Around the time of World War I, two organizations set out to mold young Americans into resourceful and virtuous future leaders, instilling in them the admirable traits of citizenship, loyalty and courage. Members of both groups wore uniforms, explored the wilderness and swore to uphold their values.
But in a blistering letter this week, the president of Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. accused Boy Scouts of America of trying to undercut the organization through a “covert campaign to recruit girls.” The letter became public on Tuesday, laying bare an exceptional and surprising fissure in what had been an amicable relationship between two ubiquitous organizations.
“I formally request that your organization stay focused on serving the 90 percent of American boys not currently participating in Boy Scouts,” Kathy Hopinkah Hannan, the president of the Girl Scouts, wrote to her counterpart, Randall Stephenson of the Boy Scouts.
Ms. Hopinkah Hannan added, “It is therefore unsettling that B.S.A. would seek to upend a paradigm that has served both boys and girls so well through the years.”
The letter, which BuzzFeed reported about on Tuesday, came after a tense phone conversation last week between executives of both organizations, including Mr. Stephenson and Ms. Hopinkah Hannan, about possible substantial changes at the Boy Scouts. Since last spring, the Boy Scouts have sought input from their members and 270 councils nationwide about how the organization could serve more girls.
How far the Boy Scouts expand into programming for girls has yet to be determined. Options include creating a girls-only program in the same mold as the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, or partnering with a group like the Girl Scouts.
The Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts each have millions of participants. But they have been buffeted by societal changes affecting youth organizations, leading to membership declines and forcing them to find new ways to attract members. The Boy Scouts have also had their own challenges and only recently started accepting gay scout leaders and transgender scouts after heavy criticism.
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Source: New York Times