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By Patrick McAuliffe

Big news came out (pun intended) of the Boy Scouts of America on National Coming Out Day (October 11th). Starting in 2018, Cub Scout packs will have the option to accept girls, and in 2019 the BSA hopes to have a program ready for young women to earn the rank of Eagle Scout. I know many of my fellow Eagle Scouts and other Scout brothers will disagree with me on this important decision by our beloved organization. I believe the BSA is making a mistake, not because I believe girls and young women to be incapable of living up to the BSA’s standards, but because this decision seems to be a thinly disguised attempt to revitalize for modern times when in reality it betrays the core mission of the BSA and ignores other options for change and gender equality.

The decision to allow young women into Boy Scouting comes after a considerable push by families and girls to have the ability to earn the Eagle Scout rank. Back in November 2016, I shared a video by NowThis Her on Facebook about a girl who was fighting for inclusion in the BSA in order to obtain Eagle rank. The video painted the BSA as “discriminatory” and claimed that the US government should defund the organization until it ended such discrimination. It isn’t just individual women who want to be included in Scouting, either. The press release from also cites general changes in family wants and needs:

Families today are busier and more diverse than ever. Most are dual-earners and there are more single-parent households than ever before [1], making convenient programs that serve the whole family more appealing. Additionally, many groups currently underserved by Scouting, including the Hispanic and Asian communities, prefer to participate in activities as a family. Recent surveys [2] of parents not involved with Scouting showed high interest in getting their daughters signed up for programs like Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, with 90 percent expressing interest in a program like Cub Scouts and 87 percent expressing interest in a program like Boy Scouts.  Education experts also evaluated the curriculum and content and confirmed relevancy of the program for young women.”

The studies cited are as follows: [1] PEW Research Center survey conducted Sept. 15 – Oct. 13, 2015 among 1,807 U.S. parents with children younger than 18. [2] BSA surveys included two external surveys and four internal surveys conducted from April to September 2017. Surveys were conducted online.

It may seem that this decision was one made to provide a wider berth of services to American families, but the main objection many raise is about the role of the Girl Scouts of America. According to RT News, Girl Scout leaders such as Muriel Berry, Director of Communications for Girl Scouts of Kansas Heartland and GSA President Kathy Hopinkah Hannan say that the leadership of the BSA never approached them about the plan, with Berry adding that the relationship between the two organizations was a “formidable, wonderful partnership.”

Both of my younger sisters were Girl Scouts, and the older of the two even earned her Silver Award (perhaps comparable to the Life rank in Boy Scouting). My mother, a Girl Scout leader of both of their Troops, still made time for helping me with my Boy Scouting requirements, and kept me on top of completing the necessary steps in my Eagle service project. My father continues to serve Boy Scouting as a Troop leader for my younger brother. The invaluable effort that my entire family gave to my Scouting career is something I am eternally grateful for.

Anecdotal evidence typically does not hold much power in an argument, but it can often point to something greater. I’m not saying that all families are like mine, or that my family’s case of a united appreciation for Scouting programs across the genders is the norm. There are ways to get involved in the organization of the opposite gender as the organizations stand now, and the option to deepen that involvement without complete integration is something I don’t think was fully explored.

I suppose that’s the main question surrounding this decision: why not full integration? Michael Surbaugh, Chief Scout Executive of the BSA, says that “This decision is true to the BSA’s mission and core values outlined in the Scout Oath and Law. The values of Scouting – trustworthy, loyal, helpful, kind, brave and reverent, for example – are important for both young men and women.” I agree wholeheartedly. That is why, drawing upon my own research and what I observed from my sisters’ participation, I offer my input to any GSA leader looking to revitalize the Girl Scout program for today’s young women. A program that is widely seen as only selling cookies and making crafts would naturally fall behind a program that bestows an instant eye-catcher on a resume and has produced national heroes, from presidents (Gerald Ford) to astronauts (Buzz Aldrin). To speak for the prestige of the award, only four percent of Scouts attain the Eagle rank.

Yes, you may say, we can revamp the Girl Scouts, but the Gold Award is far less reputable than an Eagle Scout award. Few people know the effort that goes into achieving one and as a result girls feel that they have no incentive to work for it. Because of this, a young woman would rather achieve something far more prestigious and helpful to her future: the Eagle Scout award. My answer to this criticism shifts unjust failings in this department to that abstract beast I love to wrestle with named “society.” A vast majority don’t know about the dedication and work that goes into earning one. Merely perusing the requirements online (which can be found here: gives me the impression that this would have been a much more daunting task than an Eagle project. Even when projects went beyond building picnic benches for a park or a bridge over a local trail’s swamp, the Eagle award has a bit more structure than what the Gold Award seems to require. I don’t mean to put down the Eagle rank at all; my point is that the Gold Award is at the very least as challenging and demanding as its corresponding award in Boy Scouts. Changing societal attitudes about it starts with you. If you find yourself in a position of hiring or admission and you see a Girl Scout Gold Award, remember that time you followed my link and were impressed by the requirements for that award, and admit that dedicated young woman into your organization. Don’t stop there; encourage all of your friends and connections in similar situations to do the same. “Be the change you wish to see in the world” and all that. (By the way, recipients of both awards can enter the armed forces one rank higher than an average enlistee.)

By this point you may be frustrated. How can such a hard-line libertarian not advocate for the right of a private organization to change its policies and not have to justify them? Or better yet, I might be a filthy sexist for criticizing a private organization for making the progressive and moral decision to join the current year. Yes, I am a hard-line libertarian; yes, I’m criticizing their decision; and no, I’m not a filthy sexist. Another major question that is vitally important is whether the BSA is a private or a public organization; that is, whether they receive any federal funding. The BSA is a private, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization chartered by the US Congress; however, it does not actually receive funds from said Congress. Most funding comes from local councils, donations, membership dues, and the national sale of Scout merchandise and magazine subscriptions (shout out to the staff at Boys’ Life; I still have my Pedro pin from the 2010 National Jamboree and your concluding monthly jokes were hilarious to pubescent me). Boy Scout Troops and councils usually have permission for the use of public property such as schools and government buildings (as is customary for community-centered organizations), but they do not receive a direct monetary benefit. If they are a publicly funded organization, legally speaking they would have to abide by the 1963 Civil Rights Act against discrimination. However, by all apparent evidence, any government benefit the BSA receives is indirect, making it a private organization. The NowThis Her video I mentioned at the beginning of this piece brought up the fact that the BSA’s rules were written at a time before women had the right to vote. Those rules still happened to stick around after women gained that right, and even outlived second-wave feminism in the 1960s. All because, as a private organization, the BSA had the right to make its own rules for membership and not have to justify them to the public. Then, as now, people were mad, but there was and is no way to legislate a solution.

In the end, it seems like the fiasco is all about where choice should lie. Cub Scout packs won’t be required to let in girls, and young women can choose to not work towards Eagle. The Girl Scouts will still exist, and with the BSA’s decision new families may choose to sign their children up while more traditional members may choose to stop participating. I’m not quite sure yet whether I will sign my future children up for Cub Scouts and encourage them to continue into (Boy) Scouts. For me, Troop 375 was a place of escape from the social pressures of facing members of the opposite sex. I was never a “hit her it means you like her” guy, and I didn’t enjoy people that were; I was more of a “oh god she breathed at me” guy. As much as the word gets mocked and tossed around, Boy Scouting provided a safe space for me, away from all of that. Taking that away in the name of equality and anti-discrimination, especially when so many other options catered to each gender exist, is a pretty stupid decision to this Eagle.



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