By Mark Hancock
So I’m left to wonder, what part of the first word in its name does the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) not understand?
With its recent announcement that it will admit girls, the organization has not simply shown a profound disregard for its admirable roots, it has further abandoned boys to a culture that values them less and less.
Dressed in the language of equality and fairness, the BSA move may seem harmless enough, but I believe it’s unhelpful at best and damaging at worst—to both boys and girls.
However much some may wish it were otherwise, the reality is that males and females are fundamentally different in many ways—physically, emotionally, relationally. Pretending otherwise in the name of progress or permissiveness might be culturally acceptable, but it does both sexes a disservice.
Among those differences, in general, is the way boys and girls learn. Girls are more likely to do well in the quiet control of a classroom, while boys squirm and struggle. Daring, action, and competition—potential strengths that rival focus, reflection, and consensus—are qualities that need to be fostered and filtered. Boys know that rough-and-tumble play is just that. Meanwhile, BSA restricts games like squirt guns and laser tag and is likely to further go down this path, alienating and downplaying natural boy tendencies.
Boys need strong male role models, a place for adventure, and opportunities to test themselves in pursuit of awards that challenge and channel their innate drive and daring. In this way they can be helped to grow into men of true strength, real character, and genuine conviction—not Hollywood’s distorted version.
Sadly, BSA appears to have bought into the idea that rather than being something to be celebrated and championed, boyhood is something to be watered down. They are discounting a historically male-focused experience that made Presidents, astronauts, and leaders of mere men. Indeed, making its inclusivity announcement on the International Day of the Girl Child could be considered the ultimate put-down.
Don’t misunderstand: the inference isn’t that girls are lesser or inferior. The BSA message is actually that boys are lesser and inferior because their uniqueness needs to be denied rather than directed, stifled rather than strengthened.
While I’m clarifying something, let me also emphasize that my conviction that we must provide space for “boys to be boys” does not mean I’m advocating a breeding ground for a future generation of Harvey Weinsteins.
Indeed, I believe one of the main reasons we see the sort of indefensible behavior by men in power like the rightly disgraced Hollywood mogul is a lack of the kind of mentoring and coaching that models true manhood.
I’m talking about instilling in today’s boys a culture of respect, honor, and integrity. Properly guided, the drive and daring tendencies in boys will lead them to become the determined, focused, winning men of tomorrow who appreciate the uniqueness and dignity of women.
You don’t have to look too far to see that at every level of society we are losing ground in areas as basic as kindness, self-control, respect, honor, purity. These should be taught and modeled for boys in an atmosphere designed for their unique temperament under the tutelage of men with the mettle to guide, and alongside their peers.
Robert Baden-Powell would not now recognize the organization he founded in 1910. But while BSA may have lost its way, it’s not alone, of course. It is just another group favoring trendy political correctness over time-honored principled convictions.
The results of all this are sadly too evident when it comes to our sons. Boys are losing out in any number of categories, from heightened special education involvement and ADHD diagnoses to lower high school rankings and college attendance.
While my dismay at the BSA decision centers on what this means for boys, I am also concerned about its impact on girls. What’s bad for the gander is equally bad for the goose. Girls, though wired different, equally need an environment that caters to their unique traits and qualities. You can’t deliver a program at a character-changing level with any real effectiveness in the same style to two different types of learners.
As Baden-Powell observed, “Girls should … take a real and not a visionary share in the welfare of the nation.”
But they shouldn’t be squeezed into a “boy” scout uniform.
One size does not fit all.
Mark Hancock is CEO of Trail Life USA, a Christian outdoor adventure, character and leadership program for boys and young men, K-12. Chartered through churches in 48 states, the program centers on outdoor experiences and biblical values that build a young man’s skills and allow him to grow on a personal level and as a role model and leader for his peers.