Terry McAteer: Let boys be Boys Scouts, and girls be Girl Scouts
I am proud to be an Eagle Scout. My father was an Eagle and son, Gregory, is one as well. That is not to say, though, that I’m proud of Scouting.
The national organization has recently morphed Scouting to the point that girls can now be Boy Scouts. I realize that all boys and girls should be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent but, really, girls in Boy Scouts is over the top.
Don’t get me wrong, our daughter, Jeanne, received the highest award in Girl Scouts — the Gold Award. I’m all for women having equal rights, equal pay and equal opportunity but girls in Boy Scouts is just not OK.
Even my wife jumped all over me with my opening paragraph, but please hear me out.
I am a huge believer in co-education. Having spent my entire career working in schools with adolescents, I know what a difficult period middle and high school is for these developing minds and bodies. There is research, however, which shows that single sex experiences are beneficial.
As we all know, during adolescence, boys and girls’ minds and bodies grow at different rates. Boys are slow developers and need a more hands-on environment where girls develop faster and desire much more same-sex interactions. Parents, educators and adults who interact with adolescents need to take these factors into account and can’t just treat each sex with the same curriculum or activity.
Take, for example, high school math and science. There are a plethora of studies which show that girls excel in single sex math and science classes as compared to co-educational courses. They point to the fact that many adolescent girls shy away from raising their hand, asking questions in math and science as they don’t want to look “too smart” or “dumb” as compared to their male counterparts. As a result, fewer women are entering the math and science fields. The statistics and outcomes are completely flipped when girls are placed in single-sex math and science classes where they then outperform their male counterparts.
The reverse is true in literature, according to studies, where boys benefit from single sex classrooms. Boys are not prone to divulge life experiences or feelings in literature classes and often have trouble participating in English classes. Same sex English classes, especially for males, have proven to be beneficial especially in discussing coming of age books such as “The Catcher in the Rye” or “A Separate Peace.” This is not to say that all math, science and English classes should be single sex throughout high school, but in select introductory courses it would be beneficial.
This being said, the same philosophy would hold true in some after-school activities including Scouting. Having been a Boy Scout and a Boy Scout Adult Leader for many years, I firmly believe that Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts allow that rare opportunity for boys to be with boys and girls with girls.
There are many experiences in adolescence that single sex experiences lead to the importance of bonding and sharing. Boys (and girls, too) need positive role model experiences from boys older than them and from adult males that will allow them to shape their own beliefs and attitudes.
My father passed away when I was 10 years old and Boy Scouts filled a huge male void in my life. I vividly remember the Scoutmaster sitting around a campfire discussing with my fellow Boy Scouts how to be a gentleman, to be respectful and honorable. I also remember learning to deal with the group dynamics of a bunch of boys ranging in age from 10 to 17, whether thrown together in cabins or the mess hall, or accomplishing a desired goal or project. These are everlasting experiences that shape people’s lives.
I believe the same is true for girls in order to bond with each other and share experiences which are common to their own sex. In fact, a study done by the Girl Scouts found that girls involved in scouting were likely to have a stronger sense of self, positive values, healthy tendencies and an interest in science and math when compared to non-member girls and boys.
Granted, life and the world are co-educational but there are those few times, especially during adolescence, where boys need to be with boys and girls need to be with girls.
Call me old-fashioned or just plain out of touch, but I’m sorry that Boy Scouts is now unisex and moving toward just being called Scouting.
Terry McAteer, who lives in Grass Valley, is a member of The Union Editorial Board. His views are his own and do not represent the views of The Union or its editorial board members. Contact him at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.
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