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Editorial: Where's the harm in girls joining Boy Scouts?

Based on many of the alarmed online comments regarding our article about Sykesville’s all-female Scouts BSA troop, one might’ve assumed that the Boy Scouts of America had changed their motto. Or the color of their uniforms. Or decided to start selling cookies.

Clearly allowing girls to join and rebranding their age 11-17 group as Scouts BSA was going to be a controversial move, particularly given our current outrage culture. But we have to ask: Where’s the harm?

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It’s not as if girls and boys will be sharing tents in the woods on camping trips. It’s not as if the Girl Scouts of the USA will be disbanding anytime soon. And it’s not as if anyone involved with this new troop seems upset.

Under the new program, any group of at least five girls with a chartering organization and committee can form a stand-alone, all-female troop, or an existing boys troop can add a linked all-female troop, as Sykesville’s Troop 417 did, according to Chad Geist, scoutmaster for the boys. Geist said he put it up to a vote so the boys in his troop had a part in the decision.

“We said, ‘Gentlemen, this is what we are thinking about. We want to know if you’re open to it,’” he told us, “and every one of them, to a ‘T,’ said yes.”

Several other troops may soon be forming in Carroll. Jeff Barnes, scoutmaster for the boys of Troop 393 in Westminster, said they have five girls interested and need only turn in their paperwork, while Randy Wineke, the charter organization representative for Troop 9 in Upperco, said his organization is looking for girls interested in forming a linked troop.

It’s not as if girls have never been a part of Boys Scouts. Since 1971, girls have been able to participate in the Explorer programs. Still, many question why girls would need to go into Boy Scouts given that there is already an organization known as Girls Scouts that has done quite well for more than 100 years.

While specific activities vary, in general, the proponents of girls joining Scouts BSA say Girl Scouts don’t focus enough on outdoor activities like camping. Certainly that isn’t true in all cases, but there were obviously a significant number of girls who felt they weren’t getting everything they wanted out of Girl Scouts. Plus, to some, rising to the rank of Eagle Scout is not only reward in itself, it’s also a nice line on a resume or college application. Before this change, only boys could work toward becoming an Eagle Scout.

Of course, joining Scouts BSA doesn’t have to mean leaving Girl Scouts.

“I’m in Girl Scouts still right now,” Aubrey Geist, 12, told us, noting that she likes the extra camping focus of Scouts BSA in addition to Girl Scouts activities. She and her brother Xander, 13, are both members of Troop 417 and at least one other girl in the troop plans to continue in Girl Scouts.

“They each have something to offer girls. They both teach about leadership,” Kellie Geist, who handles membership for the boys and girls troops, told us. “It’s different, but they are great. Both programs have so much to offer girls, so I feel they can co-exist.”

Times change. One hundred years ago the outrage was all the talk about women being allowed to vote. But everyone has learned — sometimes quite begrudgingly — that there’s very little females can’t do. They are active military. They are professional athletes. They are CEOs. They hold important positions at all levels of government. It’s probably going to be OK that they’re now allowed in Boy Scouts.

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