William Boyce founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910, after he encountered the chivalry of an English Boy Scout who had been a Scout under the founder of Boy Scouting in England, Lord Robert Baden Powell. Powell founded the program with the purpose of taking young boys and teaching them the importance of civic duty, outdoor cleanliness, and patriotism.
While his vision has stood for over a century, it was radically altered by the Boy Scouts of America Executive Council last week with their decision to admit girls into the Boy Scouting program. Many Scouts and supporters of the Boy Scouts are now asking, “Will this be the end of Boy Scouts as we know it?”
According to Chief Executive of the Boy Scouts of America Michael Surbaugh, “The values of Scouting…are important for both young men and women. We believe it is critical to evolve how our programs meet the needs of families interested in positive and lifelong experiences for their children.”
This explanation seems altruistic and progressive. But while the values of scouting — good conduct, honesty, civic activity, and leadership — are important to everyone, the Scouting program as put forth by Powell was designed to develop young boys into men. Boy Scouting was not meant to evolve into a family-friendly camping experience.
Powell became a revered veteran and a British household name following his strategic battle victories in the second Boer War, specifically during the Siege of Mafeking. After the war, he started writing a book called “Aids to Scouting” for men at war to aide them in their battle strategy.
When word got back to Powell that young boys had started to read it and practice the skills they learned, he sought to make a version for them with an emphasis on morality and cheerful service to others. Thus came “Scouting for Boys.” In 1910, the Boy Scouts started in America, and since then has been known for producing men of good character, dutiful citizens, and prepared members of society.
Powell originally didn’t even intend to cater to an audience of boys at peace, but rather, men at war. But once his mission changed, he created one of the best youth development programs ever. The idea was to take boys and have them learn from older and wiser men so that the boys could become productive and successful men in society.
The success of the program is evident through the twenty presidents of the United States who played active roles in their Scouting communities and held honorary roles while serving as President of the United States. President Kennedy was the first president who was a Boy Scout in his youth and President Ford was the first Eagle Scout to hold office.
Future female participants of the Boy Scouts of America will glean a great foundation in the pillars of Boy Scouting: proper outdoor practices through the Leave no Trace principles, high moral standards from the Scout Oath and Law, and religious virtue.
Nevertheless, the underlying theme of boys learning to become men will not be applicable because young girls are not trying to become young men. This will also present a host of dilemmas for Scout Leaders with regard to teaching style, logistics, youth protection, the buddy system, and sleeping arrangements.
Girl Scouts complain that the program does not provide the same level of camping options or outdoor adventure opportunities as the Boy Scouts. That claim is valid, but the desire to let girls into Boy Scouts because the Girl Scout program is deficient is misguided.
Because Girl Scouts of America has no intention of improving their program with regard to high adventure or emulating the Boy Scout program, other programs have been created to meet their needs. Some examples of alternative Scout programs include the Venture program for ages 14 – 18, Sea Scouts for ages 14 – 21, and the American Heritage Girls for ages 5 – 18.
While this decision will not bring about the end of the program, it will drastically alter the Boy Scout program as we know it and Powell intended it. And that’s a tragedy.
Austin Gergens is a freshman studying the liberal arts. He is an Eagle Scout.