Baden-Powell’s military career was controversial, but that was inevitable, given that his wars were not against the conventional armies of Western European nations, but against Matabele, Ashanti and Zulu tribesmen, as well as the resourceful and tough-as-nails Dutch Boers of South Africa, who were pioneers in irregular warfare. (Note: kommando is a Boer word). It sickened him to see young lads from the slums of Liverpool and Manchester get killed far from home, for want of simple skills like reading a compass, following or disguising a trail, camouflage, etc., and so he wrote manuals such as Reconnaissance and Scouting and Aids to Scouting. Upon returning home, he was surprised to find these works popular with boys and various boyhood organizations, and so he converted them more directly for this purpose with his seminal work, Scouting for Boys, and thus the Boy Scouts were born.

By the time my son enrolled in the Scouts in the 1990s the onset of their decline was upon them. On camping trips I would bring knives from my history collection, stick them in a piece of wood as we sat around the campfire, and tell a story. With my Bowie knife I told the story of Crockett and Bowie at the Alamo. With my Civil War Arkansas ”toothpick” I gave an account of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain saving Little Round Top, and perhaps his nation, with a bayonet charge. With my Marine KA-BAR I related the heroism of Dave Shoup at Tarawa. Each time my son and I would do the voices of the characters. The boys loved this stuff.

Over time, though, it seemed as though divorced and single moms, some of whom obviously had personal issues with what they call today “toxic masculinity,” began to get more and more control over scouting. At one meeting I recall, it was announced that there would be no wearing of camouflage or other “military style” clothing or equipment, no more “militaristic games” like capture the flag, and no sheath knives. When this last was announced, though, the scout leader pointed at me directly and yelled “Except for you!” A cheer went up from the lads….

Now it has been announced that in effect there will be no more Boy Scouts. The girls have arrived. Was this because girls have such limited opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, engage in crafts and other hands-on skills? Of course not…  In addition to the obvious Girl Scouts, girls have for quite some time been welcome in the BSA affiliated Explorers (our oldest daughter had a great time in a local firefighter Explorer post growing up). This move isn’t designed to give something to girls; it’s designed to take away boyhood from boys…  After all, it is toxic, dontcha know.

One would think that the obvious need not be stated – that boys are not merely anatomically different than girls. From every XY chromosome in their body, they think differently, learn differently, have different energy-expulsion needs, and just plain see the world differently than girls. Doubt this? Then consider something else Baden-Powell said that resonates much louder today:

“There are thousands of boys being wasted daily to our country through being left to become characterless, and therefore, useless wasters, a misery to themselves and an eyesore and a danger to the nation. They could be saved if only the right surroundings or environment were given to them at the receptive time of their lives.”

The thousands of his day have become millions, and anyone thinking this applies equally to boys and girls is either an idiot or ideologically blind. And instead of rescuing these boys we’re cutting the ropes…

Boy Scouts – Requiescat in pace.


David Churchill Barrow is a regular Liberty Island contributor and along with his wife, MaryLu Barrow, is the author of the young adult novella Silver and Lead.

Photos by jxson  and  Internet Archive Book Images

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