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Scouting Out New Horizons In 2019

Troop 876 of Alexandria, Virginia reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
Avery Kleinman/WAMU
Troop 876 of Alexandria, Virginia reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

On February 1st, Boy Scouts of America began accepting girls into its ranks after a century of operation. To reflect the new policy, it’s rebranded as Scouts BSA.

So far this year, more than 8,000 girls nationwide have joined Scouts BSA, according to a Boy Scouts of America spokesperson. Many have embraced the opportunity to hone skills that have sometimes been less accessible to Girl Scout troops, such as fishing, camping and using a knife.

But not everyone has welcomed the change. From The New York Times:

The Boy Scouts of America’s 2017 policy shift was hailed by the organization as a way to help shape new female leaders, but it was met with immediate backlash — including vocal opposition from within and from the Girl Scouts, which saw the move as an attempt to siphon off its members to offset declining Boy Scout enrollment.

In November 2018 the Girl Scouts sued, arguing the change in membership policy was infringing on its trademark and causing confusion among potential members. The lawsuit is proceeding in Manhattan federal court.

In a letter released by BuzzFeed News, Girl Scouts National President Kathy Hopinkah Hannan said BSA was advertising to girls in bad faith.

“Rather than seeking to fundamentally transform BSA into a co-ed program, we believe strongly that Boy Scouts should instead take steps to ensure that they are expanding the scope of their programming to all boys, including those who BSA has historically underserved and underrepresented, such as African-American and Latino boys,” Hannan wrote. “We are confused as to why, rather than working to appeal to the 90 percent of boys who are not involved in BSA programs, you would choose to target girls.”

How are these changes affecting scouting for boys and girls? And how do we map cultural change onto the infrastructure of youth organizations? We put those questions to our panel.

Plus, hear some original reporting from our producer, Avery Kleinman. Here’s an excerpt from her feature about a local all-girl Scouts BSA troop, which aired on WAMU’s Morning Edition:

Meet Troop 876. They’re girls, and they’re scouts. But they’re not girl scouts.

Instead, they’re one of the first all-girl troops to join the program formerly known as Boy Scouts, now called Scouts BSA. And after more than a century, girls are now allowed in.

Troop 876’s scouts are among the almost 400 girls who have officially registered for Scouts BSA in the Washington area. Boy Scouts of America National Capital Area Council officials say it has the most girl troops in the country — nearly 50.

“I was really, really glad that they opened up the program to us,” says 15-year-old Helen Wohlleben. She was elected by her fellow scouts to lead Troop 876 as its senior patrol leader.

Wohlleben says for years she watched with interest as her two older brothers climbed the Boy Scout ranks.

“I also want to earn my Eagle Award which is the highest rank in scouts,” she says. “It’s been a dream of mine for a long time, before they even announced girls could do it.”

You can read and hear more here.

Show produced by Avery Kleinman. Text by Kathryn Fink.


Ben Jordan, Professor of History, Christian Brothers University; Author, “Modern Manhood and the Boy Scouts of America”

Erin Eisner, Chief Strategy Officer for Culture and People, Boy Scouts of America

Janet Hyde, Professor of Psychology and Gender & Women’s Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Susan Miller, Associate Professor of Childhood Studies, Rutgers University Camden; Author, “Growing Girls: The Natural Origins of Girls’ Organizations in America”

For more, visit https://the1a.org.

© 2019 WAMU 88.5 – American University Radio.

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