We all tend to have opinions about just about everything, some of them very strong. Too often we are guilty of deciding what we think based on limited information other than that we garner from sources with little more knowledge than our own. So it was for me with some of the recent changes in The Boy Scouts of America, most notably the inclusion of girls in the organization. For the first time in its history the organization is now open to young women ages eleven to seventeen. Girls now have opportunities to earn badges as well as the coveted Eagle Scout designation.
When I first heard of this I had to admit that I wondered a bit about how well this might work. I have four grandsons who have been active in scouts and two of them have earned their Eagle Scout rank. My son-in-law has also served as a scout leader, so I was familiar with the wonderful programs that have helped to mold my grandsons into leaders and young men of high character. What I did not realize is the extent to which the boy scouts have always been a family affair. It was only after talking with a very good friend who has been involved in scouting for many years that my eyes were opened to the real spirit of the program.
The Boy Scouts of America has always encouraged families to participate in the activities. When the boys make their cars for the soap box derby their sisters get to build models as well. Often whole families go with the troop on camping trips. Sisters of the boys often learn the same skills as their brothers and enjoy the same level of camaraderie. What they have not been able to do in the past is earn badges and ranks like the boys. The new rules acknowledge the unofficial part that girls have played in scouting activities in the past. Henceforth it is possible for a young woman to become an Eagle Scout just as her male counterparts have done before.
When we consider that the military has been open to women for decades it indeed seems a bit old fashioned for scouting to be available only to the boys. Any young woman with an interest in the skills and the adventures of scouting should be allowed to fully participate right down to receiving the awards. It’s not as strange a move as I had first thought. In fact, it’s something that has been happening informally for years and probably should have been considered long before now.
I think of my twin grandchildren who are a boy and a girl. The young man began a journey through scouting but eventually lost interest because his family was torn between his sister’s activities and his. Perhaps if she had joined him in the scouts and the whole family had enjoyed time together, he may have chosen to continue. Instead they found a common interest in things like robotics and rocketry where they each had an opportunity to demonstrate their individual talents while the whole family came along.
The rules of chaperoning in the Boy Scouts are so strict that I have few reservations about having girls involved. There have to be a set number of adults watching over very small groupings of minors. I know that my son-in-law often overbooked adults on camping trips to be certain that in an emergency his group would not fall below the required number. On one occasion a scout broke his leg and one of the chaperones had to take the boy to receive medical care. There were still enough adults on the trip to more than meet the rules.
The Boy Scouts of America are one of the finest organization in the world in my estimate. I have watched my grandsons learn and gain confidence in ways that no other group would have done. They have made lifelong friendships with their peers as well as with the adults who work with them. It is not an exaggeration to say that once the youngsters stay the course from cub scout to Eagle Scout that they remain faithful to one another and to the values of the organization for the rest of their lives.
I have a good friend whose boys were both Boy Scouts. She was always busy with meetings and camping trips and even welcoming international scouts to her home. She hosted parties and provided housing for scouts from Mexico who in turn invited her to their country. Over the years she and her family have kept in touch with all of their scouting friends celebrating milestones like graduations, weddings and births. The family aspect of scouting applies to long term relationships in which the participants share wholesome fun and dedication to the worthy goal of learning. It seems only fitting that such a remarkable experience is now open to young women as well.
All of my closest friends had sons at about the same time that I had daughters. We did lots of things together, including taking our children to swim classes. I wonder if my girls would have also wanted to join scouts alongside their male friends all of whom were heavily involved in scouting. How exciting it would have been to go camping and traveling to far away places with families that they already knew. I suspect that they might have become proud bearers of the Eagle Scout designation. They were perfectly capable of doing everything that their male friends did.
I’m now convinced that opening the Boy Scouts of America to the girls is one of the best ideas ever. I wish the young ladies well, and can’t wait to see the pride in the faces of the recipients of the rank of Eagle Scout. Including the ladies is right on target with the kind of progress that we need.