Girls in the BSA
BSA has provided guidance for marketing Family Scouting. In some part it is simply a reminder to follow the Scout Law in marketing with concrete examples of violations of the Scout Law in this context.
Even so, it gives a checklist of “don’ts.”
Make sure you review this against your unit websites and emails.
As the BSA moves to being 100% co-ed, we need to study carefully what makes the BSA uniquely successful. In business this is called “best practices.” Best practices are an attempt to articulate in clear language and procedures what patterns of behavior in a business consistently lead to success, wherever tried.
The BSA has a history of moving adult leadership toward co-ed, so that once what was solely the province of men is now open to open women, too, especially the role of Scoutmaster. Even within our own district we have had successful female scoutmasters and cubmasters leading boys.
As girls move into the provinces that were once for boys only, we should consider with diligent care what are the Best Practices of leading scouts and cub scouts.
Since BSA adult leadership has been dominated by men with consistent involvement of women, some of the habits and practices that we have generated have come spontaneously from typical male leadership patterns. They are habits arising without thought or discussion. Some typically-male practices have been encouraged, such as the tendency toward a rougher and more chaotic pattern of play and participation. Some typically-male practices have been discouraged or outright banned, such as yelling orders at boys or hazing.
Psychologically we know that women tend to be more nurturing, protective, and risk avoiding, especially of infants and younger children; men tend to be more physically playful, bombastic, and risk inviting. According to Professor of Psychology Jordan Peterson, these two patterns help support one another in developing the most well balanced children. Both are essential to a psychologically healthy child. (Most of the analysis below is Peterson’s.)
Mothers create a safe environment where a child knows that the child will be well cared for when the child runs into problems, conflicts, or chaos. Mothers physically embrace and comfort children without hesitation when problems arise. Mothers speak soothingly and tenderly, allowing the child to right himself from whatever has upset him. This comfort and soothing are critical to allow a child to quickly find balance after something disrupt the calm surrounding the child. When my son was small, and even today as prepares to leave for college, when he is upset or frustrated, he is most likely to talk to my wife. My wife gives my son peace of mind.
Fathers create a risky environment where a child can explore the boundaries of the child’s body, its capabilities, and its limitations and of the world-at-large. Fathers are more likely to engage in rough and tumble play with the children. Children learn the limits of their bodies in such play. They learn that dad is heavier and harder to hurt. They learn there are consequences for inflicting pain on playmates. They learn difference between play and real fights. But most interestingly, children are so motivated by play that when dad tells them to do their homework before playing with dad, the children are more likely to do the dreary work first in order to be able to play with dad. This is one of the first and most effective means of teaching children the value of delayed gratification. When my son was younger, assuming dinner wasn’t ready, I would often toss my infant son up in the air and catch him, or tickle him. As he got older, I would change clothes then wrestle with him on the bed or do whatever game caught his attention at the time.
The father’s role in learning makes sense. Since we are creatures with bodies, our learning begins in the physical body’s interaction with the world. Our actions teach us more about the world than do our brains. We learn stoves are hot and dangerous through feeling heat (and hopefully avoiding contact). We learn how balls bounce through playing with balls, not reading books.
We learn how to walk through trying, while scientists are just now figuring out how to have robots do the same thing. This is called “embodied learning.” Robot designers have struggled with how to teach robots how to perceive and adapt to the world. They have used enormous amounts of computer processing and had little success. When they changed their perspective and focused on how a robot with a body would interact with the world, they quickly made huge break throughs. We embody learning because our bodies are our point of contact with the external world.
We learn love from mother’s caresses and hugs. We learn to walk by climbing up tables and trying our first steps. We learn to read by touching the page with our fingers to track where the next letter will be. We learn to treat others well through rough and tumble play. We learn to clean dishes after a meal when there are no clean dishes at the next meal. We learn to plan ahead by physically suffering from bad choices previously made. There becomes a desire to avoid the suffering the next time.
This physicality of embodied learning is a natural strength for male leaders. It encourages trial and error. It encourages individuality. It allows maturity-appropriate suffering while always avoiding and teaching the risks of life- or health-threatening suffering. Embodied learning is a core component of scouting.
So as girls become more involved in scouting, we have to be able to assess where male and female leaders strengths best serve our Best Practices.
We need to consider our Youth Protection Training and natural inclinations arising from chivalric principles about how men should treat and interact with women and young girls. How do we offer girls the benefits of embodied learning and physicality generally without overstepping our bounds, especially for male leaders?
I would suggest we recognize that these girls are joining Cub Scouts and likely will join Scouts BSA to have the experience of risk-taking, embodied learning, and other characteristics of male play that the girls have found lacking in other extracurricular offerings. We need to offer these girls what they have come for.
That means that mothers and fathers who are more risk averse for their “fragile” daughters need to be coached about the value of embodied learning that challenges these girls’ self-imposed limits. We need these mothers and fathers to recognize these challenges will make the girls anti-fragile. As a result, these girls will be happier, more self-confident, and more resilient.
In other words, we need to grow comfortable with telling the daughters’ parents that we don’t intend to water down the BSA program for their daughters. It is the undiluted BSA program that works. In essessence, we need to be prepared to explain why scouting works for boys and girls.
Starting this year (2018), girls will be welcomed into the Cub Scouting program and this will be the beginning of the transition to what is known as “Family Scouting.” This opens the door for girls and young women to benefit from the skills, leadership and character development training offered by the Scouting organization.
Please peruse the BSA Family Scouting website for more information on how this transition will work as well as more details on the timeline for implementation of these changes (see graphic included here for an overview). And don’t forget to ask yourself: “how can I help”?
Thank you for all you do for Scouting (and now for Family Scouting, too)!
As I have noted before, my latest obsession is Professor Jordan Peterson. His recent book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, is a tour de force in offering a way to live a good life. This is not the normal self-help book. This is the work of a deep philosophical thinker, practicing psychologicology research professor, practicing clinical psychologist, and practicing lecturing professor. He thinks about people, studies psychology, uses psychology, and teaches about people and psychology. For example, he understands that knowing what the rules of life and being able to follow them are not the same thing. It takes practice to be an actively moral person.
To that end, his fifth rule is “Do Not Let your Children Do Anything that Makes You Dislike Them.” He opens the chapter this way,
RECENTLY, I WATCHED A THREE-YEAR-OLD boy trail his mother and father slowly through a crowded airport. He was screaming violently at five-second intervals— and, more important, he was doing it voluntarily. He wasn’t at the end of his tether. As a parent, I could tell from the tone. He was irritating his parents and hundreds of other people to gain attention. Maybe he needed something. But that was no way to get it, and his parents should have let him know that. You might object that “perhaps they were worn out, and jet-lagged, after a long trip.” But thirty seconds of carefully directed problem-solving would have brought the shameful episode to a halt. More thoughtful parents would not have let someone they truly cared for become the object of a crowd’s contempt.
Peterson, Jordan B.. 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos (Kindle Locations 2377-2383). Random House of Canada. Kindle Edition. In the chapter he goes on to explain that making a child welcome in the world-at-large is a big job for parents. If the parents like the child, because the child is well-behaved, when the child visits others’ homes or places of business, adults will greet the child warmly. This warm reception will make the child more likely to be well-behaved. Well-behaved kids tend to have an easier time making friends their own age. They are happier and more connected socially. Since we are social animals, this is important.
BSA has a webpage on the Family Scouting initiative. Some topics will be driven by the local council and others by your Chartered Organization. Even so, this broad overview is a good starting point.
Our immediate past Council Scout Executive, Patrick Sterrett is back. He is part of a new announcement in his new role as the National Assistant Chief Scout Executive for Programming. (I know “national” and “chief” are redundant, but I have a large and diverse audience.)
They are providing a 15 minute introductory video for councils that wish to be part of the “soft launch” of Cub Scouts in the middle of January 2018. We have not received word yet whether the Crossroads of America Council wishes to participate in that. Since we are normally a beta tester for many programs, it would not surprise me if we do.
UPDATE (12/20/17): I have been advised that we will have an official update on what local council will or will not do after the Council Board meets tonight. Watch this article for further updates.
Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh, Patrick Sterrett’s new boss, made these remarks the day after the vote to go co-ed. Surbaugh is a good speaker and worth a listen.
It is too bad these types of posts did not precede the vote.
You may have heard, but all programs will be co-ed by January 1, 2019. Cub Scouts start, as I read it, June 1, 2018.
Here is the announcement from CAC Council Commissioner Ron Penczek:
I wanted to take a moment to forward on to you official communications from our National Council regarding girls in Cub and Boy Scouting. While it is too late for my girls to stand beside their brother in earning Eagle Scout, I am very excited to bring our program of citizenship, leadership and fitness to girls around the country, I hope you are as excited as me. I know for some Scouters, this change will be concerning and their concerns are not without merit, but as a Commissioner Corps, I am sure we can help deliver a positive message. We can be the agent of change that helps everyone to see the benefits of such a change and help implement such change in a positive way.
Please cascade this to your District and Unit Commissioners and begin talking with your units about this change.
I look forward to talking with you next week.
BSA Expands Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts Programs to Welcome Girls
The BSA’s board of directors has unanimously approved welcoming girls into our Cub Scouts program and delivering a Scouting program for older girls that will enable them to advance and earn the highest rank of Eagle Scout.
The historic decision comes after years of receiving requests from families and girls. The BSA evaluated the results of numerous research efforts, gaining input from current members and leaders — as well as parents and girls who have never been involved in Scouting — to understand how to offer families an important additional choice in meeting the character development needs of all their children.
Linked below (or attached) are a few resources to help you learn more about today’s decision, as well as respond to any inquiries you may receive. As always, please direct all media queries to firstname.lastname@example.org:
Is this old article from the New York Times a study in how many things can one writer get wrong in one article? Or is it a study in modern psychology?
As most of my readers know by now, I don’t look at the world through pop psychology or the buzzwords of the day from the media.
So I will start with the principle that we need to digest this type of article with care and precision.
This article presents many conflicting issues with the Journalism 101 principle that all serious analyses need to have a personal story to make the reading tolerable. (They would say “interesting,” but I find so little journalism interesting. To me, journalism is often a study in formulaic writing. But I digress.) So, the main point of what happens to boys in their emotional development gets interrupted by a boy getting an injection, a vignette from a College Honors class, a lecture by a professor with a wayward frat-boy interlocutor, an interview with a researcher, and class offerings now available in Men’s Studies. Let’s put all those wandering digressions aside.
The article tries to make the point that boys to age 5 are more emotive than same-aged girls. These boys are more socially oriented than same-aged girls. The boys develop deep emotional bonds easily and regularly.
The article claims that by puberty we socialize this emotive personality out of them. This claim of socializing out emotiveness has utterly no academic support in the article. It is merely asserted as gospel truth. I question the validity of the claim. As I am growing persuaded that Karl Popper’s theory of science is true (i.e., science exists in only two places (1) hypotheses already proven false, like the 4 humors approach to medicine, and (2) hypotheses stated in a manner that can be found to be false through experimentation or observation), mere assertions don’t persuade me much.
Despite my doubts, the rest of the article is built on how to resolve this asserted problem that we are socializing out boys’ ability to handle emotions.
Hannah Arendt, a 20th century philosopher of whom I have only recently learned, suggested that violence in society rises when bureaucracy grows, due to fewer means of being able to successfully petition for relief from problems. Violence is seen as the only outlet.
If Arendt is correct, a reasonable corrollary is that humans funneled into unfulfilling avenues of life foster behavior that rebels against the funneling.
So, let’s imagine a boy in middle school on the morning of father visits. He is sitting in class listening to a female teacher talk about the Diary of Anne Frank. The teacher asks about the relationships and feelings of the different persons in the story. The boy tunes out. All the boys around him tune out. The fathers all reach for their cell phones (I resisted only by whispering to the father next to me to share in my observation). The girls gleefully raised their hands and participated. The teacher had to pull teeth to engage the boys. These boys were being funneled into a terribly boring presentation that connected with 0% of the male population in the room with nearly 20 male subjects and 50% of the 10 female subjects.
At the Council’s mid-year meeting for District Key 3 (District Chair, Commissioner, and Executives), a topic that is getting mixed amount of attention was brought up. The issue was “should girls be admitted to packs and troops?”
I did a quick search online in the hopes of determining how much social media there is on the topic. I found these articles as a sampling:
- Bryan on Scouting (2015 to present) has a long-standing forum on the topic.
- NPR, “Girl who Wants to be a Boy Scout” (April 29, 2017).
- Change.org (date unclear). (Girl wants to be an Eagle Scout. Seems to be source of NPR story). 75% to 10,000 signer goal.
- Patheos and NBC News (May, 2017) (describing National Council scheduled debate on topic).
- Outside Online
- Detroit Free Press (February 2017) (good background on current status of debate).
There are many more, but I would not call it a crushingly large amount of recent publications. Now I may have found more if I would have varied my search terms, but all other things being equal, it is not a PR onslaught.
That has some advantages to have having a conversation on the topic. There is less heat, so tempers may not run as hot.
Patrick Sterrett in mentioning this treated as if this is a beginning to a longer conversation for the National Council. He solicited our feedback and invited interested persons to talk to him directly. Patrick is a very open person, so he would enjoy a face-to-face conversation with any interested persons.
Our District Chair John Wiebke is in a unique position. He grew up going to Camp Kikthaweneund, getting his Eagle along the way. He served on staff at Philmont and the International Scout Centre in Konderstag, Switzerland (the Philmont of the Worldwide Scouting Movement). He also served as a scout leader in the Swedish Scout Federation for 13 years. After those experiences, he returned to Indiana and served as the Scoutmaster for Troop 358 for three years. In those different capacities, he has been witness to all types of scouts, single-sex units, and co-ed units.
Part of the impetus to this conversation is that Scouting worldwide is now co-ed, except in the USA and some Muslim countries. The UK went co-ed several decades ago. Scouts Canada did more recently.
After the discussion that Patrick led, I asked John some questions about his experiences and shared some of my concerns. I don’t know that either led me to a clear answer.
Most feedback I have heard from parents of daughters is that the Girl Scouts USA has a program that does not offer the same challenges for girls that Venturing does. Having no daughter nor personal involvement with Girl Scouts USA, I can only listen to these comments.
I would recommend that all units have this issue put to their unit committees and their Chartered Organization in the next several months. You can then share the feedback that you hear with your Unit Commissioner or District Committee Member.
The one goal for me is that this issue of membership is handled more patiently and more respectfully that the last several rounds have. Scouting should always be looking to serve its current members better while looking to serve the community-at-large better, too.
A debate and conversation worthy of the Scout Law is definitely serving all parties well.
NOTES ON COMMENTS: Anyone in North Star or the Crossroads of America Council, especially girl members of a Venturing Crew or Explorer Post, are encouraged to send their thoughts to me. If the comments comply with the Scout Law, we can post them. Even better, comment below. If a commentator is from outside Crossroads of America Council, we reserve the right to refrain from posting the comments. This is a website for scouting in the Council, especially North Star Distict, and not a newspaper.