This is a story of Sydney Ireland: Scout.
Trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.
This is the story of Sydney Ireland, scout, who, for the past thirteen years has been working toward the highest recognition conferred in the Boy Scouts of America, the rank of Eagle Scout.
Only a small percentage of American scouts complete the necessary requirements to achieve the rank, which boasts luminaries like Steven Spielberg, Neil Armstrong, and Supreme Court justice Stephen Breyer. And the ranking comes with privilege: entry into The National Association of Eagle Scouts, consideration for higher ranks in the military, scholarships, networking, and business opportunities. Plenty of business and political leaders tout their own Eagle Scout rank, using it to tacitly underscore an adherence to the positive principles enshrined in scout law.
In the scouting world, it doesn’t get any bigger.
This is the story of Sydney Ireland, scout, who wants to be recognized as an Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America
The only trouble? Sydney is a girl.
Sydney comes from a scouting family. Since the age of four, she’s been shadowing her brother, completing the requirements for merit badges alongside her male peers. When Sydney aged out of the Cubs, she became an unofficial member of Boy Scouts Troop 414 in New York City. She performed the same requirements—camping, safety, orienteering—and lived by the same code—trustworthy, loyal, helpful—while understanding that her accomplishments–the merit badges, the recognition, and the honors–were unofficial; not because they were substandard or less, but because there’s an “s” in front of the “he”.
Sydney is a model scout. In Canada, where she’s a fully recognized member of Scouts Canada Troop 80, she’s been awarded their highest ranking. It’s only in the US, one of the last remaining nations not to embrace co-ed scouting, where Sydney’s achievements are off the record. Despite this, Sydney’s US troop elected her Senior Patrol Leader making her one of, if not the, first female to hold the rank.
It’s another honor not officially recognized by the organization.
In October, 2017, The BSA made headlines with its decision to open the organization to girls, propelling them headlong into the twenty-first century. For many like Sydney, the decision was welcome, though long overdue. Despite the momentous decision however, girls won’t be allowed to officially enter the organization, (now Scouts BSA), until February, 2019.
By then it will be too late for Sydney and others who have been unofficially amassing the needed requirements to achieve Eagle Scout rank. If Sydney is not permitted to join and include the work she’s already completed, she’ll be ineligible. Her thirteen years of ‘unofficial’ scouting–the merit badges, the accommodations, the awards–it won’t count.
She’ll be out of time simply because the rules couldn’t keep up with her.
History is littered with women who have been squeezed out of recognition on the basis of their sex. Scientists, artists, writers, thinkers, ground-breakers, thwarted by the rules. Women who were born too early, before their time, whose demands were deemed too much.
Rosalind Franklin, the pioneering DNA crystallographer, who was barred from eating meals with her colleagues because the dining hall was men only. Katherine Johnson, who faced not just sex discrimination, but racism as she charted a trajectory to the moon. Authors like George Elliot assumed a male pseudonym. Even J.K. Rowling, who was advised not to put her own name on the cover of Harry Potter because her publisher was afraid boys wouldn’t read a book written by a woman.
History has a lot of blank spaces to fill in with the work and accomplishments of women who were relegated to the footnotes, or more often than not, erased all together.
Sydney Ireland does not want to be a footnote.
Ireland is not asking for preferential treatment. She’s not asking for the requirements to be changed, or altered, or lessened so that she can meet them. She is merely asking for the same treatment as the boys she’s been scouting beside since the age of four.
She doesn’t want to be an asterisk.
It’s an easy to hide behind the idea of rules. But rules shouldn’t be set in stone, but sand, changing with the currents and the tides. In Sydney’s case, the rules benefit no one, yet they are preventing her from achieving her goal.
Recognizing Sydney’s accomplishments doesn’t tarnish or diminish the achievements of her male scouting peers. She’s not asking for special treatment. She’s asking for the same treatment. The work is done, dutifully recorded. It just doesn’t have the stamp of “official” next to it. And that stamp? It didn’t exist at the time.
In this day and age, when we are belatedly recognizing the work of hidden figures, a rule which discourages a young woman from being the best person she can, the best scout she can be, is not only disingenuous, it’s backward and punitive.
When the rules diminish, hinder, or crush something positive, don’t we have a moral obligation to challenge and revisit them?
I spoke with Sydney about the challenge she’s facing, and what she and her family are doing to change it. What stood out to me during our conversation was not only Sydney’s passion for scouting, but her compassion as well.
Though she’s yet to be officially recognized by the BSA, Ireland was quick to point out the support of Troop 414 and its leaders. She was careful to recognize the achievements of young girls who chose to rise through the ranks of the Girl Scout of America. She explained why she wanted to be free to choose an organization which appeals to her as an individual, not be boxed into one or another on the basis of her sex. And though she’s faced backlash both in and out of the scouting community, there was no bitterness. In fact, Ireland struck me as exactly the kind of young adult the Scouts are seeking to mold. Honorable, kind, courteous, fair.
It’s just that Sydney the girl doesn’t fit a boy-shaped mold.
The limits placed on Sydney and other girls and young women aren’t there for boys. The limits are biased. And when rules are biased, it takes someone willing to speak up and challenge them until they change.
Someone trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.
For centuries we’ve demanded that girls and women wait their turn. We’ve promised them if they followed the rules they’d be rewarded. How many more dreams will be put on hold because a girl was born before the rules could catch up with her?
Parents, teachers, society—we go out of our way to tell young girls and women to dream big. We tell them they can be anything they want to be, achieve their loftiest ambitions. For Sydney Ireland, that is the deserved recognition of Eagle Scout.
How can we look our girls in the eye when we hide behind rules to thwart their dreams?
By petitioning the BSA to #ScoutHerIn, Sydney is challenging the rules, not just for her, but for the other girls who have been unofficially tagging along with their scout brothers, living by a code which refuses to recognize them. She is doing what so many women have been doing for years—quietly and studiously doing the work despite being held hostage by rules which were enacted to exclude them.
Whatever her official status, Sydney Ireland is a Scout. She’s a Scout because she believes in the organization, even as it takes its time to catch up with her. When she started, it wasn’t for recognition, but because the principles of the scouting community appealed to her. Now that recognition is within her grasp, she is asking to be given her due.
No more. No less.
Ultimately, whether or not the BSA choose to recognize Sydney for her accomplishments, she is a product of their organization. Impassioned, principled, just. With or without their stamp of approval, she lives up to their code every day.
Ironically, she may be the best advertisement of all.
It’s a shame they’re taking so long to recognize it.
What can you do?
Sign Sydney’s petition, and ask the BSA to #ScoutHerIn before it’s too late. https://www.change.org/p/boy-scouts-stop-discriminating-against-young-women.
You can email Michael.Surbaugh@scouting.org, encouraging the organization to allow Sydney to continue with her Eagle Scout presentation.
Use the hashtags #ScoutHerIn #LetSydneyInNOW #CatalystInc on Twitter.
For Sydney’s story in her own words, read here:
8 Comments Add yours
She can earn Venturing’s highest award which is also recognized by many colleges and universities for scholarships . And any scouter, with knowledge of the venturing program will give her the same respect or more than if she were an eagle scout. This eagle scout salutes her for doing the work even if not recognized.
Thanks for taking the time to comment, and for recognizing Sydney’s work.
Thank you Dina Honour for your support for young women, including my daughter Sydney. We have been receiving such positive feedback to your story. Sydney is still not recognized by the Boy Scouts of America. Please read below about how you can help by sending an email. Again, thank you!
Sydney is receiving support from committed leaders at Change.org!
SEP 10, 2018 —
Thank you to everyone for your continued support! I wanted to share a few updates and ask for your help with a crucial step in our campaign.
The Boy Scouts have been ignoring or dismissing our demands for months now, and time is running out for young girls like me who worked so hard to make it to Eagle Scout. In fact, I believe that the BSA is intentionally delaying addressing our petition so that by the time they respond it will be too late to take action.
Our National BSA Chair, Jim Turley was also the Board Chair of women’s organization, Catalyst Inc. Please tell Mr. Turley to continue his great work for women’s equality by letting young women join immediately.
Will you send an email to BSA leadership asking them to allow girls into the organization now?
BSA leadership have mentioned that personal emails had a huge impact on their decision-making, so I’m asking for your help. Please email the following people, asking them to meet with me this month? You can copy and paste the template email I’ve shared below, or better yet write your own message!
Please copy and paste all addresses for the following people:
Jim Turley, National Chair; Ellie Morrison, National Commissioner; Michael Surbaugh, Chief Scout Executive; Effie Delimarkos, Head of BSA PR
To: email@example.com; Ellie.Morrison@Scouting.org; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
Here’s the email you can paste in:
Dear National Chair Turley and the Scout Leaders:
I’m writing to thank the BSA for agreeing to accept girls into the organization. As our society continues to move closer and closer to gender equality, we know how crucial it is that girls be given access to the incredible leadership training provided by the BSA.
But I’m concerned that the young women who pushed so hard for this change are now being excluded from the organization.
With the BSA’s plan to accept young women in February 2019, many of them will not be able to complete their Eagle Scout projects in time for it to count on their college applications, denying them access to key scholarships and a leg up in the application process.
There is no good reason to delay accepting girls into the program. Please set a good example for the future men you are already training, and allow girls to become Scouts today.
Thanks to your support this petition has a chance at winning! We only need 4321 more signatures to reach the next goal – can you help?
View at Medium.com
It was my pleasure to write about Sydney and her story!
Wishing her nothing but the best.
It’s not gender discrimination to have an all male or female organization? having a place where like genders can go and just hang out with others of the same gender is not discrimination? If the Girls Scouts wanted to be more like the Boy Scouts they had almost 100 years to develop a program of their own or ask for help from the BSA to revamp their program but they didn’t. So now the liberals in this country see the BSA as a males only club doing great things and says “this can’t be” everyone needs to be equal there can’t be any advantages for boys to help them get ahead without allowing everyone to join? the liberals have the same mentality about the rich in this country… How dare you better yourself and make more money without sharing it with everyone else…. We used to champion doing better, making more becoming better than you were but now it’s frown upon… It was the American Dream to get ahead but now you’re chastised for trying to get ahead….
Thanks for commenting, Edward.
The question is not whether or not the Girl Scouts should be developing a program that is similar in scope to the Boy Scouts. The GSA runs a very different program which appeals to many girls (and probably boys as well), and takes a different focus. The question raised here is that should a girl (or boy) who is interested in what the OTHER organization is doing be limited solely based on their sex? Sydney, while lauding the GSA for their program, isn’t interested in what they offer. She’s interested in what the BSA offers. Should she be punished because she’s a girl?
You’re missing the point with your point about the GSA revamping. No one wants the GSA to revamp. What Sydney wants is to be with her male peers in the BSA and be recognized for the work she’s done along the way before she ages out. The BSA have already opened their doors to girls. So that’s not the question. The question is, now that they have, should they recognize Sydney’s work.
As for your comments about the “liberals”, I respectfully decline to comment, as it has no bearing on the post whatsoever.
Thanks for reading about Sydney and her story.
We’ve just moved to California and my son’s Boy Scout troop (he’s a Lion) has just this month allowed girls to officially join which I think is awesome. I hope things keep moving in the right direction!
Yes, the decision was made to open the door to girls, and I think to many (though not all), the decision was a welcome one. Now that Sydney knows that girls like her will be accepted in the future, she’s pushing to have her work recognized, as the girls in your son’s Scout troop will in the future. I too hope we keep moving in the right direction!