Sydney Ireland is a member of Scouts Canada, Troop 80 in London, Ontario, which is co-ed, and an unofficial member of Boy Scout Troop 414 in New York City.
There’s a battle afoot between the Boy Scouts and Girls Scouts, and I am at the front of it.
Dubbed the “Scout Wars” by some in the media, the conflict emerged when the Girl Scouts raised objections over the possibility of the Boy Scouts opening up its membership to girls. Kathy Hopinkah Hannan, president of the Girl Scouts, charged the Boy Scouts with recruiting girls only to bolster its dwindling membership.
“The Girl Scouts believes in meeting the needs of America’s youth through single-gender programming,” Hopinkah Hannan wrote in a letter obtained by Buzzfeed.
Hopinkah Hannan is, I’m sure, well-intentioned, and the Girl Scouts is an irreplaceable institution. But she is mistaken about the Girl Scouts meeting my needs.
I am 16 and have been an unofficial member of the Boy Scouts for 12 years. I tagged along with my older brother, wearing the same uniforms, earning badges and learning to camp along with the other boys. The only difference between me and my brother is that, as a girl, I am not eligible for official membership or recognition in the Boy Scouts.
For the past four years, I have been publicly advocating for girls to be admitted as full members of the Boy Scouts. And I’m not alone: The National Organization for Women supports me.
“Women can now hold all combat roles in the military, and women have broken many glass ceilings at the top levels of government, business, academia and entertainment,” said Terry O’Neill, president of NOW, in a statement. “It’s long past due that girls have equal opportunities in Scouting.”
As Andrea Bastiani Archibald, parent engagement officer of the Girl Scouts, said this year: “No, [the Girl Scouts is] not meant to be the girl equivalent of the Boy Scouts.” And they aren’t. The programs, honors, and opportunities that the two programs offer are totally different.
Archibald touts the Girl Scouts as a group that is welcoming to all girls and their interests, be it art or the outdoors. “But if it doesn’t feel right for them,” she said, “I really laud their parents and those girls for finding space that is.”
I have found my space — and that is with Boy Scout Troop 414 in New York City. Contrary to what some might think, the Boy Scouts is not specifically tailored to boys. Its mission is to “prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Scout Law.”
With the Cub Scouts, I went on camping trips, built my own wooden car for the pinewood derbies, learned about what firefighters do and even earned the highest award, the Arrow of Light. With the Boy Scouts, I have been able to learn and teach first aid, earn merit badges, earn lifeguard certification, complete the mile swim (twice) and even take on the role of patrol leader at camp. These opportunities were available to me because of the Boy Scouts, and although I am not yet officially recognized as a member, I would not have been able to learn or teach these life skills without the program.
While the Girl Scouts provides a great program for many girls, I want young women to have equal opportunity to earn merit badges, ranks and eventually, the Eagle Award, which opens future opportunities. More than half of all astronauts were involved in scouting and 20 percent of West Point cadets are Eagle Scouts. Eagle Scouts are also often members of the honor society known as the Order of the Arrow. They are permitted to be members of the National Eagle Scout Association, making them eligible for scholarships and attractive for admission to select colleges, which frequently leads to highly sought-after positions in finance, technology and in the military.
Globally, the vast majority of scouting is co-ed. When the Boy Scouts does officially admit girls, not only would I and other young women gain from the challenges and opportunities that the organization can offer, but also boy scouts across the nation would benefit from a more inclusive organization. They would better see that girls can do anything that boys can do, which can only help all youth become better scouts.
Read more about this topic: