My son — with significant prodding from his mother — has been an inspired Boy Scout, and he just completed his Eagle Project. Actually, this is not unusual in our neck of the woods, as almost all of the young men in our ward attain the rank of Eagle. Having missed the scouting experience myself, I have been amazed at how much he has learned through the scouting program. Indeed, I was so impressed with the program that I recently offered my 16-year-old daughter a deal: fulfill all of the requirements for Eagle Scout (slightly amended to meet her interests — i.e., no camping), and receive a scholarship for college.
A few days after I issued my offer, the mother of one of my daughter’s friends told me about their most recent family vacation. It was their last trip together as a family before the young woman left for BYU, and the parents allowed the young woman to select the activity. She chose a high adventure conoeing trip in the Boundary Waters. According to the mother, this young woman had longed for such activities and was jealous of her younger brothers, who frequently went on camping trips with the scouts. The mother also mentioned that the young woman felt left out of some of the learning that happened in connection with merit badges. (“Don’t young women need to know about Citizenship in the Nation?”) When I mentioned my idea to create an Eagle Scout program for my daughter, this mother was very supportive.
Emboldened by the positive reception of this mother, I later mentioned the idea to the father of another young woman in our ward, and I was surprised by his reaction. Not upset, exactly, but surprised and wary. After all, my daughter has the Young Women’s program. Adding another program to school and extra-curricular activities, well, that was just too much pressure.
Perhaps he is right. Having made this offer to my daughter, I now see that the biggest obstacle is the lack of institutional support for such a program. If she earns her “Eagle,” she will have to do it of her own initiative, outside the usual channels, without the supervision of Church leaders, and without the resources of the Church. It’s a lot to expect.
I wonder why we should feel this imbalance between the programs for the young men and the programs for the young women. (Disclaimer: Having grown up outside of the Church, my experience with the youth programs is limited to a brief stint as Young Men’s President and my time as a parent.) I know that the Church has experimented with various programs for the young women, so I assume that the current version — Personal Progress — is the product of many years of experience and the best intentions. Nevertheless, when compared with the Scouting/Duty to God programs for the young men, Personal Progress seems narrow and incomplete. And, frankly, it doesn’t seem to be very fun.