Yesterday Randall Stephenson, Boy Scouts of America national board chairman., stated the following in a press release, “I’ve seen nothing that develops leadership skills and discipline like this organization. It is time to make these outstanding leadership development programs available to girls.” And with the sign of a pen, girls are now allowed to join Boy Scouts of America. This announcement has been met with praise and objection.
I was not surprised at the announcement but offended that he would make such a profound statement. If he took the time to read the Girls Scouts mission statement he would know that “Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.” As a girl scout of almost ten years, I learned how to be a G.I.R.L. – Go-Getter, Innovator, Risk taker, Leader alongside some pretty incredible girls that remain my friends to date. Together we experienced the importance of self-confidence, integrity and the courage to do what's right. If you read the bios of most women leaders, you will see Girl Scouts. The alumnae spans almost every profession imaginable.
This announcement was long overdue because for years, we have been speaking out against gender roles. Girls can play with trucks while boys play with dolls. I tell my daughter daily that she can do anything that she puts her mind to, hence the reason that she has plans to be the President of the United States and has stated so since the age of 5. Scouting is about learning to think critically while navigating the obstacles of life. The focus should be less about gender and more about being a well rounded human being.
I am not ignoring the fact that girls and boys face different issues and I feel that some are best handled in a single sexed environment. It's proven fact that the separation is a great way to avoid distractions. It's also a way to feel safe and vulnerable. Unless your child attends a single- sexed school, scouts is one of few places where they might be open to trying new things despite the consequence of failing. Most of us learn from failing and trying again.
My daughter who has been a girl scout for five years and it has been a great experience for her. Would I let her join the Boy Scouts? Absolutely. As a leader, I saw how limiting certain activities were for the girls. When we tried to push back the response has always been liability. Do the boy scouts not have any liability?
I like a group that is kid driven with a parent guide especially as they get older and I saw this when my son was a boy scout. They were running the meetings, preparing all meals and plotting the course for camping trips. The older girls are encouraged to do this as well but I don't see a lot of it. Could it be a leader issue? Sure, but why aren't the girls speaking up. Most girls quit at middle school while the boys remain.
Imagine if the Boy Scouts and Girls Scouts sat and discussed a merger. Picture parallel frameworks, keeping camps and single sex activities where appropriate while championing an opportunity for coed efforts and programs. It could have been an easy transition that allowed both groups to flourish.
Both organizations provide children a safe place to grow and learn. Our world is already divisive so some cohesion would be nice.