On Wed., Oct 11, the Boy Scouts of America announced a new opportunity for girls to join their organization next year and gain the ability to reach Eagle Scout status in 2019. Michael Surbaugh, Chief Scout Executive, stated that Boy Scouts “[strives] 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.”
The Boy Scouts of America, or BSA, was founded in 1910 as a youth development program targeted to young boys. Now, over 100 years later, the organization is allowing full access to females interested in joining its troops. Earlier, girls could only participate with willing local troops and were still not awarded the traditional ranks despite their time and effort.
Early in the year, the National Organization for Women vocalized their support of women gaining access to the prestigious Eagle Scout award instead of stopping at the glass ceiling of Boy Scouts ranks, the “Ranger” award. Currently, girls can participate in four scouting programs including Sea Scouts and Venturing. However, this is likely to change in the next year.
While the “dens,” also known as Cub Scout groups, will not be mixed gender, this new decision has opened up doors to girls who do not fit in with the traditional Girl Scout program. Girls who have been denied the chance at an Eagle Scout award are praising the new ruling, but some such as Ilana Knab of Chevy Chase, Maryland, wishes they had changed the program sooner. Knab’s three daughters, 14, 16, and 21 years of age, held leadership positions in their Boy Scout troops and are overjoyed at the prospect of girls attaining Eagle Scout status. However, Knab’s 21-year-old daughter never had the opportunity to strive for further recognition in her Venture Scouting troop.
A unanimous vote from the Boy Scouts of America’s board of directors allowed girls to join their troops with open arms; however, Girl Scouts of America opposed this move, stating to CNN that “the need for female leadership has never been clearer or more urgent than it is today – and only Girl Scouts has the expertise to give girls and young women the tools they need for success.” In addition, BuzzFeed obtained a letter from the president of the GSUSA, Kathy Hopinkah Hannan, accusing the BSA of opening its doors to girls so the organization can bolster their faltering enrollment numbers.
(Sources: U.S. News, NBC, CNN, Washington Post)