Throughout its 107 years of existence, Boy Scouts of America has never admitted another gender into its program until now.
In 2013, the Boy Scouts started admitting openly gay members and in 2015, allowed gay scout leaders. Earlier this year, the Boy Scouts recently opened its program to transgender members who identified as male and in October the organization expanded its membership again to include girls; although this change won’t be fully implemented until 2020.
Boy Scouts of America justified its decision by saying that the change is in their best interest to help all youth striving to be successful leaders.
“We strive to bring what our organization does best—developing character and leadership for young people—to as many families and youth as possible as we help shape the next generation of leaders,” said Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh in a released statement after announcing the decision.
However, some think the decision had political motivations.
“Girl Scouts offers a one-of-a-kind experience for girls with a program tailored specifically to their unique developmental needs,” a statement released by Girls Scouts USA said in response to the decision.
Boy Scouts of America reported a decrease of 2.3 million youth members from 2012; since its peak in 1972, the number of boys participating has dropped 6.5 million, according to CNN.
Not only are some Girl Scouts and their families against the decision, but some Boy Scouts disagree as well.
“I think the purpose of the Boy Scout was to have a private retreat for boys to be boys without having to conform to social constructs,” said senior Carter Johnson, an Eagle Scout. “Additionally there are already present problems with arranging various ages of boy scouts into cabins and bathrooms and they will only be exacerbated with an introduction of girls.”
Although Boy Scouts of America are later planning to implement girls into the Boy Scout program, they’re allowing girls in the Cub Scout program as soon as 2018. These camping trips will only be available for first through fifth grades, requiring parent accompaniment and will be single-gendered.
One reason girls have tried to push for Boy Scout membership is that some think Boy Scouts excel more in some programs such as camping, STEM and leadership compared to Girl Scouts. Girl Scouts also discourage science courses while Boys Scouts encourage it. Better STEM programs may pull girls interested in STEM subjects into joining the Boy Scout program. Boy Scouts have the Eagle scout rank and although Girls Scouts have the Gold Award equivalent, some view it as inferior.
Earning Eagle Scout rank requires a boy scout to be 18 years of age, while a girl scout can earn her Gold Award as early as 14 years of age, giving some the perception that the requirements are easier.
Award requirements also differ. Although both require service projects, they differ in action. Girl Scout service projects require Scouts to find, investigate and take action on a social issue, while Boy Scouts tend to do service projects that impact their community more physically such as renovating old buildings and organizing community events. Girl Scouts require a minimum of 80 hours for their project while Boy Scouts don’t have a minimum requirement but still average between 150 and 200 hours. Both projects need to be approved by scout officials.
Another difference is rank requirements.
The Gold Award requires two Senior or Ambassador journeys while Boys Scouts require 21 merit badges from a pool of required and optional badges.
“If girls don’t like the activities that the Girl Scouts do, then they should try to spark a change in their organization,” senior Daniel Hagele, also an eagle scout, said.
Some scouts, however, welcome the inclusion of girls.