Boy Scouts and the Making of American Youth

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For more than a century, the Boy Scouts of America has had something of a monopoly on neckerchiefs, knot-tying, merit badges and all manner of backcountry skills for boys, treating snakebite and frostbite alike.

No more. The protracted debate over whether to allow gay Scouts and Scout leaders has angered many church leaders and parents across the political and religious spectrums. The result is a surge of enrolments in alternative outdoor and character-building programs that cater to pagans and Pentecostals and everyone in between.

“Before the Boy Scouts was founded in 1908 you had all these independent scouting groups like the Sons of Daniel Boone and the League of Woodcraft Indians,” said Jay Mechling, professor emeritus of American studies at the University of California, Davis, and the author of “On My Honor: Boy Scouts and the Making of American Youth.” “Now we are starting to see those types of groups again.”

Some parents are seeking to sever ties with the Boy Scouts because of the May 23 vote to allow gay youths into the program. Still others are indignant that the Scouts have not moved more quickly to adopt more inclusive policies.

 

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