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What if the Boy Scouts went coed?

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Schools have done studies regarding all boy and all girl classrooms.  Both performed better.  When youngsters are in mixed-gender classrooms, they behave differently.  That can be good or bad.  They get squirrely.  Happens already in NYLT.  Behavior changes. 

Is it our desire to be like other countries?  Some of those countries have pretty unacceptable (to us) sexual, drinking, smoking, and drug behavior.  That's not because of mixed gender activities, but our society isn't the same as others.  This isn't an apples and apples situation.  There are many things to consider before rocking the boat. 

Might there be benefits?  Sure there would, but I think boys need a chance to be boys, and girls need a chance to be girls.  Same with adults.  That's why we have boys' night out and girls' night out.  We're together most of the time, but it's nice to get away once in a while (like camping in the woods for a few days with just the guys ... same is true for the girls).  I think the issue is far more complex than some make out (speaking of make out ... there's a whole new subject for hormonally charged kids out in the woods for a few days). 

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Going co-ed ruined Physical Education.

 

The difference between Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts is very much like the difference we once had between sex segregated Boys and Girls gym classes.  The boys classes were great!  We had all sorts of rough and tumble games.  The girls did jump rope and badmitten.

 

Today, co-ed gym classes are the rule.  Competition is bad. Cooperation is good.  The Presidential Physical Fitness Award program has been replaced with the very wimpy "Get Fit" program.

 

No "pursuit games" like tag.  No rough games like dodge ball.  Instead of letting the girls in the boys class, they made the boys join the girls class.

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Scouting achieves its aims: character development, citizenship training, and personal fitness, through an outdoor program.. None of that is gender specific.  The outdoors is the outdoors, building a fire is building a fire, pitching a tent is pitching a tent.  There is nothing about outdoor skills that girls would learn any differently, any more slowly, or any more quickly, any better, or any worse than our boys currently do.

 

One of the things that I see scouting doing well in my troop is giving boys a space where some of the usual societal competitions are set aside.  Boys are free to more openly be themselves without the peer pressure to be "cool" and conform to a rigid set of behaviors that slots you into a social pecking order. So one thing that would concern me is can we, and how would we, maintain that safe space, that unstudied atmosphere, if girls join the program.

 

The answer lies in understanding why scouting is that safe place and deciding if whether with girls it would be maintained. I think that scouting is safe because of a certain amount of self selection along with a strong culture of being a place where you can be yourself.  Kids who not only want to be at the top of the social hierarchy but who also want to place pressure on other kids to conform to that hierarchy tend to not stay long in our program.  Kids who are happy being cool, but don't care if others are tend to do fine with us, and kids who aren't cool also tend to do fine.

 

The second part, strong culture, is where we would need to maintain our standards.  We have a culture because most boys come up through the Cub program and so are molded from an early age to behave a certain why while at scouts.  This gets reinforced when they crossover,as most do, into existing troops.  In my troop, and most of those I know, from the very beginning the older scouts, and the adults, and the scouts just a year or two into the program, enforce that culture of tolerance for the different.

 

So I think the key to adding girls to the program would be to go slowly, start them early, and to do the best we could to bring them into existing troops that already have a strong culture rather than try to rapidly expand with new troops full of new scouts and new leaders who don't yet have the strong cultural sense of what it means to be a scout.

 

Our nation, our society, today is co-ed in a way that was unimaginable in Baden Powell's time and light years more even than when most of us were in our formative years.  Our kids will live their lives in a world that has an ever shrinking separation by gender, in their schooling, in their workplace, and even in their families.  I heard an interesting talk from our Council President at summer camp this year.  He was talking about having female leaders at camp and pointed out that if we don't teach our scouts how to interact with women who are their peers, who are their superiors, and who are their subordinates, we will leave them with a deficit of knowledge as they encounter the larger world outside scouts.

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Personally, while I can see the concern about interaction, I feel that would be an easy adjustment for most.  Those that really do have issues would still need to have the option to be all of one or the other.  Big thing is having proper and consistent coed adult participation, especially in the camping arena.  

 

There is no specific wording in the overall mission of Scouting that requires outdoor activities.  It is simply a continuation of earlier traditions which fit well into the environments of the time.  Coed has existed almost to the earliest days in some form, especially in the older age groups.  

 

Growth, while a wonderful goal, is not the reason for the program.  It is developing character and good citizens through activities that the youth find enjoyable.  And that development is the result of the youth directly involved in THEIR planning and its success.  IF, by going coed, the overall program did grow, that would be great; but that should not be the reason to do it.  

 

As far as rank and so on, many of the already in place requirements are totally compatible with both genders.  Those very few that might really be a problem could simply have options specific to the gender issue.  

 

After almost forty years with my unit, I know that challenges are just that.  I am for the option, even though I am old and driven crazy by giggly girls in the middle school age bracket.  Most of that pretty much goes away as they get older, to be supplanted by other annoyances and concerns.  Anything leading to more positive growth for our youth is to be aspired to.

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One of the things that I see scouting doing well in my troop is giving boys a space where some of the usual societal competitions are set aside.  Boys are free to more openly be themselves without the peer pressure to be "cool" and conform to a rigid set of behaviors that slots you into a social pecking order. So one thing that would concern me is can we, and how would we, maintain that safe space, that unstudied atmosphere, if girls join the program.

 

The answer lies in understanding why scouting is that safe place and deciding if whether with girls it would be maintained. I think that scouting is safe because of a certain amount of self selection along with a strong culture of being a place where you can be yourself.  Kids who not only want to be at the top of the social hierarchy but who also want to place pressure on other kids to conform to that hierarchy tend to not stay long in our program.  Kids who are happy being cool, but don't care if others are tend to do fine with us, and kids who aren't cool also tend to do fine.

I think this is one of the better points that we probably have no realistic way to evaluate.

 

I've said before, I do not think that at the cub-scout level that it could not be co-ed; however, that age group of 11-15 or so, I can see a lot of reasons to allow the boys their own program.  That said, it has nothing to do with the inability of the girls to do the program, or for the girls to do that program with the boys (from their perspective).

 

I am a big fan of all the scouting movements for what they represent - which to me is exposuer to interests and hobbies that might otherwise elude our youth as they sit at home a play video games all day.  The Outdoors is a strong component of that, but not the goal in of itself to me.  It is for this reason that I like my daughter's girl scout program.

 

The Girl scout program (as a program) does not emphacise the outdoors the way boy scouts do, but it does expose the girls to interests and activities.  It also provides a strong "girl power" component, helping the girls understand that they can do anything they are interested in.  This aspect would not be lost for them if they were allowed in the boy scout programs - if anything it would strenghten the notion that I can do what anyone else can do.

 

I don't know the right solution for those middle ages.  Maybe a "choice" system where some troops are single sex and others are co-ed; maybe even at the troop level having boy patrols, girl patrols, and mixed patrols - allowing for mixed leadership.  Let the parents and scouts themselves decide their comfort level.

 

For me personally, I was a White Stag participant and staff member (please leave White Stag opinions out of this topic), and from that experience, I know that for both scout skiils and leadership, the women/girls can truly do anything the boys can do - many of the woment conselors were far more competent that many eagle scouts I've known.  From that, I also know that in a patrol and troop setting, the boys and girls can work together without too many issues (adult supervision ratios and attentiveness may need to be increased).  Even when there were the usual boy-girl issues, the mission focus (providing a scout/leadership program) did not suffer.

Edited by gumbymaster

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@@Sentinel947, you and I have be brought up to think of this as a "kids award" in a "kids game". Those are working assumptions that came along in the mid '60s, about the same time as the "pencil whipping" required elements of the award began to increase. Just keep that in the back of your mind as I ask us to mull this over ...

 

Why do that? Adults should learn the Scouting skills, they don't need rewards for it. IMO this makes earning Eagle an even bigger part of the program... It shouldn't be.

Several reasons: not the least of which is the increasingly maddening bureaucracy of the age 18 deadline for this award and the age 21 deadline for venturing silver. But, beyond that:

 

Adults should learn scouting skills ... but does that "trained" patch on their sleeve actually mean that they've done it?

 

Different training tracks are expensive. How about one consolidated training track administered continuously at the unit level by seasoned SPLs and PLs that applies to both youth and their direct contact leaders ... rather than an adult training track on a district level.

 

Boys seeing adults learning things = inspiration.

 

Does it make Eagle a bigger part of the program? Let's just say every SM and ASM manages to earn it over the course of 15 years ... that's maybe a 10% bump in awards. Look out central supply!

 

More 18 year olds are postponing entering college or the military. We all know about the boys who turn 17 and realize that they really would like that bling after all. Maybe one or two of them would make great ASM's ... if only we had a hook that would make them feel like they were accomplishing something while they served.

 

If advancement is available to girls, that means more female adult leaders .. all of whom will have never been on the trail to Eagle. The increase in "armchair quarterbacks" could lead to more troops with poor advancement programs.

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We've had fully coed scouting here in the UK since 1991 when it started as a local option. From 2003 all new groups had to be coed and any that went coed couldn't change back again. From 2007 all groups became coed. So it's been a slow process of change.

 

Some observations.

 

Scouts attracts a certain type of girl. I wouldn't go as far as "tom boys" but certainly they are pretty robust and keen to do an outdoor programme that girl guides either in reality or perception does not always offer. Hence girls are still in the minority, around 20% nationwide. It is higher in groups like mine where we were coed before it was compulsory, we're at around 40% girls, others hardly see a girl from one year to the next.

 

Girls do have some differences though. Mentally the big one I've found is girls are more likely to get things right first time whereas boys are better at recovering the situation if they get it wrong. When selecting PLs it's important to remember that and not just pick the girl that gets it right every time, give the boys a chance to shine

 

Physically they are more

Dominant in cubs as they hit puberty that bit earlier whereas in scouts the boys soon overtake. It needs to be considered when it comes to physical contact games.

 

In terms of practicalities there's very little to it. We make sure we have a supply of sanitary towels at camp and the girls know where they are, no real difference to the first aid kits and toilet roll. We have a mix of 2, 3 and 4 man tents to cope with differing boy-girl ratios in each patrol. Simple!

 

Have girls influenced the programme? I hope so. We are a youth lead movement. If youth members are not having their voices heard and acted upon then we are doing something wrong. I would struggle though to point to specific changes that were a direct result of girls becoming scouts.

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A singular offhand observation from working at a BSA summer camp this past summer. (Encourage your Scouts to work at a summer camp, it's a one of a kind experience!) 

Camp staff was co-ed. The only area where this was an issue for staff members was the 14-15 year old Counselors in Training. I'd say 95% of the boys had the maturity to behave themselves with girls on staff and not harass them. We had a one incident with campers acting inappropriate around female staff members, but that was taken care of extremely quickly. Working as camp staff has definitely made me a believer in venturing. I'd be more than willing to take up Venture crew advisor if my Scouts or siblings expressed interest in that. 

I think girls are more than capable of interacting with boys, and doing the same activities. As long as a Troop can attract the co-ed leadership to manage it, I think it's great. 

The one concern I have is for the boys. Having co-ed groups definitely changes the dynamics. As one of the nerdy guys in school, I can honestly say I was low on the social totem pole. Scouting was my escape from being bullied at school. It gave me the confidence to become who I am today. A big part of what made me an outcast in school was interactions with girls. I wasn't cool with girls, because I wasn't a good looking athlete, and I also wasn't one of the funny guys. 

The opposite is true for girls as well, where they have to act differently around guys. It's competition for the attention of the opposite sex. By the time kids are Venturing age.. this isn't as much of an issue as it is when they're Cub Scout or early Boy Scout age. 

Maybe the kind of girls we'd bring into Scouting wouldn't change the dynamics, but I'd be cautious about making the BSA universally co-ed. Maybe like alot of the other issues in scouting, a local option is the way to go. 

Sentinel947 

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...

Camp staff was co-ed. The only area where this was an issue for staff members was the 14-15 year old Counselors in Training. I'd say 95% of the boys had the maturity to behave themselves with girls on staff and not harass them. We had a one incident with campers acting inappropriate around female staff members, but that was taken care of extremely quickly....

We've learned that "quickly" is the only way to handle these things.

 

I've known young female staff to be hesitant to speak up in those situations. This is especially true when they've had to tell us about one of our boys. (It's actually hilarious. They walk into camp and before they even open their mouth the, SM says, "Let me guess, [insert problem scout's name here].") And her reticence is for good reason, I am more than willing to haul home a troublemaker if he crosses that line. She doesn't want to be responsible for that cascade of events.

 

I point out that it's the first week of summer and a long way to the end of session, and staff deserve to work in an environment where it's not made any longer on account of ill-mannered boys.

 

I suspect; however, that many of those boys would have "sanded away" those kinds of behaviors in their units if they were brought up co-ed. So life as a female staff might get a little easier.

 

But to make sure we are "sanding" smoothly, most of us would benefit from some coaching from our British counterparts or maybe the Campfire USA folks on what to look out for with co-ed Webelos and middle-schoolers.

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I'm for it

 

But I'm leaning towards the idea that there would be different dens in Cubs for the girls, and different patrols for the girls in scouts.  They would come together and interact for unit level things.

I feel like this is needed to give the boys times that they can be boys

and the girls likewise....

this being based on the idea that they will act differently when together.

 

All sorts of other ideas cloud my thinking on it though..... would there need to be different standards for the girls?  Different focus in their requirements to better appeal to their interests and needs?

 

and I don't really care how it would affect the GSUSA...

My daughter has been in their program for 3 years now.... 1st year as a Brownie this year.... and I so far am impressed by the energy and creativity from their leaders, but I'm not so impressed with the program, what I've seen of it anyway

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We've learned that "quickly" is the only way to handle these things.

 

I've known young female staff to be hesitant to speak up in those situations. This is especially true when they've had to tell us about one of our boys. (It's actually hilarious. They walk into camp and before they even open their mouth the, SM says, "Let me guess, [insert problem scout's name here].") And her reticence is for good reason, I am more than willing to haul home a troublemaker if he crosses that line. She doesn't want to be responsible for that cascade of events.

 

Yea. It's gotta be fast, and the emphasis has to be on making sure the Scout understands what the boundaries are and what the consequences are for crossing them. My personal style on discipline issues is to really push the Scout to explain why they did what they did. I hear a lot of "I don't know." or "I wasn't thinking." And my response is always, "And that's the problem eh?"  :laugh:  

 

Again my hang up with co ed scouting isn't so much behavioral issues, but really if we have an environment where boys get to be themselves, don't have to compete for the attention of girls.

 

The solution to getting girls to do outdoor activities is to fix the GSUSA, not push outdoorsy girls into the Boy Scouts. I roll my eyes when I hear the. "Well girls can't get outdoors activities in the GSUSA, so let them be Boy Scouts."  It shouldn't be about BSA membership numbers, or what the GSUSA doesn't do. It should be if/when the BSA decides that going co-ed makes a better program for both boys and girls and will provide guidance to Troop leaders on how to make it happen. When that happens I'm all for it. 

 

Sentinel947 

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and I don't really care how it would affect the GSUSA...

My daughter has been in their program for 3 years now.... 1st year as a Brownie this year.... and I so far am impressed by the energy and creativity from their leaders, but I'm not so impressed with the program, what I've seen of it anyway

 

Totally agree.  My daughter was in Girl Scouts for her entire school career and her last group of leaders was great.  However, some troops she was in before we moved had NO outdoor trips.  My boys thought it was hilarious that my daughter went down to camp for a day and learned how to build fires with pretzel rods!   The overall program was not impressive in my opinion.  I thought BSA had some arcane rules and was iron fisted.  Nothing compared to GSUSA.  

 

I think having girls in would be good in general, however, as others mentioned there would be an adjustment period needed.  I don't know that my daughter would have benefited from being in Boy Scouts (and I know my sons would have hated it), but in general I think  what we provide to the boys is just as useful and important to girls as well.

Edited by pargolf44067

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.....Again my hang up with co ed scouting isn't so much behavioral issues, but really if we have an environment where boys get to be themselves, don't have to compete for the attention of girls.

.....

I think this is a very valid point

Maybe the separate dens or patrols might help with this, or maybe not.... that's why I'm clouded on it.

 

Still, my gut says I'm for it....

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On the physical side, girls tend to hit the major growth spurts around 11, boys around 13, so that has some serious implications about age appropriate activities regarding physical aspects. The cognitive side of adolescent development is quite a bit more complex, but again the girls tend to be a couple years ahead of the boys in certain aspects.

 

The emotional/psychological/social development however is the side that gets the least attention and actually probably makes the most difference. Here again the girls are out ahead of the boys, and in fact are ahead even as early as the toddler stage. Whereas BP noticed boys tend to form groups of friends roughly the size of a patrol, the female version of that is the high school and middle school clique.

 

I have zero concerns about the potential of girls to handle the various tasks of Scouting. I do, however, have some real concerns as to if the program as presently designed makes the most sense to meet the needs of girls who are about two years more mature on average. I am also concerned about the ability of the boys to keep up in a co-ed program at the ages/stages where the girls have the largest leads. The boys will probably come out OK physically, but will likely lose in all other areas because their brains are running a couple of years behind until they catch up (which doesn't happen until later teens).

 

I would be in favor of there being a BSA run program for girls, but I think it needs to be a parallel program so the different rates of development can more easily be taken into consideration. Also, I think there is some real value in having at least some small aspect of life be single sex (other than competitive sports).

 

As an aside, I happened to witness a council run Venturing camp program this summer, and while it was expected that the young women would be mature and capable, there was a key miscalculation. It turned out they were mature, but they were critically inexperienced. They were still first-year campers, and make all the same mistakes, and need to learn all the same lessons, that first year campers learn. However, their age and maturity made the traditional first-year camper program completely out of the question. No one really knew how to deal with 15 year old female first year campers (particularly when things like homesickness started cropping up). Plus, Venturing doesn't have the level of structured indoctrination into the basics of Scouting as Boy Scouts does, so there were some elements missing. All this was made more difficult by some adult "advisers" who neither understood nor were sympathetic to the standard BSA ways of operating a camp.

 

The modern school classroom is terribly ill suited for boys, in part because the boys are expected to be equally mature as the girls, which is, as a matter of neurological development, an absurdity. Likewise it is expected that boys will adapt to learning via the same modes and methods as girls, which on average also doesn't work out ideally. At the end of the day if the program goes co-ed it must adapt to meet the needs of the girls. If it adapts to meet the needs of the girls it becomes less optimized for meeting the needs of the boys. Thus parallel programs that lead to a co-ed program for older youth has a great deal of merit to presenting a more carefully optimized experience. We can still be one big, happy Scouting family, sharing corporate structure, supply divisions, camping properties, leadership training (to a degree). If we want to develop both girls and boys to their full potential at least a part of the journey must be separate, otherwise you will be short changing the girls in one stage and shortchanging the boys in another.

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.....Whereas BP noticed boys tend to form groups of friends roughly the size of a patrol, the female version of that is the high school and middle school clique.

.....

aren't those cliques more like 3-4 girls roughly? 

 

Regardless, some interesting points @@Scouter Matt

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