In Boy Scouts I learned how to tie basic knots that I still use almost every day. What to pack, and what not to, when heading into the outdoors. About the importance of citizenship and always being prepared.
But you know what would've made the experience even better?
Which is why I'm pleased and a little envious — certainly not angry — that the Boy Scouts of America has taken the progressive step of letting girls join the ranks.
This week the 108-year-old organization announced it was dropping the "Boy" from the name of its flagship program, which will now be called Scouts BSA, to make way for female members sometime next year. And the reaction from certain quarters was oh so predictable.
If you get your news from social media (and let's face it, a lot of people do) the name change and inclusion of girls represents: a) political correctness run amok; b) the latest move by liberals to turn men into "weak, feckless cupcakes;" or c) another overreach by "the cancerous tentacles of feminism." Or perhaps all three.
What a load of nonsense.
We may live in the Age of Outrage, a time when everyone has to be more offended than the next guy (or gal), but let's pump the brakes.
Based on the anger, you would've thought the Boy Scouts were pushing heroin or offering a satanic rituals merit badge. Nope. They're simply making the program inclusive to females between the ages of 11 to 17.
I can understand why people might have questions since the Boy Scouts, up until now, has been strictly for boys. Except that's only one branch of this tree. More than 3,000 girls nationwide are already enrolled in Cub Scouts (ages 7 to 10), and young women ages 14 to 21 have been welcome in Venture Scouts since the program's inception in 1998. (Before that it was called Explorers, and females were welcome there, too.)
Letting girls join the Boy Scouts would seem like the next logical step. Nothing to get bent out of shape about, unless you're looking for a reason to be.
There's quite a bit of hand-wringing from folks who believe boys and girls shouldn't be involved in the same activities at certain ages. They say it'll have detrimental effects to a boy's emotional maturity, self-confidence and self-awareness.
OK, fine. That's one viewpoint. But without arguing with the psychologists out there, armchair or accredited, let me pose this question:
Organizations like 4-H and Future Farmers of America, not to mention school-sponsored activities like Academic Decathlon, band and mock trial, involve boys and girls working together. Does anyone have a problem with that?
You might say the Boy Scouts of America is finally catching up with other extracurricular activities, as well as the rest of the world.
Scouts Canada has been co-ed since 1976. In Great Britain, the birthplace of the Scouting movement, older girls have been allowed in since 1976 and younger ones since 2007. And you know what? Neither civilization has come to an end.
Here's something else about Boy Scouts that people may not understand: The experience of any member depends much more on each individual unit than what's being handed down from the national office.
What that means is all troops are different. Some are really into the outdoors. Some lean more toward community service. Some are sponsored by a particular church. One size does not fit all.
The same will apply for admitting girls, according to Chief Scout Executive Mike Surbaugh.
Each troop will be able to decide whether to remain exclusive to boys, create all-female units or go co-ed. Which means it'll be up to the adult leadership whether boys and girls attend patrol meetings together, work on merit badges together or go on weekend camping trips together. Some will and some won't. Every parent gets to choose what's best for their kids.
Personally, I think it's great that girls who want to earn merit badges and advance to the rank of Eagle will finally have that opportunity. As an Eagle Scout myself, I know how much work it takes to get there.
And, yes, the requirements for both sexes will be identical. As they should be. This is not a participation trophy.
"Eagle Scout is all about self-reliance," Surbaugh said in a Scouting magazine article. "It's about character. It's about leadership. And it's about service to others. That's the core program. These are qualities that both young women and men can aspire to."
Enrollment in BSA programs has dropped nearly 18 percent since 2013 (from 2.8 million to 2.3 million and well below peaks of over 4 million in past decades), so this move is every bit as much about survival as it is inclusivity. Let's not lose sight of that, either.
Still, it's the right thing to do. The skills I learned and confidence I gained in Boy Scouts aren't exclusive to boys.