Burying the "Boy" In Boy Scouts
My time spent in the Boy Scouts was regrettably short-lived. I donned the hat and satchel for not nearly enough time—an omission from my life for which I feel regret. I accoutered my pre-pubescent chest with little suede merit badges for far too short a while. I tangled myself in a confused mess of a bolo tie and neckerchief but quit that dignified noose far too soon. I cinched my slacks, tucked my shirt, raised my chin, and straightened my back for only a scant few years—not by any stretch long enough to learn all the lessons of adolescence or the nuances of becoming a man.
Yet were I to return to my troop today, somewhere in the depths of a dank, unfinished basement in suburban New Jersey, apparently, I’d be no better off in my pursuit of finding the esoteric blueprint at whose center rests the world of manhood. No longer, it seems, is that part of the Boy Scouts’ curriculum or its seemingly ageless protocol. I should say that it’s no longer a part of the Scouts BSA’s agenda. BS, I daresay, are exactly the correct two letters to use, for as of this week, the century-old organization has changed its name from the former to the latter and adopted a newfangled initialism, BSA. A bit redundantly, the new name for the old group reads as “Scouts: Boy Scouts of America”.
By burying the “boy” in those three letters, the organization is trying to neuter its appeal. It’s trying to emasculate its ethos by slicing away the boy from the scout. It’s trying to become more inclusive to any human form who might want to join its ranks—regardless of that form’s anatomical endowment (or, more importantly, its lack thereof).
You see, this move toward boy-less scouts is the effect of both social and financial pressures by which the group has been burdened. Membership in the organization for the past decade has witnessed a precipitous drop. It has today about 2.5 million members, but this pales in comparison with the number of enrollees in prior years. And it isn’t just the result of flaky, noncommittal kids like me dropping out in the prime of their pinewood derby days; many boys are avoiding the group altogether, opting for other pursuits. I’m sure it’s no coincidence that this decrease in attendance coincides with the emergence of such sedentary “activities” as video games, smartphones, gadgets, girlfriends, candy crush, and other mindless things.
One mustn’t forget that a drop in attendance means a drop in finances. Though a non-profit organization, the Boy Scouts—as all devoted parents know—still does collect a modest fee from every child who participates. These fees cover things likes liability insurance for the volunteer leaders, materials for certain local and national events, advertising to lure into the club a new generation of members, and, of course, the indispensable CEO compensation package. You probably weren’t expecting that last expenditure, but it did cause quite a ruckus in 2009 when it was revealed that the organization’s departing “scout executive” was paid $1.6 million. He was, at the time, the fifth highest-paid non-profit CEO in the country.
The social pressures have been equally as exorbitant as the pay packages to which the scout leaders are privy. In our increasingly and frighteningly ambi-genderous world, it’s become clear that girls can be no longer simply girls, nor boys exclusively boys. Fluidity, in all matters biological, is now in vogue and pansexual, asexual, pseudo-sexual—these are the erotically neologized words of the day. De rigueur it’s become to plant in the mind of a young child the notion that sex isn’t predestined by chromosomes, biology, or by the sheer dumb luck of chance, but that it is, on the contrary, a fully optional thing. It’s something, on a whim, that the child can embrace or forgo, accept or reject. To be male or female is the child’s decision to make and the parent’s to oblige and abet. We’re told to indulge every direction in which the child’s infantile predilections may go. Thus, you have girls wanting to be Boy Scouts and boys, as certainly will prove to be the case, wanting or wishing themselves to be Girl Scouts.
Before a child has developed the capacity to reason, or has refined the more mature subtleties of thought, he or she is encouraged by adults and by parents to think, act, dress, and trial a life as she or he sees or feels fit. It’s only the most “progressive” of parents who see in this aberrance of normality, this manipulation of biology, this corruption of psychology, and this blatant sabotage of youth any potential for a useful and salutary end. At best, such parents will rear a confused child searching not only for sexuality, but for a tangible understanding of self; at worst, a sexually and perhaps pathologically dysmorphic one. But at least she’ll be allowed to be one of the boys.
This isn’t to say that I’m not one for inclusivity. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is, after all, our ability to converge as one people without discrimination, bigotry, or bias that makes us a more dynamic, sympathetic, and vibrant human race. Nothing can undercut this in a modern, civilized age. But as a child growing up, there’s nothing wrong with his having a small portion of his time devoted to others like himself. Let him have the space as a boy amongst other boys to build himself into a man. Let him also have, in other avenues of his life, the essential and enhancing qualities of the feminine influence and touch. Let him flower in a hermaphroditic tandem on those occasions, but also let him dig roots with boys like himself. Let the Boy Scouts be the bastion for the boys, the Girl Scouts for girls, and let’s not confuse the topic any more than already it’s been.