The Boy Scouts of America ( BSA ) has aided the youth of the United States throughout its history. Whether this help comes in the form of a community of peers to mature with, an opportunity to interact with nature, or the moral guidance provided through its oath and law depends on the Scout in question.
Its values have molded generations of young men growing up in turbulent times dating back to World War I and continues to prepare youth for the future. While its history is steeped and revered, we must remember that this organization was founded to bring people together and benefit those it serves. I believe this vision was lost when the BSA started banning leaders and Scouting professionals based on their sexual orientation. This ban is failing Scouting and the youth of America in a time when Scouting's values and life approach are needed now more than ever.
The year 2015 is far different from 1910, when the BSA was founded but the need for guidance and mentorship could not be more necessary. Our technology-driven culture pressures young men to feel inadequate, while the art of today ( music, film, and television ) thrusts forward an "ideal" of masculinity that is often consumer-based and sexually driven. The values of pride, honor, self-respect, and friendship take a back seat to the need to be ever-connected through social media, text messaging… the list goes on.
Scouting's reputation and impact have been decimated by BSA restrictions on adult members and leaders based on sexual orientation. While those who care the most to help the young men of America through the difficulty of adolescence are turned away, Scouting's enrollment dwindles. If the Boy Scouts of America wishes to fulfill its goal of training youth in responsible citizenship, character development, and self-reliance, it needs to take a long look in the mirror and remember what those values mean for its own leadership and organization.
Eagle Scout Eric Hetland is the local Chicago chapter co-lead with the national organization Scouts for Equality. Thomas Hanes is also an Eagle Scout and the Chicago chapter's media/communications director.