A scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. Those are the words that I recited before every Boy Scout meeting for many years on my path to becoming an Eagle Scout, a goal which I can now proudly say I have met and an honor which I now can humbly display.
It was not easy, though. Whether it was sleeping out in below freezing nights or hiking 10 miles in pouring rain and thunderstorms, I persisted despite the obstacles placed before me. The obstacles I overcame were neither trivial nor insignificant, the massive gash I acquired on my head during a campout comes to mind; despite the challenge of achieving this honor, I also have countless great memories of the friendships and activities I was blessed to experience. I snorkeled over a large barrier reef and went sailing in the Florida Keys. I saw Dinosaur tracks at Dinosaur State Park in Texas and stayed up all night hanging out with friends on a beach campout.
Having gone through the process myself, I can see why Boy Scouts of America’s recent decision to admit girls and allow them to obtain the coveted rank of Eagle Scout has been controversial. I think there is something to be said about the value of fraternity. It has time and time again been shown that being around members of one’s own gender can be good for development. Even beyond this argument, there undoubtedly is plenty of evidence to argue that the Boy Scouts should maintain the way it has been run for decades.
As you might expect, the Girl Scouts were not happy about it either. Kathy Hopinkah Hannan, the president of the Girl Scouts, said “I formally request that your organization stay focused on serving the 90 percent of American boys not currently participating in Boy Scouts.” She has a point. The Girl Scouts were created for a reason. Digging a little deeper, though, her argument suggests that the Boy Scouts have ulterior motives: to stop its dwindling numbers of participants.
The Boy Scouts response stated that they did research and found that it would help families by allowing girls to enter Boy Scouts. I am not sure that their argument is convincing. Boy Scouts, in recent years, has been operating more and more like a business, and, as such, change is a necessary component of any good business model. It might be that Boy Scouts felt that the move could broaden its market and stop the bleeding of their bank accounts. If that’s the case, I am ashamed that they would act that way.
There is a good reason to allow girls to join Boy Scouts, though. The values that the Boy Scouts strive to instill are universal. They are the things that society itself should strive for and nurture. Women can be and are leaders too; they can be all of the things a Boy Scout is, and it is not fair that most people recognize and respect the rank of Eagle Scout, but fewer people seem to recognize the Gold Award in Girl Scouts.
I have trouble weighing in on this issue. On one hand, I value the traditions that Boy Scouts has created and, on the other, I value a change that ultimately could benefit society. Reviewing my thought process, I think the most important takeaway is that it is essential to balance change and tradition. While my initial reaction was to stay true to the historical memory of Boy Scouts, I see the potential to make new traditions. When it comes down to it, I hope that all young people come to realize the importance of the values of being a leader and model and informed citizen in the community. Admitting girls to Boy Scouts does not hinder that vision, but expands it.