Boy Scouts now welcome girls
*Editor’s note: Due to spacing in the print issue, we could not fit Jim Longworth’s entire opinion article in this week’s paper. The full version has now been updated online.
By: Jim Longworth
Call it political correctness. Call it co-ed scouting, or a gender-blind experiment. Call it whatever you like, but Boy Scouts of America is now accepting girls into its ranks, and for the local Old North State Council, that means an opportunity to serve families better.
As a 64-year-old former cub scout, I was skeptical of BSA’s new initiative, which now allows girls K-5 to join gender-specific cub dens while mixing with boys for family activities (older girls will join BSA in February 2019). So I asked Old North State Council CEO Ed Martin to bring me up to speed on how the new inclusive arrangement will work.
Jim: Why should girls join BSA if a Girl Scout Council is accessible to them?
Ed: For many years, families with sons and daughters have been asking the Boy Scouts of America to provide one program where the entire family can participate together. Families today are busier and more diverse than ever. Many do not have the time nor capacity to take one child to one program location and another child to another location. Also, the ability of boys and girls to participate in one program location is of great benefit to single-parent families.
Jim: What specific activities can a girl participate in through Old North State Council that she can’t participate in with Girl Scouts?
Ed: Both BSA and GSA are fine organizations that offer unique benefits to youth and families. However, there are many different program experiences offered within each organization. For example, the BSA has offered programs for young men and women ages 14-21 years since 1971 in Career Development (Career Exploring), and since 1988 in high adventure (Venturing). Some of the young ladies in these programs previously participated in the Girl Scouts and then determined that the BSA program was a better fit for their interests. Also, many young women have served on summer camp staff at Old North State Council properties for many years and then decided to participate in Career Exploring or Venturing.
Last year when BSA announced its plan to recruit girls, Girl Scouts Carolinas Peaks to Piedmont CEO Lane Cook responded by talking about the benefits of a single-sex environment. They told me, “I hope girls will continue to choose Girl Scouts because we are the girl experts, and are dedicated to ensuring that girls can take advantage of a program tailored specifically to their unique developmental needs, not one tailored for boys and adapted for girls. Girls thrive in an all-girl, girl-led environment such as Girl Scouts, where they can take center stage, and where the constant message is that nothing can stand in their way. In Girl Scouts, girls can try new things, take risks, and take on challenging roles. Our girls follow their passions without worrying about what their male peers may think about them. Girls succeed in positions that otherwise might go to their male counterparts in a co-ed environment.”
For his part, Ed Martin doesn’t see BSA and GSA as competitors, but rather as co-existing organizations that simply want to serve the needs of children.
“We realize there will be some young women and families that participate in BSA programs and then determine the Girl Scouts is a better fit for their interests or needs,” Martin said. “We encourage families to visit us, the Girl Scouts, or any other youth development program that will best meet their interests or needs. The Old North State Council is proud to support all families that choose to join local BSA programs, and help make the dreams and desires they have for their children a reality.”
Nationwide, over 3,000 girls have already signed up for BSA’s Cub Scout program, including 7-year-old Ruthie Bunthoff, who, last week, became Old North State’s first recruit. She comes from a long line of scouts, starting with her grandfather who was an Eagle Scout. Her mother Kathryn was also a scout, as are her male siblings. In an interview with the Greensboro News & Record, Ruthie said, “I want to be just like my brothers.”
Something tells me that Miss Bunthoff is going to make a great scout, and grow into a fine young woman. And I wouldn’t be surprised if someday, some little boy says, “I want to be just like Ruthie.”
Jim Longworth is the host of “Triad Today,” airing on Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. on ABC45 (cable channel 7) and Sundays at 11 a.m. on WMYV (cable channel 15).