A friend recently questioned whether to allow his son to join the Boy Scouts due to the recent controversy over the BSA policy on gays/lesbians. Below are my thoughts on the topic:
I am a Eagle Scout as are my three brothers. My son will likely complete his Eagle within a year. Let me first go on record that I deplore the BSA's policy on gays and lesbians.
Scouting is about teaching a boy skills that he will use throughout his life. Some are practical skills embodied in any of the 120 available merit badges including camping, hiking, cooking, first aid, communications, swimming, personal finance, nuclear engineering, woodworking, orienteering, oceanography, music, robotics, safety, wilderness survival and American Business, to name just a few. Did you know that ~20% of boys that participate in scouting find a life long hobby because of these merit badges. It's also about the fun, friendships and social skills development as the scouts participate in campouts, hikes, local camporees, national jamborees and high adventure camps – none of which a boy could experience without the BSA. It's also about the less tangible skills of leadership, honor, respect and instilling a life long passion to serve others before yourself. Boy Scouting is all about doing something good for the boys and the community. Over 11 million hours of volunteer community service were donated by the Boy Scout movement in 2011 alone, at an estimated value to local communities of $206 million.
So do boys really benefit from scouting? While these statistics are probably dated, they are instructive. Boy Scout alumni include:
- 63% of Air Force Academy graduates
- 68% of West Point graduates
- 70% of Annapolis graduates
- 72% of Rhodes Scholars
- 85% of FBI agents
- 65% of college graduates
- 65% of US Congress
- 85% of airline pilots
- 85% of student council presidents
- 89% of senior class presidents
- 71% of football captains
- 65% of basketball captains
- 88% of school newspaper editors
- 77% of editors of school annuals
- 75% of business managers of school publications
- 80% of junior class presidents
In addition, 206 members of the 112th Congress participated in Scouting as a youth and/or adult leader. 29 are Eagle Scouts. 15 current U.S. governors participated in Scouting as a youth and/or adult volunteer. Four are Eagle Scouts.
That said, the current gay/lesbian policy is fundamentally a decision made by a small group of national committee cronies who are wrestling with what for the BSA is fundamentally a financial not social policy issue. If they change the policy, the BSA will quickly split between those troops sponsored by very conservative organizations (mainly the Mormon church but also fundamentalist churches as well) and those more socially centrist or liberal organizations. The Mormons are financially critical to the BSA and without their support the rest of the BSA would wither and die. Even the Catholic Church would support a policy where gays and lesbians can act in adult leadership roles and certainly wouldn't discriminate against the boys themselves.
I rationalize my continued support by looking to change the organization from within. I honestly don't believe this issue comes up at the troop level. I've never seen and don't know anyone who has seen it rear it's ugly head at the local level. Boy Scouts at the troop level are by and large inclusive and welcoming to anyone that's interested. Personally I belong to a number of organizations where I don't fully agree with every tenant put forth: the Democratic Party, the Roman Catholic Church, the United States of America (I don't agree with every policy our government puts forth). Even at work we find ourselves in the “disagree and commit” scenario often enough.
I encourage you and your son to join. As we do in our family, teach your son to be an open minded, loving and inclusive individual and someone who will stand up for his beliefs (note: that's actually a part of the 12 points of the scout law). The Boy Scouts of America is an exceptionally good and important organization that has a lot to offer our boys. The BSA is misguided on a few policies and we need to work to fix those. But I encourage you to not deprive your son of all of the good the BSA has to offer because of what I hope is a temporary situation.Regards,
Donald D. Parker
Eagle Scout, Class of 1983
Vigil Honor, Order of the Arrow