Hi Readers! First of all, a thanks to all the people who have commented. It was a good reminder to me — as was part of the speech in the original post (“I suppose there are some things I would change, like make the BSA image more inclusive…”) — that the sad fact is that there is an official policy against gay and/or atheist leadership at the Boy Scouts. I hate that. And if I’d thought about that part more the first time my son went with a friend to a meeting, maybe I would have said, “Don’t go.”
But off he went and he came back exhilarated. Apparently, the boys ran around for about half an hour before the meeting began and it was fun. Real fun — not run by a coach, not dedicated to improving any particular skill, just boys running around, being boys. And after that, it was boys sitting in a circle, working seriously on a badge. (Architecture.)
And even though I hadn’t started Free-Range Kids yet, I did realize: Wow. That’s not a thing that most of the boys I know get. It wasn’t gym class or Little League. It was something more old-fashioned, both the free time and the tinkering time. And when my son said he’d be going on an overnight in a month — it was like falling into Robinson Crusoe-land. Suddenly there was boyhood beckoning our boy.
Do I want my sons (both have joined) to be part of an anti-gay, anti-atheist organization? No. Do I want them to be part of the troop they love, where they’ve learned how to make a fire, cook outside, hike for miles and sleep on the ground? Yes. Do I want them to learn hate? No. We do try to teach tolerance. Do I want them to be part of a group where, the higher you go in rank the more your job is to help the younger kids? Yes.
For the record, the Greater New York Council has a strong anti-discrimination policy. Apparently troops and their leadership often reflect the local community. We live in New York City. For a while the troop met in a synagogue. Now it meets in a church.
Nonetheless, nothing is uncomplicated. These comments on this blog remind me that part of my job should be agitating the Boy Scouts of America to abolish its homophobic, anti-atheist rules, which are not only wrong, but are also alienating whole swaths of boys who would otherwise join and love the Scouts.
So thank you, as usual, for helping me get some perspective. And I will now go write to the Scouts. – Lenore