The recent news of a Southwest Airline pilot who happened to be a woman saving an aircraft
and over one-hundred souls aboard drew an enormous mix of reaction. The news media and
the public hailed her as a heroine and one of the most common remarks heard was “she
seemed so calm during the communications with the tower” as if we expected her to be shrill
and upon the brink of tears. But we learned that she was a former Navy fighter pilot and her
years of constant training provided the necessary skills that ‘kick in’ during such emergencies.
There have been many male pilots who have done the same thing. They even made a movie
about “Sully” Sullenberger’s daring and safe landing in the Potomac. But Tammy Jo Shults
received an enormous amount of attention.
So why should we and, especially, the news media be surprised?
Military personnel train and follow checklists. It’s why they are often frustrated with drivers who
don’t use turn-signals on the roadways. We train the same way as we fight and that is the very
reason aircraft, ship and tank accidents are few-and-far between.
During my nearly three decades with the United States Air Force I worked for two female
generals. Both were in the first two classes of the integrated Air Force Academy and both told
me horror stories about their tooth-and-nail climb from cadet to flag officer. And I respect them
to this day. They were both superior leaders and superb pilots. One gave birth to twin sons while
she was a wing commander and still effectively led nearly 2,000 people. I still wear the eagles
she presented me on my service-dress uniform and I’ll never take them off.
So why begin a military dialogue as a prelude to the integration of girls into the Boy Scouts of
America (BSA) when I have seen the strength of equality in the ranks of services? Very simple.
There is a big difference between adults and children.
I feel I’m qualified to discuss this issue. I am an Eagle Scout and served as Scoutmaster for a
troop in Lajes, Portugal for a United State Air Force Airbase associated with the Transatlantic
Council. But I am only one voice.
Near the end of this website's pro-con polling for this issue, more than 440 Mississippi Matters members voted 91% against the BSA’s current change. That, my friends, is a walloping “no”. And many of those who voiced negative opinions were former Boy Scouts and Scout leaders.
There are many reasons one might consider for such an overwhelming response. Some might
declare the horrible word "misogyny" as the driving force. After all, we Mississippians are a bunch
of buck-toothed rednecks who demand women to remain barefoot and in the kitchen, right? But
how would that word apply to eleven-year-old girls? I don’t think it does. Even for us
Southerners who don’t know better than the enlightened Coastal crowds or the Europeans.
When it comes to kids, we prefer tradition. As former President Obama once said, “They still
want to cling to their guns and religion," and I second that emotion. There seems to be an overt
movement that is determined to destroy every single tradition we’ve developed as Americans.
And even though Scouting was born in the United Kingdom by Lord Baden Powell, Americans
embraced it and became the world leader of the Boy Scouts of America.
Granted, some traditions need to be changed. Equal pay for women is a given and so should
be the understanding that Rosie the Riveter should have taught all men a lesson decades ago.
And the lesson is that women are equal to men in almost every area.
But we’re talking about children now.
In 2013, scientists at Newcastle University in the UK discovered that girls tend to optimize brain
connections earlier than boys. The researchers concluded that this may explain why females
generally mature faster in certain cognitive and emotional areas than males during childhood
and adolescence. The study was published December 19, 2013 in Cerebral Cortex. And it’s
true. Girls mature much faster than do boys which gives them an unfair advantage in the troop
concept. Am I whining? Nope. It’s just a fact and I get it and am willing to accept that I was
more likely to set off a cherry bomb in the boys’ bathroom than would any girl in the sixth grade.
So I’m complimenting my female counterparts.
The purpose of a Boy Scout Troop is to develop leaders while having fun. Developing leaders
requires various stages of development which includes ranks, merit badges and critical
knowledge of wilderness survival and first-aid. But here’s the important part--Scoutmasters don’t
lead troops, boys lead them.
A Senior Patrol Leader, a teenage boy, directs the other boy leaders to manage their patrols of various ranks under the minimal direction of the adults who set the various agendas. That means they (the boy leaders) deal with the gross behaviors, the targeted farting, the dangers with knives, the bullying, the fights, rock-throwing, nose-pick smearing and other boy-like behaviors that girls wouldn’t even think of tolerating.
Boys need a place of their own to make mistakes and learn lessons from those mistakes. They
need to first learn to behave as boys while they excel at foot-races, pioneering and other sports
and they should be taught manners and order among themselves for a few hours each week.
It’s tough enough for a boy to learn these things with girls in the same room-they get plenty of
that during the school years. And Boy Scouts of America is a time-honored tradition that works.
Becoming an Eagle Scout and a leader of other boys makes a huge difference in the
development of developmentally-challenged, unkempt and barely-manageable boys.
As for the Girl Scouts of America, I can offer no opinion because I have not been one. I’m just
one of the 91% of Mississippi Matters voters who ask that you kindly leave the BSA just like it is. A place for boys and only boys. When it comes to kids…let’s hear it for tradition.