The Boy Scouts of America may have ruffled some feathers when it announced in 2017 it would be opening up to allow girls to participate. But on Friday, it became official that girls can now join the Boy Scouts, according CNN, and that's really great news for all the girls who've wanted to take part in the same adventures and activities the Scouts has for years offered to their brothers, classmates, and friends.
Though the organization has already been allowing girls to participate in Cub Scouts, its program for younger children, the latest update means that girls between the ages of 11 and 17 now have the chance to join its youth program and potentially become Eagle Scouts under the rebranded program now known as Scouts BSA.
In a statement released Thursday, Chief Scout Executive Michael B. Surbaugh praised the move, and said the change would ultimately mean that "more young people than ever before will get to experience the benefits of camaraderie, confidence, resilience, trustworthiness, courage and kindness" modeled in the program, and that it would allow both boys and girls to "grow through activities that spark their interest and imagination." And despite lingering criticism from boys-only purists, it sounds like a really positive move in the right direction.
Despite the fact that the Boy Scouts of America has traditionally offered programs only for boys, it makes a lot of sense logistically to allow girls into the program. As any parent with children of different genders can tell you, after all, there's no actual reason why girls wouldn't want to do the same kinds of fun activities they see boys doing. And, if a girl has an older brother who's involved in Scouts, chances are she's already spent plenty of time watching on the sidelines, anyway.
Now, with Scouts BSA, those girls will be able to join their own troops, led by female scoutmasters, according to NPR, and will similarly have the opportunity to go hiking, canoeing, fishing, and participate in scout camps. And as the Boy Scouts of America's Scouts BSA webpage notes, they'll also have the chance to earn all of the same merit badges, take part in community and leadership opportunities, and advance through the ranks within the program.
Of course, the move hasn't been without its share of controversy. On social media, people have criticized the decision as being simply one of political correctness, or that somehow, the fact that the organization was originally designed for boys means that it should always remain that way, even though allowing girls to join doesn't appear to all detract from the program's mandate.
One popular argument seems to be that the fact that a separate Girls Scouts organization exists means that there's no need for the Scouts BSA change, but the reality is that they're two entirely differently entities, not two parts of the same whole. In other words, there's nothing about the existence of the Girl Scouts that would prevent the Boy Scouts from deciding to broaden its enrollment — and, actually, in some cases, girls have even chosen to participate in both. As 8-year-old Zoey DeLeve explained to Market Watch in May, for example, she had already been a Girl Scout for four years, but that she wanted to sign up with Boy Scouts because she'd spent time watching her brother going camping and racing cars in the group's Pinewood Derby, and wanted to join in too.
And while there are certainly similarities between the Scouts BSA and Girl Scouts programs, there are differences, too. For one, according to The Washington Post, Girl Scouts tends to be be less hierarchical than Scouts BSA — members are grouped by age, not rank, and they have more leeway when it comes to choosing merit badges. In general, Scouts BSA is also considered to place more emphasis on outdoor, survival-related activities, though Lidia Soto-Harmon, chief executive of the Girl Scouts Council of the Nation’s Capital, told the outlet that it is definitely a myth to believe that "that Girl Scouts don't do high ad-venture."
In other words, despite sounding like complementary programs, the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts have always been separate, with different goals and approaches, and ultimately, choosing one likely just comes down to personal preference. So despite all the snarky comments online, all the Scouts BSA program really seems to be doing is allowing more to children to participate in a program they'd like to be part of, and there's really no need to find anything even remotely offensive about it.