Salvo 03.12.2021 5 minutes

New Boy Scouts, New Men

Boy Scouts Saluting

Patriots must rebuild the single-sex institution.

Political friendship between man and woman relies on the public cultivation of masculine and feminine virtue. 

Since the beginning, single-sex institutions have been the mainstay of American culture. They are a key precursor and secondary support system to marriage. Once self-evidently vital to the education of the sexes, the disbanding and disparagement of single-sex institutions has prevented men and women from mastering virtue as men and as women. As a result, intrasexual confusion, alienation, and resentment has festered: girlbosses and soyboys, thots and incels, cucks and carousel queens aren’t just memes. They are major political problems signifying sex-specific brokenness across the board, and the cause of an impending demographic disaster for the world.

The revival of American marriage will require patriots to resuscitate the single-sex institution and defend it—against the Equality Act, yes, but also against the spirit of the law that predated it by many decades: textureless, financially motivated “egalitarianism”, which obscures the unique moral dignity, psychological needs, and practical motivations of men and women by pretending no meaningful differences exist between them.

Consider the Boy Scouts. 

When the Boy Scouts began in the early twentieth century, Scout Code and Law addressed all three of the unique moral dignity, psychological needs, and practical motivations of boys. Scouting provided a way for boys to become men by learning competence, confidence, and moral virtue in a closed system with the opportunity to ascend in status and achieve increasing responsibility. It was about leadership, stewardship, and citizenship, rooted in the disciplines of physicality, responsibility, benevolent authority, the mastery of nature, and brotherhood.  The Boy Scouts built and nurtured an explicitly patriotic and manly hierarchy wherein boys could find their way and earn their stripes.

In 1972, BSA launched the “Improved Scouting Program” to adapt the institution to the modern world. However well-intentioned, this impulse began the organization’s decline into irrelevance. A radically revised handbook eliminated several merit badges for outdoor skills. Scoutcraft requirements yielded to sessions on drug abuse, family finances, childcare, and community problems. The concept of the “personal growth agreement conferences” was introduced as a requirement for each rank. The use of “boy” was de-emphasized

The radical feminization of the Boy Scouts did not come out of the blue. In fact, it tracks precisely with the feminization of the workforce. During this decade, female participation in the workforce crossed into the majority position, tipping off an era of wage depression and intersexual competition for jobs from which we have not recovered

The Boy Scouts were one of many cultural institutions in the 1970s that, seemingly overnight, adapted to a new philosophy of the good life, denying the singularity of the sexes to weaken resistance to dramatic changes in the labor market and family life. During the long afternoons and evenings of their childhoods, the 70’s latchkey kids, boys and girls together, were raised instead by another institution: television. 

With its pretty lies and bitter ironies, TV entertained and trained America’s spiritual orphans to justify the absence of Mom, to replace her function, to demonstrate that she and Dad were essentially fungible, to prevent them from seeing clearly the future rushing swiftly their way. Much like television, Boy Scouts killed history in favor of the post-’60s imaginary. 

True to the forces the “liberated” mindset unleashed, the once-great BSA never recovered from the membership dropoff its changes precipitated, and the progressive ideologues in the Boy Scouts’ ranks were effective in progressing their charges right out of the culture “the Scouts”—as it became—was designed to protect. 

Now? The Scouts is beyond rehabilitation. But the empty space they left behind on their long march is ripe for renewal. 

It’s not just that single sex institutions need to merely exist; they need to elevate the sexes according to their distinct virtues. The second it becomes like a gender-neutral office space is the second it loses all purpose and appeal. Boys both need and desire the kind of skills-building, pioneer-spirited program that the Boy Scouts used to be. 

Boys today especially need it. In the public square, they are brought up to despair in the veritable curse of their masculinity. Especially in the wake of draconian, social life-strangling lockdowns, American boys are dying for someone to show them how to become physically strong and capable. American girls are desperate for complementary mentorship by exemplary women, though the culture is desperate to stop them from admitting it.

Ultimately, women want to marry the kind of man who, when pressed, can become the post-apocalyptic warlord circumstances may at any moment demand. Fathers who know what time it is and can build local strength accordingly will prepare the next generation of men for a life well lived or, at least, for the hard times always eventually to come. Actually, they must.

The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.

The American Mind is a publication of the Claremont Institute, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to restoring the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. Interested in supporting our work? Gifts to the Claremont Institute are tax-deductible.

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