By David Lau
In response to the editorial by Betsy Abraham regarding the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) allowing girls to join the organization, I would like to offer my point of view as the current Cubmaster of Pack 178, the Great Neck Cub Scouts.
I understand why some people are upset by this decision by the BSA. As soon as the news came out that the organization was allowing girls to join, I received a text asking, “Are there no more traditions left in this country?” People want to know: Why can’t boys just hang out with the boys and girls hang out with the girls—the same way it’s been for 100 years?
In her editorial, Ms. Abraham claims that this is a desperate move by the BSA to grow enrollment. There may be some truth to that, but I don’t believe that enrollment is the sole driving force behind their decision. Although enrollment at the national level has declined, enrollment in our local pack has actually grown every year (we currently have 93 boys in our roster). Instead, I believe that the Boy Scouts of America is indeed trying to fulfill the needs of the modern family.
Whether the Girl Scouts want to accept the fact or not, there are already many girls who have effectively been in Cub Scouts—even if unofficially. This is because the Cub Scouts has always been family friendly. Over the years, it has evolved from something that was purely boy-centric into something that has been more centered around the whole family. There are probably hundreds or thousands of girls who have participated in a Cub Scout event with an older brother who was a Scout—and they have enjoyed participating in these events. Many, like my own daughter, may have joined the Girl Scouts in hopes of a similar experience only to find it to be very different. This opportunity for girls to join as full-fledged Scouts is just a natural progression.
The fact of the matter is that there are 169 countries with scouting organizations around the world. Out of those, 151 of them are already co-ed. The United States is one of only 17 other countries that has kept the boys and girls separate. By inviting girls to join in the scouting experience the BSA is merely joining the majority of other nations who have already done so.
While the Girl Scouts organization may be angry at the BSA for trying to steal members, perhaps they should follow the advice of an old adage—don’t get angry, get even. Instead of criticizing the BSA for evolving to adapt to the times, perhaps the Girl Scouts should look internally and make the changes in the organization that would make it appeal to the lifestyle of young girls today.
Make membership more easily accessible. I have spoken to numerous parents in the area who have been waiting for a Girl Scouts troop to open up so their daughters can join. But nobody wants to step up to start a troop. Everyone wants to be in the troop, but nobody wants to lead. This results in lots of girls wanting to participate, but with no place to go. As a result, the waiting list grows and grows. Conversely, the Cub Scouts has an existing pack that anyone of any age can join at any time.
Be more inclusive of other family members. In my opinion, the Girl Scouts’ insistence that everything be for girls only has been detrimental. While I understand the whole “girls stick together” and “girls are more open with other girls” mentality, excluding other family members really does make it more difficult for the modern family, who has to divide and conquer every time the Girl Scouts has an activity.
And, most importantly, keep it fun and engaging. Whatever it is that young elementary-age girls are doing in Girl Scouts, it’s apparently not engaging them as much as they would like. It’s just not active enough. The curriculum for the Girl Scouts may have been developed in a different time when women spent more time at home, had more time to volunteer and did more crafts and cooking—but today’s young women and future leaders live much more active lifestyles, which include much more physicality. Think of how many girls play soccer or are involved in gymnastics or swimming. Given the option of running around playing a sport or sitting in a room with a bunch of other girls working on a craft project, I’m fairly certain that many girls would rather be running around. My daughter, who is currently a Brownie with the Girl Scouts, has been camping, shooting BB guns, firing arrows at the archery range and doing campfire skits with my son’s Cub Scout pack since she was 3 years old, and she absolutely loves it.
The Girl Scouts has been in existence for almost 100 years and there is no doubt that the organization has produced countless leaders in every industry. But just as the BSA is trying to adapt to the times, perhaps the Girl Scouts should look to make some changes as well.
Ultimately, only time will tell how successful this integration will be. Keep in mind that just because the Cub Scouts organization is opening up its program to girls, it doesn’t mean that the girls will come. But, if they do, I can guarantee that my daughter will be the first one in line.
David Lau is cub master for Pack 178 in Great Neck.