By Katherine Burgess
The Wichita Eagle
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Some see the move to allow girls to join the boy scouts as a way for or girls to have the same leadership opportunities as boys, others see the decision as taking away boys’ chance to just be boys.
The Wichita Eagle
David Clements is considering turning in his beloved Eagle Scout award.
Heather Conkle is planning to sign her two daughters up for Boy Scouts next year.
The Boy Scouts waded into controversy when they announced Wednesday that girls will be able to participate, from Cub Scouts to the coveted Eagle Scout rank.
Some see this is a chance for girls to have the same leadership opportunities as boys, and to have the well-known Eagle award on their resume. Others see the decision as taking away boys’ chance to just be boys, an attack on conservative values and a step in blurring the lines between male and female.
Clements, a Wichita father, said he loved his time in Boy Scouts. The organization was started for young men and “has nothing to do with women,” he said. Now, his 9-year-old son wants to join Scouts, but Clements isn’t sure if he wants his son in the program.
“I’m heartbroken. I really am. Our country has lost its character, its moral fabric,” Clements said. “Our scouting program was supposed to be one of the shining lights. It just seems like there’s an attack from every direction.”
Clements said allowing girls to obtain the Eagle Scout award devalues the program and changes its very nature.
“If they want to have their own award at the end, have their own milestone, that’s fine, but the Eagle Award is solemn, it needs to be left alone,” Clements said.
Clements is one of many who described the decision as just another step in a series of changes in the Boy Scouts.
The organization ended its ban on openly gay scouts in 2013 and ended its ban on gay troop leaders in 2015. Earlier this year, it said it would accept transgender boys.
Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said in a webcast that “The Boy Scouts of America have successfully at every stage of this evolution caved to what they perceive to be an overwhelming cultural and moral, indeed political and economic pressure.”
Some opponents of the Boy Scouts’ decisions have turned to religious scouting organizations, such as the Assemblies of God Royal Rangers, the Southern Baptist Royal Ambassadors and the interdenominational Christian Trail Life USA.
‘Over the moon’
Conkle, however, said her daughters were “over the moon” when they heard about the Boy Scouts decision. Conkle has two sons in Boy Scouts and three daughters who have been involved in Girl Scouts.
The girls have attended Boy Scout meetings and even participated due to lack of a babysitter, Conkle said, something that ultimately made them want to join Girl Scouts. Yet when they joined Girl Scouts, they were bored, she said.
“In the Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts they shoot BB guns, on campouts we’ve shot bow and arrows, things like that,” Conkle said. “The Girl Scouts they advertise things like that, but they don’t do it, not in the lower grades anyway.”
Her girls are more tomboyish, Conkle said. Their Girl Scout troop in Conway Springs tends to focus on arts and crafts, not the survival and outdoors activities the girls would prefer.
Her oldest daughter wants to do both Boy and Girl Scouts next year, Conkle said. Her 8-year-old is ready to jump right in to Boy Scouts.
As for her sons, Conkle says they don’t mind the idea of having girls in Boy Scouts.
“They said boys and girls, when you grow up and have to work you’re going to be working with them anyways, so why not have activities with them?”
The press release from the Boy Scouts said Cub Scout dens will remain single-gender. Existing packs may establish a new girl pack, establish a pack that has girl dens and boy dens or remain an all-boy pack. The change starts with Cub Scouts in 2018.
A program for older girls will be announced in 2018 and available in 2019 allowing them to obtain the Eagle Scout. It will allow the organization “to maintain the integrity of the single gender model while also meeting the needs of today’s families,” the release said.
The National Catholic Committee on Scouting has said it will review the policy and consult national membership. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has said its programs will remain unchanged. (Both are major partners with the Boy Scouts).
Laura McLaughlin, a Girl Scout leader married to a Boy Scout leader in Wichita, said although Boy Scouts has a more narrow focus, Girl Scouts are tailored to individual girls’ interests. When she was a scout, she went on backpacking trips, learned to rappel and more.
McLaughlin thinks the change is unnecessary and will cause difficulties for both mentorship and logistics like camping arrangements by creating co-ed groups.
“It’s so much easier to work with them, to talk with them and be able to mentor the kids when we don’t have to fight through the hormones first,” she said. “I don’t think when it actually happens that it will work out how they’re saying.”
A wider trend?
Angel Kymer, another Wichita mother of former Boy Scouts, said she sees the change as part of a wider trend.
“We have Girl Scouts, we have Boy Scouts,” Kymer said. “In our society right now there is such a push for gender neutrality and people are forgetting girls and boys are different.”
David Kilby, an Eagle Scout, said co-ed scouting isn’t anything new. It’s been around at least since the 1970s.
Kilby, who lives in Florida, has nieces and nephews who he expects will eventually become scouts.
“Everyone needs to take one step back,” Kilby said. “People keep saying it’s political correctness or a money making scheme. It’s not even about that.”
While Girl Scout troops might occasionally offer things like camping, it’s a totally different experience from Boy Scouts, Kilby said. Camping trips are less frequent for Girl Scouts and they might stay in cabins rather than tents.
“Can’t they build a fire and cook over an open flame?” Kilby asked. “Can’t they do metal work, wood carving, things like that?”