NEW YORK • The Boy Scouts of America announced plans to broadly accept girls, marking a historic shift for the century-old organisation and setting off a debate about where girls better learn how to be leaders.
The Boy Scouts, which has seen dwindling membership numbers in recent decades, said that its programmes could nurture girls as well as boys, and that the switch would make life easier for busy families, who might prefer to shuttle children to a single organisation regardless of gender.
The decision on Wednesday was celebrated by many women, but criticised by the Girl Scouts, which said that girls flourish in all-female groups.
Next year, girls will be allowed into the Cub Scouts programme, which had been limited to young boys. A programme for older girls is expected to be available in 2019, giving them a path to earn the prestigious rank of Eagle Scout.
The Boy Scouts has offered girls limited access to some programmes before, but it has never before welcomed them into its core Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts programmes.
And the introduction of girls still does not mean that Boy Scouts' gatherings will necessarily include both genders. The smallest groups of Cub Scouts will continue to be single sex.
For some parents, the announcement came as an answer to longstanding complaints that offerings by the Girl Scouts were lacking, particularly for girls with less traditionally feminine interests.
TOO NARROW IN FOCUS
The problem with the Girl Scout curriculum is that it's very focused on who your leader is for your particular troop... If you have a mum who's really into crafts and girlie stuff and being a princess, then that's what your Girl Scout troop is going to be like.
MS REBECCA SZETELA, of Canton, Michigan.
"The problem with the Girl Scout curriculum is that it's very focused on who your leader is for your particular troop," said Ms Rebecca Szetela of Canton, Michigan. "If you have a mum who's really into crafts and girlie stuff and being a princess, then that's what your Girl Scout troop is going to be like. If you have a daughter who's more rough and tumble, it's not going to be a good fit."