Girls In The Boy Scouts: Is It Good Or Bad?

Girls In The Boy Scouts - Good or Bad Idea?
Girls In The Boy Scouts – Good or Bad Idea?

Earlier this week the Boy Scouts of America announced that girls could now join the Boy Scouts.  From what I could tell this news has been responded to with more negative comments than positive.  Is integrating girls into Boy Scouts a good thing?  Or is this a very bad idea?

Jumping into this discussion there are a few things you need to know if you don’t already:  There are Cub Scouts and there are Boy Scouts.  Cub Scouts are kids in grades 1-5, Boy Scouts are for kids aged 11-18.  Here is how the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is planning to include girls from their own words:

“Under the BSA’s new plan, Cub Scout dens will be single-gender, either all boys or all girls.  The larger Cub Scout packs will have the option to remain single gender or allow both girls and boys to participate.  A program for older girls which will be mirroring the Boy Scout curriculum, is expected to start in 2019 and will enable girls to earn the coveted rank of Eagle Scout.”

To better understand the clip I shared above from the BSA, one needs to understand the internal workings of both organizations.

Understanding The Cub Scouts

Cub Scouts are the younger division of the Boy Scouts.  A ‘den’ is a smaller sized group of kids in the same grade.  There are four different levels in the Cub Scouts.

  • First Graders:  Tiger Cub Den
  • Second Graders:  Wolf Cub Den
  • Third Graders:  Bear Cub Den
  • Fourth and Fifth Graders:  Webelos (Stands for “We Be Loyal Scouts”)

A Cub Scout Pack is when all the dens get together and have one big meeting.  After Webelos the child can transition into the entry level of Boy Scouts.

At a young age I joined the Cub Scouts.  I was six and seem to recall from memory both the smaller den meetings as well as the larger pack meetings were family events.

When I would go to the smaller pack meetings they were at the “den mother’s” house.  The den mother was a mother of one of the other cub scouts who hosted the weekly pack meeting.  It was not unusual to see sisters of other Cub Scout members at these meetings in the background.  They usually didn’t participate with the boys, but they were around.

When I would go to the larger pack meetings, usually held every couple months at a Knights of Columbus hall or VFW or some similar place, there were always families present.  The cub scout pack meeting was for all the cub scout dens and focused on the boys in the various dens as well as the Webelos, but sisters of the Cub Scouts were there with moms and dads, and sometimes were allowed to participate in certain activities.

I guess what I am saying is that at the younger Cub Scout level ‘families’ are very much part of the experience.  They always have been, and always will be.

The BSA plans to keep the Cub Scout Dens gender specific.  They are giving the larger Cub Scout Packs control on whether the pack meetings will be mixed gender or remain segregated.

Allowing girls to form their own dens that are just for girls is not a big deal.  I don’t see a problem with that at all.  Having girls mixed into the pack meetings to me is not an issue either, I recall their always being around, and see them and full families at the pack meetings my young nephew partakes in.  They are even present and sometimes race pinewood derby cars at the Cub Scout events in ‘modified’ events to include siblings of the Cub Scouts.

The Difference Between Girl Scouts And Boy Scouts

Just a little history; the Boy Scouts of America were founded in 1910.  The Girl Scouts of the United Stated were founded on 1912.  Both have long detailed histories.  They are not associated or tied to each other in any way.

The Ranks

The Girls Scouts have programs for younger children just like the Boy Scouts have the Cub Scouts.  Here is how the Girl Scouts break down the various levels by age and grade:

  • Kindergarten to First Grade:  Daisies
  • Grade 2-3:  Brownies
  • Grades 4-5:  Juniors
  • Grades 6-8:  Cadettes
  • Grades 9-10:  Seniors
  • Grades 10-12:  Ambassadors

Boy Scouts start at around the fifth grade, or age eleven.  A boy does not have to have been in Cub Scouts prior to joining the Boy Scouts, but 85% of them move up from Cub Scouting.  Boy Scouts move through several phases, or ranks.

To advance in rank a Boy Scout has to have been in the previous rank for a certain amount of time and have achieved merit badges (some required, some elective, depends on the rank).  They must also meet with their Scout Master to review their progress and stand before a ‘board of review’ where six Scout Officials will either approve or deny the rank advancement.  A Boy Scout must meet the time and merit criteria, but also have been an exemplary Scout in order to advance.

Sounds a little militaristic, doesn’t it?  It is to a very small extent.  Here are the Boy Scout Ranks:

  • Scout
  • Tenderfoot
  • Second-Class
  • First-Class
  • Star
  • Life
  • Eagle  (Usually attained by Age 18)

I was in the Boy Scouts until First-Class.  I actually became uninterested in it because other things in my life distracted me.  Girls a little, getting my driver’s license played a part in it too.  But I also quit because I didn’t have any tight bonds with the other boys in my troupe.  I had a couple friends who were not in Scouts that I would always go fishing, hiking, camping, and hunting with.

After age 18 a boy is no longer a boy, and can no longer be a Boy Scout.  They can of course still go on to be active in scouting as a volunteer, but can no longer achieve ranks or merit badges.

Difference In Curriculum

I did some research online and found that there are some similarities in the curriculum between the Girl Scout and Boy Scout programs, but there are also some things that are different.  That makes sense, because boys will be boys and girls will be girls… right?  Darn right.

Girl Scouts sell delicious cookies!  Boy Scouts sell yummy popcorn!

Both have various merit badges that can be attained by studying and applying knowledge learned on various subjects.  Subjects fall under broader categories such as; Life Skills, Citizenship, Health, Outdoors, Finance, Entrepreneurship, Communication, Goal Setting, Decision Making, etc… etc…

A study performed in 2011 on Gender and Society analyzed the curriculum between the two groups and found that the Girl Scout are generally discouraged from scientific pursuits while Boy Scouts are pushed away from artistic interests.

The study found that boys were encouraged to find answers to questions on their own by researching know sources, which fosters ‘intellectual dependence’.  Where girls were encouraged to go out and do what is called ‘original research’ by making inquires.  This is probably why men never stop and ask for directions, while women have no problems at all doing so!!  Blame the different Scouting Programs!

Breaking it all down the Boy Scout Program tends to promote a more frontiersmen like ethos that is connected to civic responsibilities with a strong outdoor narrative.  While the Girl Scout program is focused more on the modern urban movement along with civic and outdoor undertones.

Eagle Scout And Gold Arrow

The Boy Scouts have the prestigious Eagle Scout Rank.  The Girl Scouts have the Gold Award.

Sadly, from what I have read online, the Gold Award does not get the kind of recognition that a young man receives when he achieves the rank of Eagle Scout.  I don’t know why that is.  Maybe it is just the perception people have.  I believe they are both equal, but feel that perhaps the Eagle Scout rank is just more well known.

Let’s take a look at the two achievements:

  • Eagle Scout: To earn this rank, a Boy Scout must pass through all the preceding ranks add earn 21 merit badges (some required, others are elective), spend six months in a troop leadership position, meet with a scout master and finally “plan, develop, and give leadership to a service project for any religious organization or any school or community”.  After completing all of those various tasks, the Boy Scout must also appear in front of an Eagle Scout board of review and be approved for the rank.
  • Gold Award:  In order to earn a Gold Award the Girl Scout must be in high school and must complete a seven-step program to solve “a community problem”.  The steps are specific and clearly outlined: “identify an issue”, “investigate it thoroughly”, “get help and build your team”, “create a plan”, “present your plan and gather feedback”, “take action” and “educate and inspire”.  Every year there are ten recipients of the Gold Award are additionally honored as National Young Women of Distinction.

To me it sounds like both are incredible levels of achievement.  In case you didn’t know here are some perks of having attained either of the above:

  • Gold Award and Eagle Scouts enter Military Service at one rank higher with all benefits befitting that higher rank (pay).
  • Both are eligible for many scholarships, some partial, some full, that only Eagle Scouts and Gold Award recipients can apply for.
  • Adding your scouting achievement to a college resume carries an incredible amount of weight in the acceptance process.

Why Would Girls Want To Be In Boy Scouts?

Looking at all the above information I researched and have shared, it is evident that both the BOY and Girl Scout programs are similar.  However, I have found that there are girls out there that are not interested in the Girl Scouts, and would prefer to join the Boy Scouts.

Why is that?

Let me start to by telling you about a young girl in my family.  She loves the outdoors, enjoys fishing, camping, hiking, hunting… all things outdoors.  She joined the Girl Scouts to be around other girls of similar interests.  But she didn’t find what she was looking for.  Instead of camping outside with an open fire, her Girl Scout group ‘camped out’ in the basement of another girl’s family home and watched movies.  Projects they did were meant to develop craft skills, baking and the usual education on civics.

It wasn’t what she was looking for.  And she heard how the Cub Scouts in her school were going out camping, learning how to cook over open fires, setting up tents, whittling, learning about animals in the forest… you get the idea.  That’s what she wanted to do.

I went online and did some other research, and found many stories of girls quitting Girl Scouts because they wanted to be doing more outdoorsy things and were not getting that from the Girl Scouts.

One lady I was reading blog posts from looked back at her quitting the Girl Scouts and explained this: “In the three months I was involved, all we did was make cupcakes and play games and giggle. No camping trips, not even any plans for any camping trips.”

Here is another comment I read on a blog by a woman looking back at her childhood regarding scouting:  “My parents tried to give me a similar experience to boy scouts and took me camping and canoeing and things like that, but I seriously spent most of my childhood flaming jealous of the boys and wishing I were a boy because I wanted to be in their boy scout troupe. It was completely unfair and still bothers me.”

I did some further research and found that the Girl Scouts can potentially do a lot of camping, but it depends largely on the group of girls and the mothers leading them.  Some moms who are Girl Scout leaders are not into the outdoors, and so girls in scouting under them don’t get the outdoors experience.  Many girls want that, and don’t get it from the Girl Scouts.

Why Did The Boy Scouts Of America Decide To Let Girls Join?

Every now and then you would hear about a girl of group of girls trying to join the Boy Scouts and it would fail.  While some girls do want to join up, the pressure on the BSA to let them do so has not ever been overly elevated.

So why are they allowing it now?

I suspect it might have to do with money.  You see, both the Boy Scouts and Girls Scouts or downsizing.  Not nearly as many kids are joining up into either group as they had done ten or fifteen years ago.

Another thing to think of is that the BSA already had a cooed program.  It is called “Venturing”.  You can read about it here.  Granted, the Venturing program is not set up along the same lines as the typical Boy Scout curriculum with badges and rank, but it does provide an opportunity for girls not getting the outdoor experience they want from Girl Scouts to get it in Boy scout Venturing program.

Of course, the BSA claims that by allowing girls into the Boy Scouts it allows them to attain the prestigious Eagle Scout rank.  In a way doesn’t that seem like the BSA is putting down the Gold Arrow awards as if to imply it is not of equal value?

Final Thoughts

While the BSA has now decided to allow girls in, it still sounds like the dens will be segregated and that the pack meetings for Cub Scouts could go either way, depending on how the pack wants to handle it.

As for the older girls joining Boy Scouts… I am not sure how that is going to be implemented.  In the news statement from the BSA they do not say one way or another if girls will be segregated from boys between the ranks of Scout and Eagle Scout.  They just state that a program for older girls will be mirroring the current Boy Scout program to being in 2019.

Does that mean cooed camp outings?  Or will local troupes also be segregated?  The BSA will have to elaborate more on that and let us know how exactly they plan to implement the program.

As of right now I don’t know where I stand on this issue.  Personally I think having girls around while I was in Boy Scouts would have caused a lot more awkwardness in my life than I already had.  Being around ‘just the guys’ had it’s benefits.  And I am sure girls looking back at their time in Girl Scouts would think the same thing.

But with that said I have nine step-granddaughters and I want every single one of them to have the same opportunities as boys and men.  Can they not get from the Girl Scouts what boys get from the Boy Scouts?  I guess it depends on who is leading the group.

Thanks for reading,



TD is the owner and publisher of TD All Outdoors. He has been enjoying the outdoors since since he was a child. Over the years he has spent as much time as he can solo wilderness canoe tripping, overlanding, hiking, fishing, bushcrafting, hunting, hammock camping, and more. Aside from this blog, he also own his own coffee brand,

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