Boy Scouts organization undermined by inclusion of girls


Noela Bae, Content Editor

Marking a major milestone in the push for gender equality, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) announced on Oct. 11 that girls would now be allowed to join the program and attain an Eagle Scout rank, the highest level of achievement in Scouting. Though the organization will receive girls with open arms beginning next year, girls have their own program — Girl Scouts of America (GSA) — to develop their character and gain leadership skills. By admitting girls into BSA, the original dynamic of this long-standing scouting organization will be shaken.

The scouting board of directors made the unanimous decision to admit girls after years of requests from girls and their families. In an effort to help girls engage in more outdoor activities and foster female leadership, the board settled that Cub Scouts and Eagle Scouts would open their ranks to girls next year and in 2019, respectively.

It does not seem to be a coincidence, however, that the BSA agreed to admit girls while experiencing dwindling numbers. Enrollment in the BSA has decreased dramatically over the course of the past few decades: in 2016, 2.3 million youth members had enrolled, down about a third since 2000 and down about 4 million from its peak in 1972. Admitting girls into the program is not the first instance of BSA finding ways to cope with low membership levels. In recent years, the organization has additionally opened itself up to adult volunteers, openly gay males and transgender individuals. This sudden wave of new members demonstrates that opening up enrollment has been a means for BSA to save its falling enrollment numbers.

“I do not think [BSA] should allow girls into the program solely to increase enrollment numbers,” said junior and Girl Scout Rhea Chowdhury. “Rather, the organization should focus on its main purpose of helping the community and creating everlasting change in the world.”

Proponents of the decision have been commending BSA for taking on more liberal stances, claiming that there are no longer blanket bans on individuals who are gay, transgender or female. Yet contrary to their beliefs, the recent admittance of girls does not actually let all girls in; girl Cub Scouts will still be separated from the boy Cub Scouts starting in the 2018 program year.  

Moreover, this decision to integrate girls required a change in BSA’s admission policy, breaking the long-established tradition of being a boys-only program. To many, BSA has long been considered the cradle of American male leadership, but to admit girls into the program is to no longer have this statement hold true.

“With the addition of girls, Boy Scout camps are probably going to change a lot,” said junior and Girl Scout Christine Cheng. “There is a wide difference between boys and girls and how they participate in their respective scout groups.”

Along with the possibility that girls will begin to occupy leadership positions, the lack of boys-only time and the prospect of shared tents among boys and girls are concerning. To avoid repercussions like these, GSA should instead include activities synonymous to those of BSA, such as camping. Specifically, there should be more outdoor and female leadership activities that many families and girls have been requesting. This would help girls participate in outdoor and world exploration expeditions that BSA focuses on.

While BSA’s decision is being spun as an admirable gesture toward gender equality, it has

unprecedented consequences that many are still unaware of. The decision also takes away from the uniqueness of BSA, betraying the organization’s founding principles and values as a boys-only program.