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A Slippery Slope for Scouting

October 12, 2017

So y’all know I am a Girl Scout troop leader. I was not involved in scouting as a child, unless you want to count the maybe three months in first grade that I was a Brownie before my dad got orders and we moved across the country.

My in-laws, however, are uber involved in scouting. The Husband is an Eagle Scout and is also a lifetime member of Girl Scouts USA. He has two sisters so, by default, he was involved in all aspects of both Girl Scouts (GSUSA) and Boy Scouts (BSA).

When the decision was announced yesterday that Boy Scouts would begin accepting girls, he was all for it. He thinks it’s great. He thinks the opportunity for our girls to earn Eagle and Gold is fantastic.

I disagree because I am a cynic!  I have two major challenges with this whole topic. One concerns BSA and one concerns GSUSA.

Both organizations are facing decreasing membership. There is just too much competition for kids’ attention. Scouting, which is fabulous, is losing out to club sports, electronic endeavors and homework overload. Instead of focusing on recruiting boys, I think BSA is taking the easy way by pretending to be all inclusive and welcoming girls. Only time will tell if there are any marketing efforts put into recruiting girls. I highly doubt it.  Instead I think BSA is hoping that all the girl siblings, who are already hanging out at their brothers’ events, will join the ranks thus increasing membership. They don’t really want the girls involved, but have figured out it makes good business sense to allow sisters of current boy scouts to join. It’s all about the mighty dollar, not about providing girls with leadership skills, confidence, team building and independence, instead girls are being used as pawns in BSA’s feeble attempt at increasing membership. There are countless boys who they should be focusing on.

By default, the girls who participate in BSA will, of course, learn valuable life skills. But I contend they will get much more from participating in a girl scout troop. The Husband has argued that the girls are not afforded as many opportunities for outdoor activities as the boy scouts offer. I disagree there are plenty of troops who do quite a bit of outdoor stuff (just not my troop because that is NOT my thing!) I will agree that GSUSA makes it extremely difficult to do outdoorsy stuff. The amount of training, paperwork, forms, contingency plans, etc are daunting. GSUSA has made it very difficult to just go camping or do anything outside.

Alas, my biggest challenge with GSUSA in this situation is their lack of focus on branding the Gold Award. All of the news stories last night discussed the prestige associated with rank of Eagle Scout.  I agree it is a wonderful thing. It’s beneficial for college applications, military rank, general leadership skills, community building, etc. but guess what? The Gold Award carries the same prestige, but not that many people know about it. GSUSA has done a terrible disservice to girls with their lack of focus on the benefits of earning a Gold Award.

People who I have talked to whose children have earned these awards almost all agree that earning a Gold Award, is actually more difficult than earning Eagle Scout, but the vast majority of the population have never heard of the Gold Award.  People also agree that the path to Eagle is harder than the path to Gold, but the actual requirements for the final project is where Gold is more difficult. I’m not arguing that one is better or more difficult than the other!  They are both fantastic awards that encourage scouts to develop amazing life-long skills. My point is that GSUSA needs to create a whole branding campaign for the Gold Award so that society recognizes the girls who earn it equally as they do Eagle Scouts.

Bottom line with this change, will it really affect me or my girls? Not really. If my girls want to go for Eagle Scout, I will support them through it to the best of my abilities. I just hope that we can find a pack where they will fit it. My concern for BSA is that while some packs will accept girls with open arms, I am afraid others will dig their heels in and not allow girls to participate, which in this crazy society we live in will likely result in even more legal issues for BSA; something they certainly cannot afford.

I admit I would rather let my conservative flag fly on this one and leave Boy Scouts to the boys and Girl Scouts to the girls, but I’m just one voice in a sea of millions.

 

Just an aside, as a PR professional, I think GSUSA could have maybe worded this statement a little better. While I agree with the sentiment, it’s harsh! WOW!

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