Tenderfoot: How this ex-Boy Scout feels about girls in the club | Stu Bykofsky

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P.S. 62 in the South Bronx, where Troop 352 met years ago.

In what some might see as the continuing feminization of America, the Boy Scouts of America — contradicting its very name — will start admitting girls (as Cub Scouts) beginning next year.

Is it actually a sign of America’s gender confusion and moral collapse?

Not really, but there is something vaguely unfair and unequal about Boy Scouts admitting girls while the Girl Scouts won’t admit boys. Girls will continue to have a “safe space” where they can gather without boys, but boys no longer will have an exclusive clubhouse, a single-sex sanctuary.

So much for male privilege.

I take a quick think back to my early youth in the South Bronx, where I was a member of Troop 352, which met at P.S. 62 in a longtime low-income neighborhood. I doubt that the Girl Scouts were active in my old neighborhood, because my sister would have joined. My olive-green uniform was the only one hanging in the Bykofsky closet.

Back then, the idea of Troop 352 — since disbanded at my old school — admitting girls would have been as unthinkable as scouts welcoming transgender members, which happened this year.

Times change.

I owned the thick Boy Scout Handbook, which was a guide to a healthy, helpful, moral life, and I wasn’t aware of the book’s white, Christian, and vaguely militaristic institutional orientation. Scouting originated in England in 1908 with the publication of British Gen. Robert Baden-Powell’s Scouting for Boys.

Like the military, scouting has ranks, starting with Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class. Each requires greater skills in first aid, knot-tying, navigation, physical fitness, citizenship, and what is called “Scout Spirit.” I never advanced beyond Tenderfoot, even though I was the troop treasurer, a skill for which there was no merit badge. Dang.

Above First Class are Star, Life, and the ultimate, Eagle Scout.

One requirement for Eagle Scout is the accumulation of 21 merit badges, which are uniform patches indicating that the boy has mastered a variety of skills. At scouting’s start, merit badges were skewed toward skills that involved forestry and wilderness survival.

Maybe the best-known of these would be fire-making. Yeah, I learned to do that but found it easier to carry wooden matches in a waterproof container.

Other merit badges involved map-reading, gun safety, and animal husbandry.

I could read a subway map, guns were banned in New York City, and the only animals in my neighborhood were dogs, cats, and rats. They managed to replicate with no human assistance.

Over the decades, the scouts realized that America was no longer the frontier. Older, forest-based merit badges were replaced by badges that involved urban skills such as leadership, automotive maintenance, communication, protecting the environment, and mentoring schoolchildren. All to the good.

Earning your way to Eagle Scout is nearly as difficult at becoming a Navy SEAL, and it is offered only in the Boy Scouts because the Girl Scouts are organized differently. Although I don’t envision a massive influx of girls into the Boy Scouts, creating a path for girls with high aspirations is the fair thing to do.

The republic will survive. So will the Girl Scouts.

Times change, and I think Troop 352 would be good with it, too.