The Boy Scouts will accept gay Scouts — but not gay Scoutmasters. I’d bet parents will be OK with that and critics will not.
Founded in 1910 to promote “self-reliance, patriotism, courage, morality, outdoor ruggedness, and all-around manliness,” Boy Scouts of America has changed along with American culture, write Brett and Kate McKay on The Art of Manliness.
They cite Kathleen Arnn’s comparison of the 1911 BSA handbook with the modern version published in 2009, which lacks the “verve, punch, and adventurous spirit—the manliness—of the original handbook.”
. . . Whereas the first edition imparts tough-minded common sense, the 12th edition brims with cautionary tales and safety checklists, emphasizing timidity rather than adventure.
Merit badge requirements used to require action, write the McKays. Now they require “more thinking than doing.”
In the 1911 handbook, earning each badge involved the completion of a short list of one-sentence requirements. Modern badge requirements, on the other hand, run to as many as ten paragraph-long sections, the first of which is always a discussion of the need to discuss safety considerations with one’s leader. The gardening badge for example, requires the Scout to discuss with his counselor what hazards he might encounter if he happened to unfortunately plant his tomatoes near a beehive.
. . . The hands-on tasks are now tucked into long lists of requirements that ask the scout to thoroughly Review/Describe/Explain/Illustrate/Demonstrate the underlying principles and context of the badge’s subject matter before trying their hand at it.
The 1911 camping merit badge required Scouts to sleep out for 50 nights, build a fire without matches, pitch a tent without help and construct a raft. The modern badge requires 20 nights of camping, pitching a tent with another Scout and a great deal of making checklists, creating plans and describing camping guidelines, equipment and, of course, safety procedures.
For the 1911 merit badge, the Scout had to “invent and patent some useful article” and “show a working drawing or model of the same.” Nowadays, the requirements are very, very long — and no patent is required.
The “firemanship” badge is “geared towards preparing the Scout to actually fight the fire and rescue people.” The modern badge — called “fire safety” — focuses on “how to prevent and escape fires.” Scouts learn “how to safely light a candle!”
Of course, today’s Scouts can earn merit badges in “Game Design (which involves playing and describing what you like about your favorite video games), Skating, Traffic Safety, Citizenship in the World (as opposed to just the nation), and Disability Awareness.”