Raegan pointed me at an article posted Thursday about a group of girls that were a den in a Cub Scout pack. The situation is one that we have had in our family, there are plenty of girls that want to do Scouting, but they want to do Scouting that is based on the Boy Scout program, the kind of Scouting that used to be practiced by Girl Scouts.
First of all, I think there is value in having some youth activities gender-segregated. Girls doing some (not all) stuff with girls, and boys doing some (not all) stuff with guys. You may or may not agree with this, but that’s fine. There are plenty of combined stuff, to include most schools, churches, and the like.
Second, I wear two Scouting hats, as I’m a leader in both Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. I tend to augment Girl Scout activities I do with activities that we do as Boy Scouts. You might correctly assume from this that I think that Girl Scouting does not place enough emphasis on outdoors activities. I know that girls can do all of the things that boys do in Scouting, to include camping, backpacking, shooting, etc.
Raegan has told me many stories of her growing up in Girl Scouts, and that back then the emphasis on outdoors activities was declining.
So back to the article. The girls in question were set up as a den in a Cub Scout Pack, with the agreement of Pack leadership. Good for them (all of them). The Boy Scout Council leadership eventually found out and objected. The girls want to bridge to Boy Scouts this upcoming Spring. I doubt they will be allowed to.
The girls could become Girl Scouts. While the Girl Scouting program does not prohibit the sorts of activities that the girls want to do, I can tell you that it does not encourage these programs either. We have a High Adventure Team (HAT) here in the local Girl Scout Council, which is good. But HAT is not a unit, or Troop, but is considered sort of an ongoing program, and the participation age starts at 11. We have not had good support in the past, but at least it’s getting better (see my blog post about our Durango adventure). The policies of the Girl Scouts with regard to the relationship between Troops and Councils makes it difficult to get and keep equipment, and raise funds to buy that equipment. We are always told to buy extra insurance, so our activities are apparently thought of as too risky.
Speaking of which, Girl Scouting is far too risk-averse. Policy requires the Council to be in control of all unit funds. The safety rules put a serious damper on having fun (one rule is that a certified lifeguard has to be present at any swimming; there are not that many certified lifeguards around). There are also silly rules in Boy Scouting, but having a certified lifeguard to go swimming is not one of them. Girl Scouts require a bunch of training before taking a group camping, with no ability to test out (for example, if you’ve been camping for 40 years). Boy Scouting is starting to ramp up training requirements some as well. I would hope that the organizations would accept the others training in this respect.
One other problem with becoming Girl Scouts is a fundamental problem of recognition. The Boy Scout recognition structure of ranks and badges is a darn good motivator. Girl Scouting is age-based. They do have the Bronze, Silver, and Gold Awards, but those are for older scouts (I understand that in order to earn the Gold Award, a Scout does not have to earn Bronze or Silver, which seems to me to be a bad idea). I think that having a rank to strive for is highly motivating for kids of all ages, even if you keep it age-based for the younger Scouts.
Boy Scouting does allow coed Scouting at 14+, in the form of Venture Crews and Teams.
I think I would like to see one of the following:
Neither of these will happen any time soon. I don’t know that Girl Scouts will ever go back to an outdoor-centric program.
As to the girl Cub Scouts, the best thing to do is probably to join Girl Scouts and run their own program based on Boy Scouts, to include awarding ranks, Merit Badges, and the like. They won’t be officially recognized by either organization (one due to DNA, the other due to Journeys), but the girls will have done the work to earn the badge regardless.