Why A Separate But Equal Scouts USA Policy?
To the Editor:
The decision of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) to welcome girls into Boy Scouts is fantastic. Girls have long been part of the Venturing program, which is for young people between ages 14 and 20, and more recently, they were allowed to be part of Cub Scouts, which is for younger kids. Now girls can be part of BSA’s flagship division, the Boy Scouts, which has been renamed Scouts BSA.
I have been both a BSA and Girl Scout leader in my 30-plus years here in Newtown. As a Girl Scout leader for ten years, I helped the girls grow and learn leadership skills in a nurturing, non-competitive environment. Later, my husband and I led the co-ed Boy Scouts Venture Crew 70, also for about ten years. Never once were our activities compromised by gender! The teens respected and supported one another while having awesome outdoor adventures that included backpacking, kayaking, ice climbing, and caving. The girls had a unique place to try out what were traditionally male activities, and the boys saw firsthand that girls are strong, capable, and innovative. The boys and the girls shared the leadership roles with no drama.
So I just do not understand why BSA is insisting on a separate but equal policy for Scouts USA, which is for youth ages 11 to 17. If the programs are identical, as reported, there is no reason to separate the sexes. Are the boys going to be uncomfortable around girls? That is a failed argument used against minorities/gays for too long. Will girls hold them back from true adventure? My experience says no. What is wrong with boys learning from an early age that girls can do anything they can do? Building respect at a young age may just help reduce the abhorrent behavior towards women we are hearing about way too much these days. There is no doubt in my mind that the boys that were part of our Venture Crew would never behave in an aggressive, entitled way towards women.
There is a legitimate argument that certain girls thrive in an all-girl environment, and that is the premise of the Girl Scouts and all-girl prep schools and colleges. I don’t disagree. And if a parent believes that an all-girl environment is more appropriate for their child, Girl Scouts stands ready to provide that experience. However, I do challenge Girl Scout leaders to offer more outdoor experiences to their scouts. Unfortunately, many adult women who are Girl Scout leaders are uncomfortable with camping and other outdoor activities, but they are a product of their upbringing — a cycle that can be broken.
Newtown is lucky to have both a thriving Girl Scout and Boy Scout presence. But be sure that a truly co-ed Boy Scout program for all ages is the right way to go.
Tracy Van Buskirk
18 Poverty Hollow Road, Newtown October 15, 2018
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