Trail Life USA’s Mark Hancock on how the Boy Scouts lost their way

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Mark Hancock | Photo by Will Crooks

When the Boy Scouts of America announced earlier this month they would begin allowing girls to join their fraternity of young men, the Belton-based BSA alternative Trail Life USA issued a press release detailing their position on keeping their scouting-esque organization female free.

Founded in 2013, Trail Life markets itself as a group for followers of traditional biblical values. Up until this point, the group was most noted for opposing the BSA’s about-face on gay scouts. In the four years since Trail Life was formed, the organization has seen its membership grow to 30,000 members in 48 states.

We recently reached out to Trail Life USA CEO Mark Hancock to talk about his group and their place in a world in which the Boy Scouts sheds its more traditionalist beliefs as it adapts to changes in society. Here’s what he had to say.

The differences between boys and girls
Every engaged parent and every good teacher knows that boys and girls learn different. We’re seeing great success in schools that are accepting that and moving in that area and understanding they’re just wired differently. They always have been different. So, we think it’s important to acknowledge those differences. We think it will be very difficult to create a program that tries to speak to and encourage each one of those, in light of those differences.

Is it smart for Boy Scouts to allow girls?
If they are looking to increase their market, that certainly gives them greater potential to reach. My personal thought is that in order to gain that additional market, you are going to give up some, if not more. Only time will tell. If their intent is to grow, which I can’t imagine what else it would be, if their is intent to grow their membership, maybe it’s a good move.

On the Boy Scouts losing their way
Once you lose your compass, you lose your courage in your moral conviction. We think perhaps they’ve drifted from their compass. Ours says that the traditional values that have worked, there’s some secret sauce in there.

The lack of an Eagle Scout award in Girl Scouts
It’s a slight to girls to say, “That award you earned in that other program, that women designed, is not as good as our award. You need to come over here and get a male-designed award that was designed for boys because yours just doesn’t have that value.” I think that’s a mistake.

Girls crave adventure, too
I think it’s wonderful that somebody notes that girls like adventure. There are girls that want adventure as much as boys do. There are many girls who want that as much as boys do. A lot of boys aren’t interested in that at all.

I don’t think they’re going wrong by saying, “Girls want adventure, and we need to give it to them.” I think they are going wrong by saying, “Girls want adventure and we need to give it to them in exactly the same way we give it to boys.” I think that’s offensive to boys and that’s offensive to girls to say to them, “There’s nothing unique, there’s nothing wonderful, there’s nothing to celebrate about your differences.”

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