The thing with culture wars is that they never end.
There's the temptation to claim victory prematurely while not realizing that another battle awaits.
President Trump's high value of traditional American norms perhaps understandably gives him a sweet spot for the Boy Scouts of America. He said as much when he spoke to the Scouts this summer about the “patriotic American values” the organization taught to many of his right-hand men, including Vice President Pence, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Tom Price, who was Trump's health and human services secretary before ethics concerns about a possible misuse of government money led to his resignation.
Each of these leaders will tell you that their road to American success — and you have to understand, their American success, and they are a great, great story was paved with the patriotic American values as traditions they learned in the Boy Scouts. And some day, many years from now, when you look back on all of the adventures in your lives, you will be able to say the same: I got my start as a Scout just like these incredibly great people that are doing such a good job for our country . . . Boy Scout values are American values, and great Boy Scouts become great, great Americans. As the Scout Law says: “A Scout is trustworthy, loyal” — we could use some more loyalty, I will tell you that.
But the Boy Scouts of America have been a lightning rod in the culture war for years, as it reversed its ban on openly gay troop leaders and welcomed transgender boys into its ranks.
And this week, the organization's decision about membership is moving a step away from the words of Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts Association: “Scouting is a game for boys under the leadership of boys under the direction of a man.”
On the #DayOfTheGirl, the Boy Scouts of America announced that it will welcome girls into the organization for the first time in its history.
Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh said in a statement Wednesday:
The values of Scouting — trustworthy, loyal, helpful, kind, brave and reverent, for example — are important for both young men and women. We strive to bring what our organization does best — developing character and leadership for young people — to as many families and youth as possible as we help shape the next generation of leaders.
Many Americans celebrate efforts to help develop young women into being the best individuals they can be. And despite the Trump administration being criticized for shutting down the White House Council on Women and Girls, the president has spoken about the need for programs to develop young women. In his statement on the International Day of the Girl, Trump said:
Today, the United States reaffirms its commitment to ensuring that every female, young and old, is empowered to pursue her dreams. We recognize that the girls of today will tomorrow be leaders in every nation and every sector of the economy . . . Around the world, the United States is working in communities to help girls know their rights, increase their self-confidence, and motivate them to be leaders in their communities. Ensuring young women have the access, education, and training they need to reach their full potential is critical to ensuring that the power, intellect, and skill of our best and brightest young women is unleashed for the betterment of all.
But many of the conservatives who share Trump's traditional views of America want this to happen outside of spaces historically designed as “boys-only.” Much of the criticism from social conservatives toward the Obama administration was aimed at its liberal views of sexuality and gender exemplified by protections for transgender students that Trump revoked.
These Americans see the Boy Scouts' recent decision as a continuation of that worldview. Trump supporter and Fox News personality Laura Ingraham said the Boy Scouts move was a response to a “very small, radical group of gender-benders out in the culture, who want to say there's no difference between boys and girls” in changing the original policy.
And others took to social media to criticize the decision.
But despite the lack of approval from some critics on the right, the change isn't that surprising. The Boy Scouts have been dealing with declining membership for years, combined with ongoing criticism from liberal activists directed at what some consider the inherently conservative values of the organization. Perhaps the thought behind the new decision comes from the belief that making America great presently means adjusting to the changing times instead of trying to replicate socially constructed views of gender in youths that may be becoming increasingly unpopular.