By Jacqueline Havelka
I like girls. I am one. But when I heard about the Boy Scouts’ (BSA) recent decision to allow girls, I thought to myself, “What’s wrong with them?”
As a mom to two Eagle Scouts, I know a little bit about the organization. When I heard that girls would be allowed even to earn the Eagle Scout rank, I was flabbergasted. My first thought was, “But girls already can be in Boy Scouts!” Scouting has a lesser-known Venture Scout program open to girls.
My second knee-jerk thought was “What will happen to Girl Scouts?” I’ll admit, I have a tendency to get fired up and start rants about things like this, but before I jumped to conclusions about BSA’s unprecedented move, I started reading articles to educate myself about why they did it.
All the while, I couldn’t shake my gut instinct that this was a corporate move on the part of the now very bureaucratic BSA. My reading confirmed that.
I was actively involved in our Texas troop for 10 years. Our troop works because of the incredible dedication of our local troop leaders, both men and women. They’re incredible dedicated people. But over that 10 years, I witnessed the BSA district council evolve into a bureaucratic nightmare. Tons of paperwork and permissions needed to do even the simplest things. Countless hours on the phone to reach the right council person to answer the simplest questions. In his excellent article, Peter Johnson says it best: BSA is too safe.
He’s so, so right. BSA has become so risk-averse that the programs are now watered-down and less appealing to boys. Scouting isn’t cool anymore. Many of our boys wouldn’t want to be seen in their uniforms, especially at school (heaven forbid). Once boys reach high school, Scouting competes with so many other activities and many drop out.
These are the reasons why local troop leadership matters so much. In fact, it is all that matters. There is a lot of truth to the statement, “Let boys be boys.” Any mom of boys would certainly agree with me.
Johnson says that running is no longer allowed at camp because it’s too risky. Huh? So BSA has responded to its loss of membership by doing what any corporate entity would do: increase their market share by allowing girls into the program.
To truly understand BSA’s importance, you have to see the transformation of these boys from the mom point of view. I’ve witnessed small boys who cried on their first campout away from mom transform into confident young men making eloquent speeches as they accept their Eagle Scout award. I’m not talking about my sons – both are eloquent, but they were happy to get away from me for a weekend campout once in a while.
Moms hover – we just do – and it’s important for boys to escape that for a bit. There’s lots of work to be done outside of campouts, and many troop moms dedicate countless hours, but moms on campouts changes the dynamic. I’m not afraid to say it: Men and women handle things differently. Here’s a great example. Let’s say a boy forgets his sleeping bag on a campout. The male Scout leader would say, “What are you gonna do about it?” The mom would drive two hours to bring her sweet, cold baby that warm, cozy bag. You know I’m right! I am eternally grateful for that male leader (L.C., I’m talking about you) who asked my boys how they were gonna fix it. Let’s not forget that the Scout motto is “Be prepared.” My sons are now in college, and I’m grateful they had to solve some of their own problems at a younger age. They are definitely reaping the benefits now.
I wanted to know what other moms thought, so I asked. (They don’t want me to use their names. My writing makes them a tad nervous.)
One mom active in our troop was very surprised at how quickly BSA made the decision to allow girls. She has no doubt that girls would benefit from the emotional, physical and spiritual development BSA offers, but she is concerned about weakening the Girl Scout (GSA) organization.
We all feel that girls on campouts will be a big distraction for both genders. Boys are already distracted enough! (Moms? Right?) The decision will place additional strain on adult volunteers. My friend says, “I can’t fathom how this would actually work.” I know there will be a lot more tent checks at night.
Another mom has a Gold Girl Scout and an Eagle Scout; she has been a GSA leader and elementary school teacher for many years. Needless to say, she knows kids and says the troops should be separate. The kids can be goofy, get dirty while camping and have no concern whatsoever about impressing anyone of the opposite sex. Girls need a chance to explore, learn and grow to their full potential without the pressure of a male-dominant society imposing limitations on them. These days, kids are under tremendous pressure to perform; separate troops allow them a place to learn from failure without worry about who’s watching. Well said.
Another mom, who has Gold Girl Scout daughters and Eagle Scout sons, said I struck a raw nerve. Up until now, she liked BSA’s steadfastly unchanging program despite the shift in social norms. She feels the organizations need to stay gender-specific. “Boys and girls need to flourish comfortably on their own. I think there will be a greater chance of sexual harassment and even assault if they allow opposite gender members in these respective organizations. Personally, I would not want my son or daughter to be in such a troop, and I hope GSA never allows boys.”
There are now 63 separate genders (and counting), but in my world, there is “he” and “she” and they need to be in Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, separately. Boys and girls already have enough other co-ed opportunities elsewhere. We all know they act differently in a co-ed group. The respective Scouting organizations provide a “safe” place for boys and girls to just be themselves.
Jacqueline Havelka is a rocket scientist turned writer, Houston reporter and WND contributor.