Of all places, Slate.com has a strange piece about the Boy Scouts of America considering accepting girls into their ranks, and the Girl Scouts of America being, well, kinda pissed about it.
The Czar serves as a “committee member at large” for Muscovy’s local troop, although the Troop refers to him as a “consultant at large.” The Czar, as he has mentioned before, teaches the troop (and potentially other troops, provided they ask) all sorts of outdoor and survival skills that most suburban dads haven’t mastered. As a result of this, he’s fairly hip about a lot of things going on inside the organization.
And as far as the Slate story goes, yeah, it’s true. But there’s are a couple of errors or unintentional omissions. Here they are:
- If you count Venture Scouts, Sea Scouts, Air Scouts, and other teenager-oriented programs—which are part of the BSA, so you should—the Boy Scouts of America have had co-ed programs for decades. Girls are not a new thing to Boy Scouts, that’s for sure.
- The story quickly wanders into child abuse allegations, even though the BSA has done an impressive job developing state-of-the-art background checks and training to prevent this. This is a tired news story from the 1980s, and it’s a stale, eye-rolling subject within scouting. “This again?” Evidently, for Slate, this is still a hot topic. Imagine if everytime we talked about Slate.com, we brought up their disastrous paywall campaign in 1998.
- The idea to bring in girls is coming from outside the organization, not inside.
We should talk about that last one for a minute. Our troop was contacted by the local council, asking quite politely what the troop leadership’s reaction would be, positive or negative, about bringing girls into the organization. During that discussion, the council explained that BSA was getting an overwhelming number of inquiries from parents of girls about letting them join.
Politically, as we know, the Girl Scouts of America is undergoing a crisis for having been promoting Planned Parenthood and other liberal causes, and at least one Catholic archdiocese is terminating its support over the depth of it (and the Mormons have bailed on Boy Scouts for similar stipulations). However, that isn’t the whispered reason so many parents are calling in.
The reason is that parents of Girl Scouts are concerned their daughters aren’t learning anything. As readers have been reading here, the Boy Scout merit badge program is pretty robust, and many of the survival skills being taught are excellent. Too excellent, in fact—and many parents want their daughters to learn them.
Girl Scouts have a Survival Camper badge, but the requirements are incomparable to the Boy Scouts’ Wilderness Survival merit badge. They are also a far cry from what they used to be, according to the Czar’s resident expert on Girl Scouts, his wife. The Царица is herself a Gold Award recipient from the Reagan era, and wrings her hands over the dumbing down of the programs offered by the GSA: “Art in the Outdoors—Girls get outside and explore colors, shapes, light, and shadow as they create art inspired by the natural world.” Check out the current list to see more.
Now, a lot of these are pretty serious, and Czar is not mocking. But he can sympathize easily with moms and dads who believe their daughters can be much more than happy homemakers with the ability to pump their own gas. The Girl Scout program starts of age appropriate, but tends to stay on the safe side. This is within the power of Girls Scouts of America to change. Give the girls much, much more challenging opportunities. In our experience, they will succeed and even exceed.
But the real sticking point is the end game. Do you know what a Gold Award is? It’s the highest rank the girls scouts offer, and most of us have no clue what that is, what it’s called, and whether it’s easy to get. Well, it’s not easy to get, and any girl who achieves it should view it as a massive accomplishment.
Now if the Czar asked you about the Eagle Scout award, you’d probably get a sense that some massive trial was overcome, and the young man in question has gone through hell to earn it and learned something from it. That’s true—and Eagle Scouts know to put that on résumés, scholarship and financial aid forms, notify their insurance companies (some carriers offer Eagle Scouts lower premiums as they tend to be responsible drivers), job applications, and more. The Czar knows many job recruiters personally, and they all admit that Eagle Scouts get a second look almost automatically. It’s a serious fraternity.
So why does the Eagle Scout get the attention and the Gold Award recipient does not? Again, this comes down to marketing. There’s an entire website devoted to the Eagle award’s dominance. Here’s an excerpt:
The Eagle Scout Award. It’s Scouting’s highest rank and among its most familiar icons. Men who have earned it count it among their most treasured possessions. Those who missed it by a whisker remember exactly which requirement they didn’t complete. Americans from all walks of life know that being an Eagle Scout is a great honor, even if they don’t know just what the badge means.
The award is more than a badge. It’s a state of being. You are an Eagle Scout—never were. You may have received the badge as a boy, but you earn it every day as a man. In the words of the Eagle Scout Promise, you do your best each day to make your training and example, your rank and your influence count strongly for better Scouting and for better citizenship in your troop, in your community, and in your contacts with other people. And to this you pledge your sacred honor.
And here’s the Girl Scouts’ description of the Gold Award:
The Girl Scout Gold Award represents the highest achievement in Girl Scouts.
Open only to girls in high school, this prestigious award challenges you to change the world—or at least your corner of it.
By the time you put the final touches on your seven-step project, you’ll have solved a community problem—not only in the short term, but for years into the future—and you’ll be eligible for college scholarships.
Doesn’t that seem weak? Change your little corner of the world and solve a community problem? Or pledge sacred honor to lead the world into a better place?
Sure, this is quibbling, but it’s marketing, too—and the BSA is simply better at it. No wonder parents are calling in to see if their daughters can blend in. And look what else the BSA offers: leadership training programs, high adventure experiences in the outdoors, venturing, and more. The Girl Scouts have nothing competitive at this level…or perhaps, the better word is not competitive, but interesting.
For the record, the Muscovy troop leaders appreciate the value girls could bring to the troop, but we ultimately recognized that the disruption would not be worth the benefit. Instead, we came to the conclusion that the solution isn’t to bring girls into Boy Scouts, but to encourage the Girl Scouts of America to revamp their program. We understand it was softened so that girls would be more inclined to try it and stay longer, but that plan is evidently backfiring. Boy Scouts softened some things, but remained quite difficult and demanding on others. And that seems to be working a little better. The girls should give it a try.