The start of the new school year is one of the busiest seasons for the The Boy Scouts of America, which happens to be among of the country’s biggest youth organizations. Right now, the group’s representatives are focused on recruiting new scouts, but this year, they’re taking a different tack with their usual membership drive.
For the first time ever, girls are also welcome to join the scouts. Last October, the group announced it would become coed, beginning with elementary-age children. Daniel Anderson, assistant scout executive for the East Texas Area Council in Tyler, says the recruitment process hasn’t been much different this year, despite the change.
“We’re really distributing the same flyers, we’re talking about the same activities, we’re promoting the same events, and we’re just excited about having twice as many potential scouts join,” Anderson says.
Anderson says it’s too early to tell how popular the scouts is going to be for girls, but there is a cohort of what he calls “early adopters” – those who are already buying their uniforms and handbooks, and who are eagerly anticipating campouts. But Anderson says the organization doesn’t expect scout membership to double right away just because it’s now coed.
“We sort of feel like this first year with it being something brand new, we’re not gonna see the full wave of registration,” Anderson says. “We’re thinking we’ll probably have maybe a 20 percent increase in scouts as opposed to doubling, like we would ultimately hope.”
Anderson says there are mixed feelings among the scouting community about the organization going coed. He says people opposed to the change often don’t know the full scope of the changes. He says it’s not as simple as just girls in the Boy Scouts. He says the process is being rolled out slowly and deliberately, and once people understand that, they tend to support it.
“I think the detractors, just, are only hearing one snippet of what the entire story is,” Anderson says.
As for the Girl Scouts, Anderson says that organization is now doubling down on its girls-only approach as a way to differentiate itself from the Boy Scouts, which he says appeals to some kids.
“They are standing by the idea that an all-girl environment is the best opportunity for girls to learn, and in their program, it works very well,” he says.
The Boy Scouts is more family-oriented, Anderson says. For example, if a brother and sister want to be scouts, they can now do it together in the Cub Scouts.
“We’re just happy to give elementary-age girls a choice,” Anderson says.
Anderson says the organization will still be called “Boy Scouts of America,” but the program name for middle-school and high-school-age kids will be called “Scouts BSA,” starting in Feb. 2019.
Written by Caroline Covington.