After years of prohibiting openly gay members, the Boy Scouts of America has changed its policy and will now accept openly gay scouts. I always respected the organization’s right to freely associate, and am glad to see that such a decision was not forced upon them by government. However, if I had a son, I wouldn’t encourage him to join the Boy Scouts. This has nothing to do with the recent decision regarding gay membership.
Michael S. Alford, author of Swindled, wrote a piece for LRC a few months back that painted the Boy Scouts in quite an unattractive light. He explained that for a brief time he and the other leaders were able to teach their scouts what interested them. They rewrote the book, so to speak, choosing to focus on what interested them. They did their own fundraising and included other family members in the activities.
Then corporate found out.
They weren’t happy with the way Alford and the others had tailored the program. It didn’t fit their mold, it wasn’t focused on fundraising. So the upper management took a greater role, and the result was, according to Alford, “an environment where risk-taking was a frightful prospect, and instead it was enough to simply read from the Scout manual about how to do dangerous things and then check the box….”
At some point along way, Alford and the others stumbled upon a book written by one of the founders of the Boy Scouts. Penned over hundred years ago, “[i]ts very pages ooze with rugged individualism and self reliance. This man taught his early Scouts to go into the woods and cut down trees to make their shelters (tents? Bah!), to hunt and kill their supper.” So rather than put up with this sort of thing, (he explains the Boy Scouts now give merit badges for video games) his family will take the handbook and teach themselves.
This is what everyone ought to do who isn’t happy with an organization like the Boy Scouts. Instead of filing a lawsuit, start your own club. Take all the time, energy, and money that would otherwise be spent on lawyers, and devote that to building an organization that is more to your liking. I can’t seem to understand why anyone would want to be involved with an organization that was forced by the state to include them.
Similar to the way that unschooling turns education on its head, this might be referred to as unscouting. Pick and choose how and where to hold activities, what subjects to study, and be as inclusive or discriminatory as you wish. No doubt there are plenty of people interested in some sort of scouting association that would be open to trying something new, and given the right circumstances, such a movement could do great things.