It was refreshing to learn this week that the Boys Scouts of America organization intends to integrate girls into cub scout packs, and eventually create a path for young women to become eagle scouts.
There are still parts of the plan that could be better. Cub scout packs will be able to decide whether to become co-ed, or form a new branch entirely for girls. Dens within the pack will remain single gender either way – limiting the benefits of allowing girls to join in the first place.
I was in cub scouts and boy scouts for a number of years starting in elementary school and lasting through middle school; I dropped out by the time I entered high school. There was a lot to like – especially in the early years. It was a place to meet friends, and the camping trips were a welcome adventure to break up the monotony of school work on the weekends.
My best experience in boy scouts was a high adventure trip to the U.K. in 2000. We started in London, and for 10 days we drove around England and Scotland spending the night at different scout camps along the way. It was during that trip that I learned scouting was different overseas. There were boys and girls staying at the camps. The other troops were co-ed. No boy scouts. No girl scouts. There was just scouting – for everyone.
It immediately seemed like a better way. In addition to having both genders, many of the troops we saw (and we saw several from well beyond Great Britain) were more diverse in general. It seems to me a lot could be learned from that. It could help establish from a young age that men and women should be treated equally. It also could provide another much-needed opportunity to reinforce the importance of respecting women (cue the Harvey Weinstein headlines).
Somewhat understandably, some of in the Girl Scouts organization are a little unsettled about this week’s announcement. They point to the value of a girls-only program that provides women role models and mentors. It’s a valid point, and it should be noted that both scouting programs provide different and necessary environments for young people. However, it is a little disheartening that an organization that’s supposed to be standing up for the best interests of girls and young women would be apposed to another group opening the doors to them. The fact that girls will soon have a choice should be celebrated.
The Boy Scouts of America has not always been the most progressive group, but it has made great strides in the last year to become more inclusive. With membership now open to gay and transgender members, and now to girls, more young people will be able to benefit from all that scouting has to offer.