Boy Scouts of America: Youth development for all boys?

Scott A.

Literary news sources indicate there is evidence that the Scouts of America has turned potential youth participants away based on factors such as race, sexual orientation, and religion. During the program’s infancy, policies were set in place that harbor this concept of exclusion. This discrimination created a place where positive development was solely geared for one distinct set of youth.   It is this particular essence we must consider. The implications these policies created during the course of the program influence the potential impact of the program for the future.

When the Boy Scouts of America’s (BSA) executive board held their first meeting in November 1910, they passed a resolution allowing councils to deny membership on the basis of race. This policy in itself is a moral dilemma. The failure to ever publicly reject its racial policy to this day is deeply troubling when we ponder youth development.

Through the content of this youth development course we have seen the ways this kind of discrimination will hinder aspects of positive youth development. Upon further investigation we are able to examine the assets that these youth will go without. For example the four dimensions of development, which include cognitive, social, emotional and physical skill, learning will be non-existent for the youth who are turned away.

This kind of thinking denies the basic rights to development. We must examine what kinds of learning are being taken away from them. Generally, youth need an environment that will provide physical and psychological safety, as well as a structure that is appropriate to the development of this age. It must be a place where there is an opportunity to feel a sense of belonging and self value. They must be able to develop confidence in their own abilities, or in other words, a way for them to get a sense of self-efficacy. It is essential that they be provided opportunities to contribute to the community and to develop strong links between families, schools and the community.

When discrimination happens we can see drastic changes to youth development. Exclusion ultimately leads to gang activity in South Central, Los Angeles.

Gangs were formed due to a variety of factors dating back to the 1950s and ’60s, including, racial segregation leading to the formation of black “street clubs” by young African American men who were excluded from organizations such as the Boy Scouts, while in the midst of the waning of black nationalist organizations.

With this thinking, how can we expect the youth, then and now, to have a fair chance at development? Within an organization there are factors at play that both facilitate and hinder development in regards to youth. We often see stigmas in these programs, whether harmless or not they are present nonetheless. In 1963 Goffman defined stigma as a “discrediting attribute assigned by society to those who differ in some manner from society’s expectations, customs, and mores. It results from a social categorization process that allows for the quick identification of those who are similar and those who are different and can therefore be considered as “others” (McHatton & Correa. January 01, 2005).

Each individual has a different method of learning and a rate at which they develop. It is essential to understand the major defining factor in correlation to youth development. The rule of thumb is, without participation the chances of positive youth development are much lower. So why do we find ways to limit our youth’s development based only on extrinsic concepts that are far removed from the youth’s control? I do not have the answer to this question, but it is paramount that we look at the infractions made in the past to make sure this type of discrimination will be non-existent in the future.

Further Reading:

McHatton, P., & Correa, V. (January 01, 2005). Stigma and Discrimination. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 25, 3, 131-142.

Seaton, E. K. (June 19, 2010). The Influence of Cognitive Development and Perceived Racial Discrimination on the Psychological Well-being of African American Youth. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 39, 6, 694-703.

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One Response to Boy Scouts of America: Youth development for all boys?

  1. t510z says:

    The fact that in this day and age that race, and sexual orientation is still a problem is absolutely barbaric. Children are children, they all need positive development and support in their lives to become happy and healthy adults. Boy Scouts is a program that has such high potential, it gives youth the opportunity to be independent, smart, and comfortable not at home. The idea is excellent but because Scouts is stuck in the past they are losing potential participants and volunteers. Scouts does not utilize social media, so the only time one ever sees Scouts in the media is when something bad has taken place. This has given Scouts the image of non-diverse, stupid, and sexual predators. If Scouts would learn how to evolve it would allow children to have one more way to create an identity for themselves, learn, and mature.
    Brandon Z

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