Yesterday’s announcement that the Boy Scouts of America will drop “Boy” from the name of its signature program is yet another sad development for the once storied and celebrated organization.
You’ll recall that the Boy Scouts announced in 2013 that they would be allowing openly homosexual scouts to join local troops. In 2015, they began accepting openly homosexual leaders. Since these changes, scout membership has dropped approximately ten percent. Many churches have decided to cancel sponsorship of troops.
The Boy Scouts have also announced plans to allow girls into their program.
So while this latest move in the interest of “inclusivity” reads like something of a satirical punchline, the decision to rebrand the century-old organization isn’t entirely shocking.
But it’s nevertheless sad – and exactly the opposite of what boys today need from those in positions of youth leadership.
Originally the brainchild of Britain’s Colonel Robert Baden-Powell, American scouting got its start in 1910. At the time, concern for child safety, along with laws requiring compulsory education, began bouncing many young boys from the nation’s factories. Without opportunities to learn practical skills and develop other positive character traits learned in traditional work, boys were floundering and desperate for something to do.
Enter the Boy Scouts of America.
It should be noted that Colonel Baden-Powell’s initial vision for scouting was deeply spiritual. In his book, Scouting for Boys, Baden-Powell wrote, “We aim for the practice of Christianity in their [boys] everyday life and dealings, and not merely the profession of theology on Sundays.”
As the Boy Scouts began to expand and grow in popularity, the organization deliberately broadened its spiritual emphasis from Christianity exclusively. It nevertheless made clear that “faith” and morality were critical elements in a boy’s life.
Tragically, like so often happens, these foundational principles have been watered down over the years, until they were pretty much discarded beginning with the membership and leadership changes announced in 2013 and 2015, respectively.
Yet, the core essence of the Boy Scouts has, obviously, been the exclusive community of boys. The organization’s founders knew what every parent of boys inherently knows. At times, it’s good for young men to be around other males and to not be distracted by members of the opposite sex. This is not meant as any criticism of girls. It’s just reality. Ditto for girls and the Girl Scouts.
Ironically, the early antagonists of male scouting were similar in some fashion to those today. Until the establishment of the Girl Scouts, the prohibition of females was a sore spot. Many young women petitioned for membership. But the leadership back in the early 20th century, unlike today’s, held firm to their foundational convictions.
What’s so unfortunate about this latest development is that it comes at a time when our nation’s boys are both under attack and in great need of leadership. We read about so-called “toxic masculinity” – the foolish notion that inherently male behavior is automatically bad for culture. As my friend and colleague Glenn Stanton aptly wrote recently:
Masculinity cannot be toxic. Maleness can be and unfortunately often is. Masculinity is a social virtue. Maleness just means being a male. Men who rescue those in distress, like we saw on 9/11, in the Houston floods this summer and those who ran toward the bullets in Las Vegas are masculine. Mass shooters, rapists, abusers, gang-bangers and sexual predators are not masculine. There is a world of difference between the two.
Glenn is precisely right. I believe the failure to distinguish between authentic masculinity and poorly developed maleness is partly what is contributing to foolish decisions like expanding the Boy Scouts to include girls.
While the latest news to fall from the Boy Scouts is both frustrating and regrettable, I’m heartened by the growing rise of an excellent organization committed to reestablishing the many noble and worthwhile principles that were once part and parcel of the BSA. Trail Life USA for boys (and American Heritage Girls for females) is a phenomenal scouting alternative. Billed as a “Christian Outdoor Adventure, Character, and Leadership Program for boys and young men,” the organization is rapidly expanding into all fifty states.
If you have a son of a scouting age, I strongly recommend that you check them out.