On their honor, they should try

This editorial first appeared in the Chicago Tribune.

The talk around the campfire this week is of the dust-up between the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts over a potential loosening of Boy Scouts membership rules to include the participation of girls in some events. The Girl Scouts accused Boy Scouts leadership of being “dishonest” about their intentions. That’s tough talk to direct at a group whose members vow to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, etc.

In a letter to the Boy Scouts, the national president of Girl Scouts of the USA, Kathy Hopinkah Hannan, claims the Boy Scouts have a “covert campaign to recruit girls” by expanding to a co-ed model that would undercut Girl Scouts membership, and that they have been sneaky about it.

“We were disappointed in the lack of transparency as we learned that you are surreptitiously testing the appeal of a girls’ offering to millennial parents,” Hannan wrote to Randall Stephenson, national president of the Boy Scouts. “Furthermore, it is inherently dishonest to claim to be a single gender organization while simultaneously endeavoring upon a co-ed model.”

Both groups face challenges in appealing to modern youths and their families. The Boy Scouts, founded in 1910, have experienced significant membership declines, though the group seems to have regained momentum since ending a blanket ban on participation by openly gay adults. Girl Scouts, founded in 1912, feel the same pressure to stay relevant for busy kids.

The Boy Scouts say families bringing their sons to pack meetings would like activities for their daughters, too. But the Girl Scouts want the Boy Scouts to keep their focus on boys so the Girl Scouts can keep serving girls.

Are we the only ones who think boys-only and girls-only are so last century? Isn’t society supposed to be moving toward equality of the sexes and away from gender-based exclusion?

These are two great organizations with storied cultures. An obvious solution to consider is a merger, which would assure strong membership and reflect social change. Or, open both organizations to all youths. Both do the same types of activities, from rocketry to rock climbing. Let them sell the benefits of membership along with the cookies and popcorn. Allow the kids to sort out how they want to spend their time, and with whom. Talk about equality and empowerment.

The leadership of both organizations need to quickly resolve their dispute. They are role models to millions of children. And as everyone knows, scouts promise to be honorable and helpful. 

The editorial board is composed of the publisher and four journalists of varied editing and reporting backgrounds. The board's discussions and information gained from its meetings with political, civic, and business leaders drive the institutional voice of The Day, as expressed in its editorials. The editorial department operates separately from the newsroom.

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