Because there are things happening in the world besides the election and the Cubs, including this video that was shared by a facebook friend, an upworthy-type item about a girl, Sydney Ireland, who has started a change.org petition asking the Boy Scouts to admit girls and allow them to earn the Eagle rank. I say “update” in the title because a year ago I wrote about another case of girls asking to become Boy Scouts.
The petitioner in question is not just a “social justice warrior” railing against whatever ism passes her fancy, to be sure, and what she’s done so far indicates that she is serious: according to one news article linked to from the petition, when her brother was in Cub Scouts, she became an unofficial member and unofficially did the same activities as the boys. When she reached Boy Scout age, she found a Canadian troop that let her join and attend meetings virtually and work on rank advancement at home, but she wants to be able to join the Boy Scouts of America for the specific reason of obtaining the Eagle rank, both because it’s “access to some of the best leadership training there is” and because “Eagle” has name recognition that other awards do not.
Now, one thing that is little known is that the co-ed high school program, the Venturers, actually has more of an emphasis on leadership than the Boy Scouts, especially with respect to the new rank advancements. Because these are high schoolers, the expectation is that the outings are no longer adult-planned (and, let’s face it, Boy Scouts promotes the “boy-led” troop but the outing calendar is put together by the leaders) but initiated and led by the crew members, and they advance by leading what are called “adventures,” as well as performing a major leadership-oriented service project, just as for Eagle Scouts. To be sure, these awards are new and based on a relatively recent overhaul of the program, but the opportunity is there, and, to the extent that there are “official” doors opened by obtaining the Eagle rank, those same doors are opened by earning the highest Venture rank, as well as the Girl Scout Gold Award — for instance, for each of these awards, the military allows new recruits to enter in at a higher rank.
What’s more, with respect to the Eagle cachet — yes, last year, an Eagle from our troop earned a full ride to a seriously expensive private engineering college, in part at least because of his Eagle rank — but, in fact, it was the Eagle project itself, which was a step above a typical project, that sealed the deal, as he organized a First Lego League robotics team for the parish elementary school. The Eagle provided the framework for this but did not in itself earn the scholarship.
And here are two more things to consider:
The key years for Boy Scouts are the middle school years; it’s then that the boys learn how to cooperate with each other during meetings and at campouts, where they have to learn how to pull their own weight with the activities, with the cooking and clean-up, and so on, and my husband has, on more than one occasion, had to mediate when disputes arose, or when a boy was upset with the way the activities were running or the food choices on offer. This is also the age when girls are considered to have an edge on boys in maturity level. While I certainly am aware that Scouting is co-ed in many other countries, I do think that, for this age group, there is a benefit to separating out the boys at this age, rather than having the more-mature girls on the outing take on all the leadership roles — especially since it’s increasingly the case that it’s boys, not girls, that are struggling to find their place in a world which doesn’t seem to value them or their abilities or interests any longer.
And, what’s also striking is reading through the comments on the petition: reader after reader considered the Girl Scouts an inadequate alternative to the Boy Scouts. I’m sure that Girl Scout leadership would be mortified to read these comments, that Girl Scouts offer nothing more than crafts and coloring — but, then again, maybe not, since the outdoors seems very secondary in the Girl Scout mission and key for the Boy Scouts, and there are plenty of girls who are more than happy to do crafts. Perhaps one solution could be for there to be middle-grade Girl Scout troops that specialize in the outdoors, and draw from a larger area than just one grade at one school, and then transition to the Venture program in high school for the rank advancement and structure. But, in the end, such a program needs leaders, and, for both boys and girls, they’re increasingly in short supply as sports teams take up so much time and energy, for both the children and parents.
Image: By David Fine (This image is from the FEMA Photo Library.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons