South’s Most Influential

Will Dunk, Eagle Scout

As of Oct. 11, the Boy Scouts of America made the decision to begin accepting girls into their program, causing controversy in the news and ensuing debate from people of all sorts of political beliefs. Arguments range from assertions that Girl Scouts already provide a similar opportunity for girls to girls flat out have no place being a part of the Boy Scouts of America at all. The amount of people I have personally witnessed being distraught about this situation seems particularly odd to me. People have latched onto this issue as a reflection of their political views.

I have been a Boy Scout since Feb. 2011, and as such I have spent a large portion of my adolescence in the Scouting program. I recently completed my Eagle Scout project this October by revitalizing a deaf community center in Northbrook. I have been on several trips such as hiking the Appalachian Trail, canoeing the Boundary Waters in Canada and backpacking at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. I have spent over 100 nights camping and over 150 hours volunteering. Scouting has shaped me as a person, and I have benefited from the lessons and values that are taught. I am currently the President of Venture Crew 55 in Glenview. I would consider myself to be first-hand evidence of how great an influence Scouting can have on a person’s life.

With all this experience, I would consider my opinion on this subject to be somewhat more valid than the average person’s. While co-ed immersion in Boy Scouts will definitely change the dynamic of the program, I do not necessarily believe it will make anything worse at all. Girls are already part of the Scouting program in several different capacities. Girls can join the Venturing program, which is for those within the range of ages 14-21. Many women also serve as staff members at Boy Scouts of America summer camps and facilities. Not to mention, there is a massive amount of mothers who serve as adult leaders in their children’s Boy Scout troops.

Conversely, the acceptance of girls into the Boy Scouting program will fundamentally change the nature of Scouting altogether. Most of my favorite memories involve my friends being the idiots that only adolescent boys can be. This is not to say that girls do not fit this depiction of Scouting, but that it is an inherently different experience than has previously been the case. Realistically, I do not see this being a huge issue in the future as the crowd that is drawn to Scouting will subscribe to the same philosophies regardless of their gender.

As of Jan. 2017, Scouting now accepts openly gay, transgender and women as both adult leaders and scouts. Considering the Boy Scouts of America’s conservative history, this is a monumental development for the future of the program. In 1910, they were an organization that believed women could not be involved in the program at all and openly gay members were strictly forbidden. Growing up as a Scout, it always upset me when people would talk about Scouting in a negative light, usually in regards to one of these topics, as my experience did not reflect this at all.

I find my experience to be what Scouting is truly about: growing as leader and becoming a morally upstanding person through outdoor activities. While things may change, this is the foundation of Scouting and this guiding principle is not gender specific.