“To make boys who will turn out as men to be fine citizens and who will, if their country needs them, make better soldiers for having been Scouts.” – Theodore Roosevelt, 1911 (from the first edition of the Boy Scouts of America Handbook)
The Boy Scouts of America has lost its name, and its way. According to a CNN report, “Less than a year after the Boy Scouts of America decided to invite girls to join, the organization announced that it will refer to its older youth program as ‘Scouts BSA’ starting in February 2019.”
The announcement comes despite widespread public criticism, including that from the Girl Scouts of America, who remain solely dedicated to the development of girls and yet will lose girls to the NEW “Boy” Scouts.
This decision to change membership policy (and now the iconic name) goes against the very founding purposes of this American institution.
The early scouting movement was conceived largely from the personal experiences of British Army Lt. General Robert Baden-Powell, who first wrote about scouting from a military context in 1899. Baden-Powell had fought in the Boer War at the turn of the 20th century, and he noted that young British men were increasingly lacking in the skills associated with outdoor fieldcraft.
In 1908, Baden-Powell brought together 20 British boys – the first group of what would ultimately become his “boy scouts” – for a two-week period of camping, basic land-navigation, animal tracking, woodlore and generally learning something of the finer points of becoming men. From the very beginning, boys were separated from girls, purposefully, but not to deprive the girls of any development skills. Baden-Powell also started a girls organization he called the “Girl Guides.”
Inspired by the example of the British Boy Scouts of 1908, the Boy Scouts of America was established two years later, with one of its first enthusiastic supporters being none other than “Colonel” Theodore Roosevelt, who, like Baden-Powell, was concerned about the degrading culture of manhood in America. He too viewed the new scouting movement as a solution.
Roosevelt was not only instrumental in supporting and growing the fledgling Boy Scout movement, he was early on named honorary vice president of the Boy Scouts of America. Roosevelt and other founding fathers of the Boy Scouts of America made clear the importance of scouting to the development of principled manhood. (Interesting to note that President Roosevelt identified himself as Colonel Roosevelt in scout literature after the rank he held in the Spanish-American War)
The first BSA Handbook was full of admonitions about the importance of boys becoming principled men with and upholding manly virtues. Roosevelt made clear this important mission and purpose of the scouts in the first handbook: “I hope the Boy Scouts will practice truth and square dealing and courage and honesty. The man who counts and the boy who counts are the man and boy who steadily endeavor to build up, to improve, to better living conditions everywhere and all about them.”
The following from Roosevelt was also included in that first handbook, and it ends – though apparently without deserved effect – any argument that the Boy Scouts of America was meant to be co-educational: “The same qualities that mean success or failure to the nation as a whole mean success for failure in men and boys individually. To be helpless, self-indulgent, or wasteful will turn the boy into a mighty poor kind of man just as the indulgence in such vices by the men of a nation means the ruin of a nation. Any boy is worth nothing if he has not got courage, courage to stand up against the forces of evil and courage to stand up in the right path. Let him be unselfish and gentle, as well as strong and brave. It should be a matter of pride to him that he is not afraid of anyone and the he scorns not to be gentle and considerate to everyone, especially those who are weaker than he is. If he doesn’t treat his mother and sisters well, then he is a poor creature no matter what else he does; just as a man who doesn’t treat his wife well is a poor kind of citizen no matter what his other qualities may be. Let the boy remember he must have knowledge, he must cultivate a sound body and a good mind and train himself so that he can act with quick decision in any crisis that may arise. Mind, eye, muscle all must be trained so that the boy can master himself and thereby learn to master his fate.”
In my time in the scouts in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I distinctly remember the importance of developing into a principled man with distinctly manly virtues. Part of that experience was with the camping and outdoors, but primarily it was what we learned about becoming men as citizens: honorable protectors and providers to our family and good citizens of our nation. Boys can only fully develop as men within organizations like the Boy Scouts around other boys and male role models.
The good of the single-sex environment is not only for boys becoming men, but it is true for girls as well. The difference is that in the modern politically correct society, it’s permissible (even encouraged) to recognize and admire all-female institutions and groups while aiming to destroy anything traditionally all-male. This must end. It’s time for men to show the courage Colonel Roosevelt demanded of boys and men. It’s time for those who care about our boys and our nation to speak up, and to protect what we know to be right.
Orangeburg attorney Col. Bill Connor was the senior U.S. adviser to Helmand Province, Afghanistan, where he received the Bronze Star. He is the author of the book “Articles From War.” Among his multiple tours of duty in the Mideast, Connor served in a six-month peacekeeping mission between Egypt and Israel.