The Boy Scouts are accepting girls, a move that enrages national Girl Scout leaders but may be better supported in Southern Illinois.
“I wanted to be a Boy Scout so bad,” said Mary Koppenhofer, 39, of Dupo. Koppenhofer was a Girl Scout and earned the top Gold Award, but says that accomplishment never got the same recognition as when her younger brothers became Eagle Scouts.
“Most people don’t even know what it is,” she said “It was the same amount of work ... which is why I think it’s important girls are going to earn (Eagle) now; it puts them ahead in scholarships and in the job market just like it does for boys.”
Koppenhofer’s daughter, Emily Rendleman, 19, is now a student at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennesse. She was a Girl Scout and joined the Boy Scout Venturing program when she was 14.
“They each have merit, but Boy Scouts seems so much more expansive than Girl Scouts was,” she said in a text message. “I originally joined Venturing for the high adventure aspect, as I had always wanted to go to Philmont in New Mexico.”
She said the structure of Cub Scouts — dens organized into packs — meant so much more meetings, activities and camping “that you really got to meet a huge network of other scouts.”
Donna Aaron, a Girl Scout Troop Leader and a Service Unit treasurer in Belleville, thinks the change may open up scouting to a wider range of girls who may not have access to a Girl Scout troop, and she sees that as a good thing.
“If there is no Girl Scout presence, I’d rather them do that than nothing,” she said, adding that both organizations are “good programs building strong future leaders.”
Troop leader Teresa Bushong, of Waterloo, says Girl Scouts empowers girls in all-girl environments.
“We are trying to instill in them, as a girl, you can do this. You can do anything a boy can do ... and if they were in a Boy Scout troop that was possibly mixed gender ... at different age levels, you might get (boys saying) ‘Oh you’re a girl, you can’t do that, you can’t carry that heavy thing.’ And they can.”
Bushong said she does not understand why the Boy Scouts would open Cub Scouts to girls but keep the genders separate in different “dens.” She has one daughter in Girl Scouts, two completed the programs, and one son advancing through Boy Scouts.
“What is the advantage in being in Cub Scouts or Boy Scouts if it’s going to be an all-girl den as opposed to Girl Scouts?” she said.
The Belleville troop leader’s daughter, Amanda, 16, is a Girl Scout working on her Gold Award. She’s also in the Boy Scout Venturing program. Her mother thinks the Boy Scouts are more structured.
“They’ve been around forever and they haven’t changed a lot,” Aaron said, whereas the Girl Scouts have had more changes in top leadership.
“I think if there’s a presence of both Girl and Boy (Scouts), the girls are still going to go to Girl (Scouts),” Aaron said.
But Waterloo troop leader Bushong said the Boy Scouts offer more badges at each level than the Girl Scouts do.
“My Girl Scout is a Junior right now,” Bushong said. “She has only so many badges she can earn as a Junior. If she was a boy, next year she would go from Cub to Boy Scouts, and she could earn (badges) from fifth grade through high school.”
But as for her daughter, Jackie, wanting to join Boy Scouts: “Not only no, heck no.”
“I don’t think any of my girls would jump ship.”
Q: What does the Boy Scout announcement mean?
A: Girls can join Cub Scouts in 2018. Cub Scout dens, the smallest unit of the organization, will still be single-gender. Packs, made up of dens, can be all-boys, all-girls, or mixed-gender.
Starting in 2019, Boy Scouts will have a program ready to enroll girls that will allow them to work toward becoming Eagle Scouts.
Q: What does this mean for lesbian, gay or transgender children?
A: This week’s announcement did not indicate how sexual orientation or gender preference would be addressed in the dens. In 2015, the Boy Scouts amended policy to allow openly gay adult leaders and employees. Earlier this year, Boy Scouts announced they would accept and register children based on the gender identity indicated on the child’s application to accommodate transgender scouts.
Q: Would girls camp with boys?
A: Overnight camps were not addressed in the announcement. However, the Boy Scouts has a policy in place to allow family camping, Koppenhofer said. Her 10-year-old son is in Cub Scouts.
“If I would go on a campout with my son and his Cub Scout den, I could stay in a tent with my son, or my family, or I can stay in a tent with a female leader,” she said. Women could not stay in tents with boys not related to them.
Girl Scouts have strict rules about male family members sharing sleeping areas with girls. On overnight trips, men “may participate only if separate sleeping quarters and bathrooms are available for their use.” On camping excursions, men’s sleeping quarters are separate from the women and girls. Families may stay together on designated camping trips.
Q: What are the differences between what Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts learn?
A: Boy Scouts have 130 merit badges from American Business to Woodwork. The Girl Scouts have 165 badges, from Be a Sister to Every Girl Scout to Water. Both include badges for business savvy and first aid; both include outdoor and STEM activities.
Girl Scouts have nearly 30 art-related badges, and 34 including “survival” and “archery” under the outdoor designation. The Boy Scout website does not sort the badges by activity, but seems to have more than 30 outdoor badges and six that are art-related.
Q: When does Scouting start?
A: Girl Scouts start in kindergarten by joining Daisy troops, which are under service units. Boy Scouts start in first grade by joining Cub Scouts, in a Tiger den, which are part of Cub Scout packs.
Q: How do Scouts advance?
A: In both Scouting organizations, children advance by grade level and accomplish certain goals by troop or den.
Q: What does it mean to be an Eagle Scout?
A: Eagle is the highest rank a Boy Scout can earn. Requirements are that the scout is active for six months after achieving the rank of Life Scout, have demonstrated practice of living by the Scout Oath and Scout Law with references, earned 21 merit badges with some mandatory, served in a leadership position as a Life Scout, and led a service project beneficial to the community. There is a board of review.
Famous Eagles include medal of honor recipients, President Gerald Ford and other politicians, FBI director William Sessions and the first and second men to walk on the moon, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.
Q: What is the Gold Award?
A: The Gold Award is the highest award a Girl Scout at Ambassador can earn. “As a Gold Award Girl Scout, you’re challenged to change the world — or at least your corner of it,” the Girl Scouts say.
Only Girl Scouts in high school can pursue the gold after earning the Bronze and Silver Awards. Girls must identify and investigate an issue by interviewing authorities, build a team, create a plan, present the proposal to the Girl Scout council for approval, take action on the plan, and finally educate and inspire others.
Famous Girl Scout Gold Award recipients include former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth, more than a dozen astronauts and the police chief of Houston, Texas. According to the Girl Scouts, “64 percent of today’s women leaders ... were once Girl Scouts.”