By Carolyn Bahm
It’s not new for girls to participate in the Boy Scouts of America — the Exploring and Venturing programs have allowed girls in for about 40 years. The news in 2017 is that they can enter as Cub Scouts and Scouts, and they can advance to the rank of Eagle Scout.
“Girls have always kind of come with their dads and brothers and hung out,” said Richard Fisher, Scout Executive for the local Chickasaw Council in Memphis. He said the change means girls will be able to earn rank and to advance.
The change isn’t effective immediately, and the Chickasaw Council hasn’t received any formal inquiries yet, Fisher said on Friday.
Girls ages 7-10 can join as Cub Scouts starting in the fall of 2018. Girls ages 11-18 can join the Boy Scouts starting in 2019.
Most of the membership knows of the pending changes, Fisher said. He’s heard both positive and negative feedback from them, their families and the community. “When people are passionate, they want to speak up and know their voices are heard.”
The local Girl Scouts council, the Girl Scouts Heart of the South in Memphis, is among those who have pushed back against this national change. It particularly noted the Boy Scouts of America chose Oct. 11, the International Day of the Girl, to announce that girls will be able to join its programs soon.
The Girl Scouts Heart of the South statement said, “As Girl Scouts, we know these — and better — opportunities are already available in our all-girl, girl-led, and girl-friendly organization.”
Kimberly Crafton, chief governance and strategic engagement officer for the Girl Scouts Heart of the South, wrote that “… we feel it is our duty to be transparent with our membership and educate them on all of the factors that may be fueling the Boy Scouts’ decision to open membership to girls. Early this morning (Oct. 11), Slate ran an in-depth article analyzing Boy Scouts of America’s (BSA’s) current financial position and alluding to its litigation liabilities in light of its decision to potentially open some programming to girls. GSUSA was approached for comment on this story, and although we did not directly address BSA’s finances, we did emphasize our desire to ensure girls’ long-term safety and leadership development.”
Some other assertions in Crafton’s statement included:
The vast majority of Girl Scouts and Girl Guides around the world are in single-gender organizations.
Girl Scouts provide a safe space for girls to learn and lead.
Girls and families praise the Girl Scouts’ varied programing that already exists.
The Girl Scouts’ highest award, the Gold Award, teaches girls to take an idea from vision to an actionable plan with measurable goals and far-reaching impact.
Educators, scholars, the Girl Scouts themselves, and other girl- and youth-serving organizations have documented the benefit of this type of girl-centered environment.
Girl Scouts are girl experts with more than 100 years of experience helping girls tap into their leadership potential.
By Carolyn Bahm