When the Boy Scouts are not just for Boys, do we also lose the Men?

On the first day of Boy Scouts (circa 1989) for my older brother, my mother—who had been über active in our Cub Scouting career as a den mother—walked into the room intent on sticking around. The Scoutmaster (a friend of the family and genuinely good guy) put his arm around Mom and walked her back out to the sidewalk outside the building. 

He gently but firmly let her know that the 7-8 capable men in that room (one of whom was my dad) would take it from there. When she tells the story today, she smiles at the offense that she took at the time. Why were women not allowed to help shape these boys?

It’s not that I want girls to be excluded from all of the opportunities that scouting afforded me, or that I think women are less than capable of shaping boys into respectable and capable men. It’s that part of the magic of scouting (which made it as valuable as it was for me) was that there were no girls or women there.

The bottom line is that I believe boys and girls are different. I know that’s crazy-edgy to say in 2018, but I still believe it.

Note that I did not say that boys are better than girls, or vice versa. I said we are different.

Note also (again) that I don’t think that women are less capable of teaching boys than men. Many of my most influential teachers were women.

But when there were no women around, something happened to those men who were my scoutmasters and leaders. I don’t mean some toxic locker room talk (though there were far more bodily functions expressed and discussed), I mean those men stepped up in ways that they would not have, had a woman been around and stepping up for them.

When there are no women around, and a little boy cries because he’s terrified of sleeping in a tent by himself, to see a grown man waddle out of his sleeping bag and across the moonlit field to grab him a bottle of water and put an arm around him is something I’ll never forget.

And it wouldn’t have happened had there been a female scoutmaster there. She’d have beat him to the water bottle by 5 minutes. You know it’s true just as much as I do because on the whole women are more readily compassionate than men. I know that’s a generalization, and some of you just queued up a list of 6 guys you know who would have rushed across the field.

And you may be right, maybe my generalizations are unfair, so let’s get specific: I know my mom would’ve beat my dad across the field in a heartbeat. My wife would beat me across the field today, in a heartbeat.

But I needed to see my dad (and other men like him) do it. And that only happened because someone told my mom (and other women like her) she couldn’t come.

I know that opens up all sorts of wounds for some people around toxic masculinity and I (very incompletely) get it.

But what I am saying is that FOR ME, part of the magic of scouting was that there were no girls there, which is not a bad thing. Just like an all-girls school provides an atmosphere where learning can happen differently, scouting provided a space for my teenaged brain to learn things that I am not sure I would have otherwise, including how to value and treat women.

I guess I’m just saying, please don’t put me in some misogynistic box if I think it’s a bad thing to “let girls in” to scouting. I’m just mourning the loss of a part of my childhood that deeply shaped who I am.

If we don’t let boys see men being men, do we risk the men just disappearing?

Can We Talk?

If every person in favor of repealing the Affordable Care Act is framed as a monster who wants people to die, the conversation is basically over before it even starts.

If every person who votes for a democrat is framed as a baby-killer who cares about ____ more than they care about life, the conversation is basically over before it starts.

It’s the dialogical equivalent of “have you stopped beating your wife?” as an opening line of question.

If you can’t state your opponent’s perspective in words that they would agree with, it is functionally impossible to have a dialogue about it. You can talk around each other, but you can’t have a dialogue. You can probably even sell a lot of books or radio advertisements, but you can’t actually have a conversation until you admit that the other side is full of people. Real human people.

If the other side only hears (shrilly) from you that they are trying to kill a group of people, it’s likely that they’ll stop listening. Nobody wants to enter a conversation where they are the villain.

…and now you know one main reason why I don’t talk politics online.

Several Things I am Doing Instead of Voting for President.

Forefathers. Democracy. Republic. Trump. Clinton. I really don’t want to discuss it online. Here’s what I’m doing instead.

Last night’s debates sealed it for me. I’m (at best) writing in a candidate. In the paraphrased words of Martin Luther, it’s not right or safe to let your conscience down.

Before you try to convince me otherwise: I’d love to get coffee with you and talk about my reasons for abstaining, but that’s not what this post is about.

If you think our culture is spinning out of control, (or about to if X candidate wins in November), there’s functionally very little you can do about it. Here are your options, as I see them:

  1. You can freak out, and head to Facebook with pleas for people to change their minds. (I don’t know anybody who changed their mind after the debate last night. Do you?)
  2. You can hunker down, buy a ton of canned goods, munitions, and water bottles in preparation for armageddon.
  3. You can start today creating culture in your little pocket of this world. Make a list of things that matter, and do one today.

Spoiler alert: I’m doing #3.

Here’s some ways I’m voting with my feet and hands (since I can’t vote with a ballot in good conscience this year):

Public Schools

Both of my children started at Wake County Public School this year (one kindergartener and one 3rd grader who has been homeschooled for the past two years), and I am going to be helping out in their public school.

Every hour that I can donate to helping in a classroom or on a field trip is an hour that the school system doesn’t have to bleed out of our already-underpaid teachers and staff. (As an aside, if you’d care to debate this, I’ll need you to go spend a day doing a 1st grade teacher’s job and then take a peek at their paystub. From there, we can debate.)

In fact, I’m starting this tomorrow: I’m helping out at picture day at the boys’ school. I’ll be wrangling children and buttoning top buttons and helping kids to smile. My children have called me “silly enough” to be helpful in this area.

Other ways you can help at public schools:

  • Give money. The PTA at your kids school (or the one they used to go to) could use your help getting funding to make things happen. Things that have a quantifiable end goal: helping kids succeed in life.
  • Ask the principal how you can help. They will have a list prepared to hand to you, if they are prepared.

If you are trying to change the culture at your child’s school (who knows?) maybe that will trickle up to school boards and other civic institutions, and with any luck, the people in Washington who have forgotten how to represent us will take note.

Local Government

Here’s the thing: am I passionate about the Supreme Court, and issues that affect the country my kids are growing up in? Absolutely. Do I have any real functional power to affect change on the Supreme Court nominees?

Probably not.

You know what I can impact?

  • I can help the Town of Cary be more welcoming to the hundreds (thousands?) of refugees being sent our way.
  • I can lobby town council to put in a crosswalk at my kid’s school. (Reedy Creek Elementary/Middle, if you’re reading this, Town Council)
  • I can be a part of town meetings where plans are discussed, and adopted.
  • I can teach my kids not to litter, and explain to them that the town of Cary pays people to walk the 30 miles of greenways picking up litter. When they throw down a piece of trash, they are costing our city money.
  • I can volunteer at my public library to tutor kids, or teach a class on web development, or WordPress.

Your options, Again

You've really only got two option when it comes to social involvement Click To TweetYou can panic, blame, point fingers, detach from the process, write angry online diatribes, vilify the other team and gloss over the mistakes of your own team (or lack of team), or any other number of things.

If you need me, I’ll be wiping the crumbs off of an elementary school kid’s chin tomorrow morning so that he can look good in a picture.

How to Vet an SEO Expert. (Hint: this works for almost any pro)

I have moved this post and lots of other WordPress posts over to my new site at https://wpsteward.com, where I will continue publishing helpful tips for Website owners going forward.
Snake Oil, Anyone?  Creative Commons Image Attribution
Snake Oil, Anyone?
Creative Commons Image Attribution

I might get some flack for this: but I think most SEO experts are con artists.

Sure, there’s room for legitimate folks who study Google (and other) algorithms. Some of them are extremely knowledgeable, and do great work.

But there is a serious undercurrent of snake-oil salesmen and half-baked “consultants” in the field.

Here’s my guess as to why, and a way to sift out the chaff.

Read the rest of this post over at the brand new WP Steward blog.

What Icy Roads Reminded Me about Web Coding

I have moved this post and lots of other WordPress posts over to my new site at https://wpsteward.com, where I will continue publishing helpful tips for Website owners going forward.

When you are driving on an icy road in a neighborhood, it makes sense to only go as fast as you are comfortable running into something. This has been the lesson I’ve learned looking out my front window over the past few days.

This hill (outside my house) has been like a wonderful social experiment on how bad decisions are made on ice. Wife and 5-year-old son for scale.
This hill (outside my house) has been like a wonderful social experiment on how bad decisions are made on ice. Wife and 5-year-old son for scale.

The same can be said for web coding. Let me tell you a story about that (filed under “just this past week”):

It was a routine change to a theme, swapping out one image for another… and it turned everything purple.

Read the rest of this post over at the brand-new WP Steward Blog