- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 4, 2000

Boy Scout and Girl Scout groups strive to maintain their core values as they adapt to the changes around them.

"The values of Scouting have never changed," says Ron Carroll, Scout executive for the National Capital Area Council for Boy Scouts of America. "We've never changed the Scout oath or the basic concepts of what we are. If you look at how many people have been involved in Scouting, almost every person in America has been touched either directly or indirectly through the Scouting program.

"There's a massive amount of public opinion and support out there," he says, "and everything I read says most people in this country overwhelmingly believe we have a good program that should be preserved and that it's worth investing time and dollars in."

The Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision last week that the Boy Scouts can bar homosexuals as scoutmasters. And in the past, atheists have challenged the Scout oath's reference to "duty to God."

Despite all the surrounding turmoil, Mr. Carroll says, the Boy Scouts will go on.

So what will the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts look like 90 years from now?

Tony Churchill, scoutmaster of Troop 52 in Chevy Chase, predicts Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts eventually will meld into one unified, coed Scouting movement.

The Boy Scouts' newest program, Venturing, is open to teen-age boys and girls.

Mr. Churchill's own troop has an all-girl Venturing patrol that last year won the Klondike Derby, a three-day competition of such outdoors skills as sled-racing and shelter-building. The competition is open to Scout patrols throughout the Washington area. Troop 52's all-girl Venturing patrol defeated 85 all-boy patrols in the event.

"If you look at the Scouting movement worldwide, like Canada or European countries, most of it is coed," Mr. Churchill says. "The U.S. is a bit more conservative, and there's rather entrenched bureaucracy on both sides [Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts]. But some day, I think, it's inevitable. In this modern day and age, I think it's the only way to do it."

Renee Feirrer, a spokeswoman for Boy Scouts of America, says that merging is unlikely, based on studies the Boy Scouts did in 1969 and 1981, and follow-up surveys since then.

"It was not until the young people were 13 that they were interested in having any type of coed program," Ms. Feirrer says. "The young people themselves said that. Basically, we have programs set up to meet the emotional and physical needs of young men, and I personally feel the Girl Scouts have excellent programs set up for the emotional needs of girls. And I think you do both programs a disservice if you combine them, especially at the early ages."

The Girl Scouts foresee a more inclusive, diversified national movement in the future, especially in the Washington area, where area manager Theresa Harris of the National Capital council is working hard to attract minorities to Girl Scouts.

"We're striving to enhance our linguistic program and to make every effort to reach families," Ms. Harris says. "You can see the changing face of society. As we move to the future, we have to be very blended, and we hope to see that reflected in Girl Scouts."

Ms. Harris also predicts more adult volunteer involvement and more male involvement in the leadership ranks. Since the early 1980s, the Girl Scouts have had a program called "Men in Green" for male leaders in the ranks.

"Finding adult volunteers is still challenging," she says.

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