The announcement last month by the Boy Scouts of America that they are changing the name of the organization to Scouts BSA and recruiting girls to bolster declining membership rolls is a monumental shift for the century-old Boy Scouts. It is not a move that will please Girls Scouts of America. One of its troop leaders, Mary Stuart, told me the upper level leadership is “furious,” and being the mother of two daughters in Girl Scouts she is not pleased with the move, either.
At the very same time, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints announced it was pulling out of Boy Scouts and forming its own youth program as of Dec. 31, 2019, allowing for an orderly transition for its scouts to complete the Eagle rank or other projects. The Mormons comprise about a fifth of all Scouts, so that is a major blow, financially and in terms of fundraising and memberships. So that could be one reason they are opening membership up to girls, but only time will tell if it helps their shrinking numbers.
When I was a Boy Scout back in the day (dark ages, some would say) and later an adult leader, we did a lot more camping, and I became a proud member of the Order of the Arrow, the National Honor Society of BSA. You could say there was hazing involved, but probably not anymore. If girls enter the ranks of Scouting, the horseplay and other contact sports will be a thing of the past. You wouldn’t likely put a (harmless) snake or other creature from the wilds in the tent of a girl (unless she is your sister). And they had better assign women and men as adult leaders for each coed unit.
Of course we had den mothers in Cubbing, and young women in our Explorer posts. I was the adviser to the Explorer post that formed the Tri-Valley Royalaires drum and bugle corps, and that included both sexes. But these were high school kids interested in music, competing equally for positions in the corps.
My opinion might not be popular, but I say let the boys be boys, and girls be girls as long as they can, providing separate but equal programs for young people in BSA and GSA. Too bad they didn’t merge the groups, keeping two separate paths for each. We still have separate physical education classes and separate athletic programs. I wonder whether fraternities and sororities at the college level will be faced with discrimination suits someday if they don’t allow the opposite sex into their membership. I won’t even get into the LGBT issue facing many parts of our society today.
I will still support Boy Scouting financially but probably split my donations with the Girl Scouts now as they will need all the support they can get. The least I can do is buy an extra box or two of my favorite GSA mint cookies.
• Barry Schrader can be reached via email at email@example.com or through the mail at P.O. Box 851, DeKalb, IL 60115. Archives of his past columns can be found on his website at www.dekalbcountylife.com.