The Boy Scouts of America has undergone major changes to its programs in the past few weeks. One of those changes is their welcoming of female youth.
However, the Boy Scouts of America and the Girl Scouts of the United States of America are not merging. The BSA and GSUSA have never been associated with each other, and they don’t plan to be. They are separate organizations, each with their own board of officers and different agendas.
The Boy Scouts of America has been a youth program for boys between the ages of 11 and 17 since its inception in 1910. Over time, the BSA developed many other programs including Cub Scouts, Sea Scouts, Venturing and the Order of the Arrow. Female youth have been allowed to participate in the Venturing and Sea Scout programs for more than 20 years, which are for youth aged 14 to 20.
As of Feb. 1, girls are now allowed to join the BSA, in their main program. In doing so, for the first time in more than a century the Boy Scouts of America will no longer be the main program for the youth, but rather an administrative umbrella organization for its programs.
The main program the BSA has put in its place is known as Scouts BSA. This program’s curriculum is almost identical to its predecessor’s, the only difference being that there are now two types of troops, a boy troop and a girl troop. According to the BSA, the reason for this is to implement a family dynamic into the values that Scouting has to offer.
Girls have been entering Cub Scouts, BSA’s introductory program for youth in elementary school, since early last year. This year-long gap allows girls to see what scouting is at a younger age and allows the main program to see how it can benefit having from girls go on their pathway toward Eagle Scout, the highest rank achievable in Scouts BSA.
Changes don’t stop there, as the decision also affects who is eligible for the BSA’s national honor society, the Order of the Arrow. Founded in 1915, scouts can be elected into its “brotherhood of cheerful service.” The organization has a lot of Native American influences, and participants can experience Native American activities such as dancing and singing, as well as giving back to their communities through cheerful service. Originally, to be eligible to join the OA, scouts must obtain the rank of First Class, have 15 days and nights of camping (including five days consecutively), and be voted in by their fellow troop-mates. Now, female youth are allowed to join the brotherhood with the same requirements, although youth in the Venturing and Sea Scout programs can join if they obtain a rank equivalent to first class.
A lot of people seem to be very upset with all of this progression in the BSA, whether they understand the changes or not. But Scouts BSA will still provide the same material, along with the same ranks and badges. Nothing of importance is being taken away or replaced. The main difference to the program is allowing male and female youth to go through the amazing experiences that scouts everywhere get to treasure, providing them with opportunities and life lessons that aren’t usually found elsewhere.
Rather than opposing this change, celebrate it. It is a fantastic way to teach the next generation to lead society in the right direction, and to lead them toward service that will benefit the welfare of others.