The first time I walked into a Boy Scout meeting as a boy of eleven is as ingrained in my mind as if it were yesterday. My Dad and I descended the moldy steps into the basement of an old Methodist church, opened the door, and walked in to the smell of freshly cut wood chips and the chopping sound of an axe hitting its mark. A group of ten or so boys around my age and older were gathered around a bearded, uniformed Scoutmaster who was showing them how to properly use a hatchet. We had arrived late, just to check out the goings-on. I wasn’t into sports, or much of anything really - except books - but a couple of my friends were Scouts and had invited me to their meeting.
“Want to give it a shot?” the Scoutmaster was looking at me and holding the axe out, handle first. Before walking over and taking it I tentatively looked at my dad, who pursed his lips and nodded approvingly. “Safety first,” the bearded man cautioned before he proceeded to show me how to cut the wood without cutting off any fingers in the process. As I performed that simple exercise, I remember thinking how cool it was to be trusted to wield what could be a pretty dangerous tool, and the responsibility made me feel bigger than my eleven years. But most of all I remember how doing what I perceived as “man-stuff,” surrounded by men and other boys, made me feel at least a little bit more like a man.
Those moments began what was to be a seven year adventure and the most significant non-school element of my pre-teen and teen-aged life. They were years filled with lots of “boy-stuff” under the watchful supervision of caring men and the camaraderie of other boys. Canoeing alone on a lake. Building campfires. Barely passing the ridiculously hard swim test at summer camp so I wouldn’t be the only kid not allowed on the water. S’mores. Dump cake. Hobo packets. Campfire stories. Games, teasing, and general rowdiness. Sleeping alone in the middle of the woods as a part of the Order of the Arrow Ordeal. Peeling myself out of a semi-warm sleeping bag on a freezing February morning in 1986 to watch Haley’s Comet pay a rare visit to Earth’s orbit. Picking up and sorting food for the hungry as a part of our annual food drive. Lugging a wooden sled across town to compete with other troops in Scouting skills contests, all of which involved plenty of cool “boy-stuff” like tying knots and building things.
There was a lot of “doing” in Scouting, but the ultimate goal was always the same. The Boy Scouts of America started in 1910 as a way to promote good citizenship and Christian morality, two years after Sir Robert Baden-Powell founded the movement in England. “We aim for the practice of Christianity in their everyday life and dealings, and not merely the profession of its theology on Sundays,” Baden-Powell wrote in Scouting For Boys.
The iconography was, in many instances, literally Norman 'Rockwellian,' from the chivalry of a crisply uniformed boy saluting the American flag or helping an old lady across the street to the Native American symbolism incorporated into the Order of the Arrow rituals. From the ceremonies to the symbols to the reading materials and skills learned - all were meant to teach, to prepare, but most of all to endear a heartfelt respect for our Creator, our family, our country, our environment, and the world around us.
In Scouting, progressing from rank to rank felt like it meant something, and I knew that becoming an Eagle Scout would be something I would cherish the rest of my life. Neil Armstrong was an Eagle Scout. So was former President Ford and our then-Tennessee Governor Lamar Alexander.
“Former Scouts have walked on the Moon, become President, and won the Heisman Trophy,” said President Reagan at a luncheon commemorating the group’s 75th anniversary in 1985. “Today they serve as Cabinet Secretaries, as my Press Secretary, and in the Congress. In fact, about two-thirds of the Members of the Congress have been in the Boy Scouts.”
I was proud to be a Scout, prouder still to earn my Eagle rank just before my 18th birthday.
But of course, as we all know, once social justice warriors gets their slimy tentacles into something their thirst is never quenched until that something is entirely destroyed, and such has it been with Boy Scouting ever since its clueless national leaders began leading the organization down that perilous cliff. From openly gay scout leaders to transgender members to just last Wednesday, when the organization officially announced a name change to Scouts BSA because, well, Boy Scouting isn’t just for boys anymore.
“We’re trying to find the right way to say we’re here for both young men and young women,” said hapless Boy Scouts Chief Scout Executive Mike Surbaugh. Because everyone is the same, don’t you know. Because little boys and little girls are, as far as today’s liberals are concerned, identical to each other in every possible way except a few ‘easily changeable’ body parts.
Of course, anyone with half a brain knows that boys and girls are different, but reason and common sense has never stopped a rabid social justice warrior from wanting to impose their twisted view of reality on the rest of us.
Ironically, their attack on Boy Scouting has also hurt the other group founded by Baden-Powell and his sister, Agnes - Girl Scouts. Though the decision to allow girls was applauded by various progressive and feminist groups, Girl Scout representatives themselves are less than amused. "The Boy Scouts' house is on fire," Girl Scouts told ABC News in a statement last October when the decision to allow girls was first announced. "Instead of addressing systemic issues of continuing sexual assault, financial mismanagement and deficient programming, BSA's senior management wants to add an accelerant to the house fire by recruiting girls."
Imagine, girls wanting a place to come of age and be themselves without the immaturity and awkwardness of gross boys. Imagine, girls wanting to do "girl-stuff."
Granted, some of this “boy and girl stuff” overlaps. Obviously, girls can canoe, camp out, and do pretty much anything a boy can, if she wants. But whether it’s a sports team or Boy or Girl Scouting, groups formed based on gender can provide a healthy, nurturing place for kids to come of age, not suppressing their God-given instincts and preferences but rather celebrating them and learning how to express themselves and function socially within the training wheels of those of their own gender.
Because try as liberals might to erase it, gender is and will always be “a thing.”
“The benefit of the single-gender environment has been well-documented by educators, scholars, other girl- and youth-serving organizations,” writes the Girl Scout blog, and they couldn’t be more on point. Check out this list of advantages of single-sex schools, a privilege only available to the rich. Sports teams provide similar life experiences, of course, but that wouldn’t have been an option for 80’s me.
Sadly, ‘2018 everybody’ will no longer have the option, at least as far as Boy Scouting is concerned.
I am grateful for Scouting and what it meant to me growing up. But I am also angry at what liberals have turned the group into, as well as the fact that, a decade from now, it very likely won’t exist. Because tragically, the Boy Scouts’ stubborn march to ‘inclusivity’ at any cost has managed to gut the organization of what made it special in the first place, which inevitably reminded me of this key quote from the movie The Incredibles -
“If everyone is special, no one is.”