In a historic move for the organization, the Boy Scouts of America are changing their name to Scouts BSA. Announced on Wednesday, the name change is an effort to be more gender inclusive as girls will also be allowed to join the program for the first time. The new name will officially take into effect February 2019.
“As we enter a new era for our organization, it is important that all youth can see themselves in Scouting in every way possible,” Michael Surbaugh, Chief Scout Executive of the Boy Scouts of America, said in a statement, “That is why it is important that the name for our Scouting program for older youth remain consistent with the single name approach used for the Cub Scouts.”
The parent organization, Boy Scouts of America, will keep its name as will the Cub Scouts, the program for seven- to ten-year-olds. However, the program for eleven to seventeen year olds currently known as Boy Scouts will change to Scouts BSA.
Although girls will be permitted to join Scouts BSA, program geared toward older scouts will primarily be divided along gender lines. This gender division, Surbaugh said, is meant to assuage any concerns about girls being at an immediate disadvantage for leadership opportunities. However, both boys and girls will be participating in the same activities, receive the same merits, and potentially eligible for the esteemed Eagle Scout award.
Not everyone is excited about the new name. However, the two groups most outspokenly opposed to the change aren’t who you’d assume to have shared agendas: ultra-conservative pundits and the Girl Scouts organization.
On Twitter, some are saying the change is reflective of “PC culture,” a term meant to denigrate efforts towards inclusivity. Charlie Kirk, founder of the conservative nonprofit Turning Point USA, called the addition of girls a “national disgrace.” As internet outrage is wont to provoke, there are also a number of people commenting on the irony of these complaints. Surgeon, scientist, and healthcare columnist Eugene Gu tweeted:
“All these conservative snowflakes getting outraged about the Boy Scouts accepting girls and changing its name to Scouts BSA don’t realize that it’s simply a business decision. With declining membership, they need the girls or it would be called Bankrupt Scouts.”
The latter appears to be inline with the concerns from the Girl Scouts organization leaders who felt “blindsided” by the name change. “Girl Scouts is the premier leadership development organization for girls,” Sylvia Acevedo, the Girl Scouts’ CEO, said as reported by USA Today. “We are, and will remain, the first choice for girls and parents who want to provide their girls opportunities to build new skills … and grow into happy, successful, civically engaged adults.”
Last August, tensions between two organizations were brought to light when BuzzFeed obtained a letter from the Girl Scouts to the Boy Scouts accusing them of running “a covert campaign to recruit girls.” While Boy Scouts had not made any final decisions at the time the letter was released, they announced in October 2017 the organization would be officially allowing girls into the program.
Both organizations have seen a decline in membership, according to the Washington Post. Thus, leaders in the Girl Scout organization believe the inclusion of girls is more a “membership push” instead of an effort to effectively serve young women interested in the Scout program. Kathy Hopinkah Hannan, GSUSA's national president, told BuzzFeed the previous appeals to include girls coincided with other attempt to undermine the Girls Scouts of America:
“This includes everything from disparaging and untrue remarks about Girl Scout programming, to subtle implications about the weakness of Girl Scouts’ long term market strength. Starting off any program when people are feeling bullied is not in keeping with the founding ideals of either Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts.”
You can read the full statement from the Boy Scouts of America regarding the name change and "Scout Me In" campaign on their website here.