn, a campground used by the BSA at Lake of the Ozarks, and will begin recruiting girls next fall. Dimond said there will have to be some minor logistical issues worked out when scouts go camping to separate the genders and also provide a women’s restroom at the campground.
“This is probably a big change for a lot of folks. But, no, we’re not changing our program or caving to political correctness. We’re expanding who can be a part of our program to keep up with the times and needs of the community,” Dimond said. “The mission has remained consistent from our founding, to develop young people of strong moral character, the way we do that has changed. Scouting in 1910 is not the same as 2017, but the objective has never changed.”