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On My Honor

Boy Scouts and the Making of American Youth

In a timely contribution to current debates over the psychology of boys and the construction of their social lives, On My Honor explores the folk customs of adolescent males in the Boy Scouts of America during a summer encampment in California’s Sierra Nevada. Drawing on more than twenty years of research and extensive visits and interviews with members of the troop, Mechling uncovers the key rituals and play events through which the Boy Scouts shapes boys into men. He describes the campfire songs, initiation rites, games, and activities that are used to mold the Scouts into responsible adults.

The themes of honor and character alternate in this new study as we witness troop leaders offering examples in structure, discipline, and guidance, and teaching scouts the difficult balance between freedom and self-control. What results is a probing look into the inner lives of boys in our culture and their rocky transition into manhood. On My Honor provides a provocative, sometimes shocking glimpse into the sexual awakening and moral development of young men coming to grips with their nascent desires, their innate aggressions, their inclination toward peer pressure and violence, and their social acculturation.

On My Honor ultimately shows how the Boy Scouts of America continues to edify and mentor young men against the backdrop of controversies over freedom of religious expression, homosexuality, and the proposed inclusion of female members. While the organization’s bureaucracy has taken an unyielding stance against gay men and atheists, real live Scouts are often more open to plurality than we might assume. In their embrace of tolerance, acceptance, and understanding, troop leaders at the local level have the power to shape boys into emotionally mature men.

Read The Problem of ’God’ in the Boy Scouts, excerpted from the book.

360 pages | 11 halftones, 1 map, 1 chart | 6 x 9 | © 2001

Gender and Sexuality

History: American History

Sociology: Sociology of Arts--Leisure, Sports

Sport and Recreation

Table of Contents

Day 1, Sunday
I arrive at camp / The troop assembles for mail call / A religious service at Church Rock / A Tenderfoot class for the new boys / The Seniors meet to plan Insane Day / A Staff campfire
Excursus: The "Problem" of God in the Boy Scouts
Day 2, Monday
An orienteering class / Pete explains the new "rule of three" / Some Scouts receive a cooking lesson / A troop campfire with patrol skits / A Senior meeting to continue planning Insane Day / The adult Staff discusses the day around their campfire
Day 3, Tuesday
A lifesaving class / Insane Day begins with the Rope Slide / Insane day out on T.I. / Around the campfire, the Staff discusses the day and its possible meanings / Pete explains "cool" and "classy"
Day 4, Wednesday
A nature class / Pete counsels a homesick boy / An "ass chew" at the Waterfront / The Girl Scouts arrive to camp nearby / The troop campfire / At the Staff campfire, the Staff sings a song now forbidden at the troop campfire
Day 5, Thursday
A hike to LBAS / A dead mouse / Three Scouts succumb to the Girl Scout temptation / Pete reminds the Seniors of the taboo policy / Senior smut / At the Staff campfire, some thoughts on girls / The Staff invents a parody song for their campfire
Day 6, Friday
A first-aid class / The Seniors meet to plan the Nugget Auction / Pete explains the four decodable coverts / The boys get a Staph Bath / The troop campfire and Nugget Auction / A reflection on militarism in the Boy Scouts / The Staff discusses the impending dilemma: Should Ken be able to earn Eagle?
Days 7 & 8, Saturday & Sunday
The boys prepare for the patrol overnight / The Seniors and the taboo policy / A dramatic Sierra Nevada thunderstorm strikes camp / Pete calls for leadership / The Staff plays / A Staff campfire
Day 9, Monday
Pete confiscates the Senior smut / Pete gives the Patrol Leaders and Assistant Patrol Leaders a tour of the area / The game of Capture the Flag / A crisis in the Commissary / Pete meets with the Seniors to go over the Treasure Hunt / The Staff talks about cheating and wordplay
Day 10, Tuesday
The Treasure Hunt / The treasure found / A troop campfire with skits
Excursus: The Two Bodies at a Boy Scout Camp
Excursus: The "Problem" of Gays and Girls in the Boy Scouts
Day 11, Wednesday
A campcraft class / Learning by doing / The uniform as a folk costume / The Investiture ceremony / The Staff takes a moonlit canoe ride
Day 12, Thursday
The last regular day at camp / A Nugget Auction / Talk of honor
The Final Weekend, Friday, Saturday, & Sunday
We break camp / Boards of Review / Pete debriefs a Scout / The folk psychology of a Scoutmaster / The Court of Honor / The traditional Swingin’ Campfire and the After-Campfire Campfire / An early morning (almost) skinny-dip in the lake / Going home
Methodology Appendix

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