Scouting teaches community values, personal character and leadership skills. Every child needs such development, and every child deserves a shot at becoming an Eagle Scout. Becoming an Eagle Scout prepared me for the rigors of West Point (where 40 percent of the Class of 2013 was involved in Scouting). Being a veteran inspired me to reinvigorate civic training programs at home. Becoming a father of two daughters has committed me to seeking to ensure that the nation’s best youth program welcomes every child.
Knowing the value of Scouting, I want my daughters to become Eagle Scouts as they approach adulthood. The Boy Scouts is an organization with no peer group for girls. Despite the similar name, the Girl Scouts is a separate but not equal group. Girl Scouting teaches youths to be strong individuals, but Boy Scouting teaches youths to be strong leaders. The organizations have different goals, different activities, different resources and different expectations for member development. The true counterparts to Boy Scouts are military scouts — today’s combat reconnaissance units. Robert Baden-Powell, the British founder of Scouting, was a war hero who wrote the book on both military scouting and Boy Scouting. He formed the latter to teach the values and skills of the former. Today, a combat veteran speaking to Scouts would be disappointed that she is the only female in the room.
Women can fly combat aircraft, graduate from wilderness survival schools and lead other warriors through peril and hardship. Women have earned Bronze Stars, Silver Stars and Purple Hearts in war. Women have leadership roles in government, business, academia and entertainment. Imagine what else would be possible with Scout training.
Perhaps the military, in integrating men and women, had it easier than the Scouts would in integrating boys and girls. Nonetheless, Britain’s Scouts successfully went co-ed in 1991. Schools, clubs and churches have trained boys alongside girls for much longer. And the Boy Scouts of America need look no further than its own Venture program for a model of co-ed adventures outdoors.
Scouting membership declined 16 percent from 2002 to 2012, according to the Boy Scouts’ annual report, even as the number of boys ages 12 to 17 has remained steady. Recruiting girls to Scouting could simultaneously recruit their parents and brothers. Parental involvement is often essential to retaining Scouts and producing Eagle Scouts. Parents can better justify investing the thousands of volunteer hours — weeknights, weekends and vacation days — over a half-dozen years to an organization that welcomes and develops each of the family’s children.