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Saturday, February 10, 2018

February 10-11, 2018: The Scouts in Context

[On February 8th, 1910, Chicago publisher William D. Boyce incorporated the Boys Scouts of America, a US version of the international Scouting organization. So this week I’ve AmericanStudied Boyce and a handful of other figures connected to the Boy Scouts, leading up to this weekend post on an international and cross-cultural context for the Scouts.]
On really compelling ways to contextualize the Boy Scouts of America with international organizations and histories that are part of American society as well.
I had originally planned to focus this weekend post on issues such as gay Scout leaders and girls in the Scouts, but Friday’s post evolved to include those as part of the Alfred Kinsey conversation. Fortunately for me, a colleague and friend shared a very interesting perspective in response to the series, and so I’ve decided to make a somewhat redacted version of it the focus of this post instead. It is:

In your final note, you asked about other scouting organizations.  So here’s something.  My family members are all proud members of Plast—the Ukrainian Scouting organization.  You can read the full history of it on Wikipedia—it’s quite fascinating as it developed from just a scouting organization into a full-on Resistance movement.

My younger family members attend various Plast camps in the summer where they earn badges and all that.  They really rough it; the kids camp out and practice “no-trace” camping all the time.  They create their own meals and all without parents (although there are various levels of counselors around).  The oldest girl earned the highest badge during her first year of college and the oldest boy has already been a counselor for a year.

And my contribution?  Many a Christmas and birthday gift has been camping equipment!

I was not in Plast nor were my siblings.  I suspect my father was so happy and relieved to be safe in the US (he escaped Ukraine when the Nazis and Soviets were moving in and then stayed in a Displaced Persons camp in Germany for years until he and my grandfather were sponsored to America) that he did not push us into the scouts; I think it was too close to the war and his experiences.  We did go to Ukrainian school on Saturdays, but unlike my young family members, we did not immediately head over to the Plast den.

I must say that I’m fascinated with their adventures.  At the various camps (biking camp, for instance, meant that one young family member biked from Pittsburgh to Washington D.C. during a five day period with about 10 other Plastuns) they make connections with other Plastuns from all over the country.  They learn an incredible level of independence and, oh yeah, only Ukrainian is spoken at the camps (well, officially) so they get immersed in an entirely different culture.

This is not directly related to your post, but it is interesting to me.  I’m sure other ethnicities have similar scouting organizations. 

And one final note—I gave a paper one time on the women in the IRA and the military resistance organizations in Ukraine when it was occupied by the Soviets—the groups that developed out of Plast.  By far and away the most important operatives were women.  Go figure.
As always, some of my very favorite moments on this blog come from readers and fellow AmericanStudiers! Thanks to this colleague, and please keep sharing all such responses, here in comments, by email, or any other way!
Valentine’s series starts Monday,
PS. What do you think? Other Scouting histories or stories you’d share?

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