It might be a numbers game.

By John Patrick Pullen
October 11, 2017

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) announced that welcoming girls has been approved ‘unanimously’ by the organization’s board of directors Monday. Sure to spark controversy, the historic decision comes after the organization has recovered from the politicized speech by President Donald Trump, at a time when the country is divided by gender issues, and in light of the fact that overall membership in the organization is down.

Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh described the decision as true to the BSA’s mission and core values and said it was about shaping the next generation of leaders. “The values of Scouting—trustworthy, loyal, helpful, kind, brave and reverent, for example—are important for both young men and women,” he said in a statement.

However, in August 2017, the Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) accused the BSA of having a secret plan to recruit girls. The BSA confirmed to BuzzFeed that it had been exploring allowing girls at that time, but that “no decisions have been made.”

Overall BSA membership is way down. According to the organization’s 2016 annual report, currently 2,085,310 boys aged 6 to 17 were enrolled in its programs. In 2000, 3,118,111 boys were enrolled in them. With membership down one-third, opening allowing girls is a necessity for the BSA’s survival, especially in 2017.

However before reacting, it’s important to read the fine print in the BSA’s plan, because not all packs will immediately open their doors to girls.

Starting in the 2018 program year, families can choose to sign up their sons and daughters for Cub Scouts. Existing packs may choose to establish a new girl pack, establish a pack that consists of girl dens and boy dens or remain an all-boy pack. Cub Scout dens will be single-gender — all boys or all girls. Using the same curriculum as the Boy Scouts program, the organization will also deliver a program for older girls, which will be announced in 2018 and projected to be available in 2019, that will enable them to earn the Eagle Scout rank. This unique approach allows the organization to maintain the integrity of the single gender model while also meeting the needs of today’s families.

In other words, while girls are allowed, they won’t be fully integrated by default. And resistance from the GSUSA should be expected, because that organization will no doubt want to ensure its membership numbers, as well.

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