What’s a Girl to do?

Does everyone lose when girls are forced to choose between Girl Scouts and the all new Scouts?  

scout photoWith the simple removal of one word, a firestorm opened up on a centuries-old organization known for helping boys build campfires and character. After recent years of facing criticism and opposition from the socially-minded community for suppressing freedom of gender preference and identification, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is soon changing the name of their Boy Scouts program to simply, Scouts BSA.

While this has appeased the more progressive-minded, some parents along with many in the faith-leaning population are taking the organization to task, claiming that BSA is pandering to left-wing activists and losing its way as an organization established with the mission to assist young men on their journey of exploring life and their own identity. No girls allowed.

After all, girls have their own organization. Girl Scouts of the USA has been around for nearly as long as BSA (1910 and 1912 respectively) and offers not only the “get your fingernails dirty” camp-style activities found at BSA but also programs that appeal specifically to girls. With the new Welcome Girls! sign now hanging over the door at BSA, where does this leave the parents of little Emma  who’s looking for a merit badge? And what does this mean for the once-amicable relationship between Girls Scouts and BSA?

With the announcement of the new Scouts program, BSA faces the loss of support from the Mormon Church which has declared that they are severing ties with BSA and taking the memberships of over 400,000 boys with them. With BSA membership numbers falling at an alarming rate, growth needs to come from somewhere and while targeting girls may seem like a logical solution, it comes at the expense of another organization whose sole mission is to provide a safe environment where young women can empower themselves while gaining compassion, courage and confidence. And like the BSA, Girl Scouts is experiencing its own recruitment challenges. Children today have a multitude of afterschool activities to choose from—from soccer, dance and cheerleading to debate, tennis, volunteering and theatre. Parents are overwhelmed, and children are stretched tighter than rubber bands resulting in families passing on signing their children up for an organization that may have passed its relevance years ago.

Except it hasn’t. In fact, both organizations offer more benefits than ever for boys and girls. And today, as women recognize that they no longer have to sit on the sidelines, girls now have the option of joining Girl Scouts or the soon to be, Scouts, BSA. And while both organizations have much to offer young women, the two organizations still differ on many fronts, with Girl Scouts still offering a tremendous advantage over Scouts, BSA.

Studies within Girl Scouts show that young women partaking in activities within a single-gender environment achieve greater growth and satisfaction in a variety of ways…

Better performance – Improved scores on achievement tests in a variety of subjects

Stronger ambitions – Higher career and educational aspirations

School Completion – More likely to finish high school

Self-Confidence  – Enhanced self-assurance and positive personal judgement

Employment Security – Higher probability of employment after graduation

Social Awareness – More politically and socially aware and involved

Whether parents choose to enroll their daughters in Girl Scouts or Scouts, BSA, the good news is that girls now have a choice. While Scouts, BSA is now welcoming and actively recruiting girls, it’s safe to say that this organization was created with young men in mind, and simply erasing the word Boy isn’t going to erase decades of a belief system that this organization was created as a place where boys can be boys, and girls are an afterthought.

So, while girls are soon to be welcome at Scouts, BSA, Girl Scouts offers a more complete setting for programs and activities designed for young women. Even still, for young women looking for something more hands-on, Scouts, BSA may be the answer. A mother in West Michigan recently pulled her daughter out of Girl Scouts because her daughter complained that her troupe, “Did a lot of sitting around, talking about feelings.” While Girl Scouts offers a balanced focus ranging from science and life skills classes to political and entrepreneurship programs, this particular girl might feel more at home at Scouts, BSA where building campfires and racing pinewood derby cars are commonplace.

Not everyone is thrilled about the news of Scouts, BSA opening its doors to girls. Girl Scouts CEO Sylvia Acevedo is quoted in a recent USA Today article as saying, “ We are disappointed that Boy Scouts of America has chosen to open its program to girls in contravention of its charter, rather than focusing on the 90% of American boys not being served by Boy Scouts. We believe strongly in the importance of the safe, all-girl, girl-led and girl-friendly environment that Girl Scouts provides.”

Even locally, Girl Scouts is feeling the pressure of the push by the local Scouts, BSA Chapter to enlist girls—believing that Scouts BSA is undermining the principle mission of the Girl Scouts—providing girls with experiences and adventures in a safe all-female environment while also serving as a support system to young women during challenging times in their lives.

Scouts, BSA will never replace Girl Scouts and shouldn’t, and parents need to simply see it as one more option for young women—and that’s a good thing.

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