In a historic decision this week, Boy Scouts of America has agreed to accept girls into its youngest ranks for the first time, starting next year — and the Scout Executive of the Mecklenburg County Council of Boy Scouts is excited about it.
“This really came from within the organization,” said Mark Turner, the Scout Executive for the Mecklenburg County Council of Boy Scouts. The decision came in a unanimous vote by the national organization’s Board of Directors.
“I don’t see this as pressure from the outside,” said Turner, in an interview with Bill Bartee and Christopher Lawing on the Carolina Outdoors Podcast.
You can listen to the podcast here: https://soundcloud.com/jessebrownsclt/mark-turner
Lawsuits have driven other recent decisions by Boy Scouts of America to accept gay scouts and leaders, as well as transgender youth. However, Turner said the decision to accept girls in Cub Scouts comes from families who want to include both their sons and daughters in the same organization.
“I think that’s actually the driving decision behind this, is the ability for our organization to serve the entire family,” said Turner.
Girls would be allowed to join girls-only dens in Cub Scout packs. Boys would still belong to boys-only dens. Boys and girls would not share the same den, though a pack might include both boy-only and girl-only dens — if that’s what they want to do, said Turner.
“The institutions have the opportunity to decide,” said Turner, acknowledging that change can sometimes be scary, especially in a tradition-driven organization like scouts. But Turner is confident the change will be well-received.
“I think our community is really going to embrace this,” he said. “We want our daughters to be able to do the same thing our boys are doing in Cub Scouts, and this is giving them the ability to do that.”
At this point, the decision only applies to Cub Scouts, and not to Boy Scouts ages 11-18. Other programs, like Venturing, Learning for Life, and Exploring, are already co-ed. Families are also allowed to attend Cub Scout camping trips together, said Turner.
And in 2019, the Boy Scouts will roll out opportunities for girls to earn the coveted Eagle Award, the Boy Scouts’ highest honor. Girl Scouts can earn Gold Awards, but it often doesn’t carry the same widespread recognition as the Boy Scout Eagle.
The point of scouting, said Turner, is to raise good citizens and community servants. When kids jump into outdoor programs and enjoy them, the Boy Scout organization can then teach them about citizenship, leadership, and duty to God and Country.
“That’s what’s good for America,” said Turner. “And that’s what’s good for all kids, whether it’s your daughter or your son.”