By: Tim McCandless, Scout Executive & CEO – Narragansett Council, Boy Scouts of America
My three older brothers and I grew up in Scouting and became Eagle Scouts in the 70’s and early 80’s. My sister Marjorie loved Scouting, too. She wanted to be a Scout but was not permitted to participate. Regrettably, she missed out on a major part of our family’s life. Marjorie would have made a great Eagle Scout and that is why I welcome Family Scouting being introduced this year.
Let’s be clear – Family Scouting is not coed Scouting. Our model will build on the benefits of a single-gender program and provide our iconic character and leadership-building programs to both boys and girls in gender-specific groups. However, the program will be the same for both boys and girls and busy families will benefit from a new, simplified option.
When the Boy Scouts of America started in 1910 women did not have the right to vote. For the most part, women did not serve in leadership roles in business, government or in civic life. “Family camping” was not a popular pastime. In 1910, 23% of women were in the workforce compared to nearly 60% today with women now making up 47% of the U.S. workforce. (U.S. Dept. of Labor, 2017). Today, women lead corporations, civic organizations, and universities. They not only vote, but serve at the highest levels of government and participate fully in our political process. Today, everything that we teach in Scouting is applicable to both boys and girls.
Girls in Scouting is not new – girls have participated in our Exploring and Venturing programs for teens ages 14-20 for decades. Now, girls will be able to fully benefit from the citizenship, leadership, life skills, outdoor education and character development opportunities that Scouting offers.
Our research shows that today’s parents want the benefits of the Scouting program for their sons and daughters. A report from the Pew Research Center shows that 4 in 10 parents want to spend more time with their children. And many young families want to achieve this by participating in activities together. If we don’t make the program accessible to families and remove barriers to their involvement, they won’t participate at all.
Beginning this June, families can choose Cub Scouting (grades K-5) for both their sons and daughters. Girls who join will participate in an all-girl group, doing the same activities as the boys and earning the same awards. Boys will continue to be in all-boy groups.
In 2019, we will introduce a new option for girls in grades 6 thru 12 to join troops for girls and give them the opportunity to achieve our highest rank – Eagle Scout. This will be in girl-only troops that are either stand-alone or may be “linked” to, or associated with, existing troops for boys. The experience for boys will not change; troops will be single-gender.
This change helps parents that want to serve as volunteer leaders. Busy parents will only need to learn one program, one set of rules, attend one training program, and go to one set of organizational meetings. Parents will find it easier to be involved with their children.
For decades, our different programs – Explorers, Venturing, Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts all operated under the umbrella of the Boy Scouts of America. Now, one of those programs will change its name from “Boy Scouts” to “Scouts B.S.A.” The name change is important—calling girls “Boy” Scouts is a misnomer. And what 15-year-old youth likes being called a “boy” or “girl”? These teens are growing, maturing, and developing into young men and women. I embrace the program name change—they’re now “Scouts”. But the name of our organization – Boy Scouts of America – will not change.
This new option for families is powerful. Speaking to parents of boys whose daughters joined Cub Scouts this spring, it is rewarding to hear about how they appreciate the opportunity to participate in Scouting together and how grateful they are that their daughters can also benefit from Scouting’s character development programs. More boys and girls will be prepared for success in life!
Though my sister, Marjorie, could not be an Eagle Scout, she is excited that we offering our programs to today’s girls and to the entire family. And my niece, Leah, is looking forward to becoming a Cub Scout along with her brother Toby.
Tim McCandless is the Scout Executive & CEO of the Narragansett Council, Boy Scouts of America which serves 13,400 youth in Southeastern New England. He is an Eagle Scout and the father of three Eagle Scouts who lives in Bristol, Rhode Island.