Starting next year, girls can be boy scouts, too.
Last week, Boy Scouts of America decided to open its doors to female membership. In 2018, cub scouting troops will accept members with no gender or sexual pre-requisite. The year after, this will expand to Boy Scout troops of older age-ranges.
The change alters long-standing policy for the better. There is no compelling reason for denying young women the right to attain the lauded rank of Eagle Scout, scouting’s highest honor. The leadership experience of such a program is, while not wholly unique, certainly prodigious in its own right. Confining membership to males alone is akin to discrimination.
The move is both morally praiseworthy as well as self-beneficial. In recent years, scouting has seen a decline in membership. By opening its doors to all children, regardless of gender or biological sex, the organization may have averted catastrophe.
Surprisingly, one of the fiercest critics of the move has been the Girl Scouts of America, perhaps because the group fears encroaching competition. It’s a valid concern — if young women are allowed this compelling alternative, it’s likely fewer will choose to enroll in the traditionally all-female group. The Girl Scouts run an excellent program with distinct strengths, and lower enrollment could harm the group’s ability to foster the best possible learning environment. It’s an unfortunate consequence.
Despite this worry, however, expanding the freedom of choice is ultimately a move that will benefit all. Young women will receive the opportunity to decide what is best for their own needs — a priority society at large should endorse in other areas, as well. There is absolutely no shame for those girls who feel they would enjoy a single-sex scouting experience more than a co-ed program. Girl Scout programs will remain on an equal footing.
Additionally, young men, by joining in civic association with those of the opposite sex, will internalize the perception of women as equals. In the end, this will help produce men of stronger character who will grow to respect the rights, freedoms and desires of women in their adult lives.
It goes without saying that scouting programs are not necessary to raise responsible children, but these activities do aid both personal and spiritual growth. The scouting community is a perfect place to establish cross-gender bonds that will shape how future generations intermingle. The Boy Scouts have long supported interracial mixing; it’s about time they incorporated gender integration, as well.
The times are changing. As the national community continues to break down artificially erected walls of gender conformity, everyone — not just women — will benefit. ■