I’m leading off the day with this topic. My Dad, who would have turned 98 yesterday had he survived that long, would have wanted me to, I think.
The Boy Scouts, he made clear, taught him much of what he learned about being a man, an American, and an honorable citizen. The organization gave a young, physically unimpressive, lonely kid whose father had abandoned him and whose mother was moving between jobs and apartments during the Depression a place to meet the life-long friends who supported each other for more than 70 years, and most of all, to learn basic ethical values. Dad was certain that he might have ended up in jail without the Scouts: he was suspicious of authority, headstrong, and kept his own counsel. He definitely would not have had a family, as he was bitter about his own father’s betrayal. Thanks in great part to scouting, Jack A. Marshall, Sr. was a war hero, a Harvard grad, a lawyer, but most important of all to himself and to me, a loving, supportive, dedicated father.
So, in a way, I owe my life to the Boy Scouts as well. I joined the organization for a while, but outside of having the Boy Scout Law [“A Scout is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent.”] engraved on my brain for life, it wasn’t my thing. My son never wanted to get involved at all. Yet through my father, scouting was massively influential on the course of my life, and the development of my character.
As you may have heard by now, the Boy Scouts of America is striking “boys” from the name of its flagship program for 11-to 17-year-olds, and beginning in February 2019, will accept girls into its troops. This was the dropping of the other shoe following last year’s announcement that girls could join the younger Cub Scout units. Now young women will be eligible to reach the Eagle Scout rank, the highest achievement of the organization.
Mike Surbaugh, Chief Scout Executive, told the AP, “[W]e’re trying to find the right way to say we’re here for both young men and young women.” Translation: “We’re trying to survive.” The ethical problem such a strategy involves is that when an organization abandons its mission just to stay in business, it has lost its integrity, and should probably just dissolve. The mission of the Boy Scouts since it was founded in 1910 has been to prepare boys “to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law.” Preparing boys to be men and girls to be women are both worthy missions, but they are not the same mission, much as radical feminists and cultural revolutionaries would have us believe. Where does a young boy like my father go now to find a male peer group and the guidance of responsible male role models? Your guess is as good as mine, but the answer isn’t the Scouts.
The man-hating spin on this development, of course, is that it’s a victory for feminism, and another blow to the patriarchy. It’s not a victory for anyone. The decision wasn’t made for ethical reasons or political reasons, but in desperation. Member ship has been in free-fall for years. The Boy Scouts had made a multiple decades worth of tone-deaf and stubborn management decisions, such as treating gays as lepers, and finding themselves branded as ultra-conservative and anachronistic. (Yes, ethical values make you conservative now.) Scouts wore uniforms while the culture turned against the military and police; camping was no longer cool; and urban kids were turning to street gangs instead of Scout troops. (I wonder if the gangs will go co-ed?) The Sixties probably put the writing on the wall. The values of Scouting are worth fighting for, but the people running the Boy Scouts lacked the courage, creativity and leadership skills to fight a good fight. That’s how organizations, institution and nations die.
Ironically, the gender integration of the Boy Scouts will probably kill the Girl Scouts too. That is also bad for the culture, and girls, and feminism.
Now that the Boy Scouts are no longer, we will start hearing about how the culture discourages manhood, is marginalizing boys, and why we need an organization like what the Boy Scouts of America used to be. We do, too.
But we will never have such an organization again.