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On My Honor: Boy Scouts and the Making of American Youth Hardcover – November 11, 2001

ISBN-13: 978-0226517049 ISBN-10: 0226517047 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 360 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press; 1 edition (November 11, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226517047
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226517049
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #738,425 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Based on more the 20 years of research and observation at a troop's summer encampment as well as extensive interviews with generations of scouts, this study investigates the effects of the complex, lived realities of scouting on boys as they struggle to define themselves. Mechling, professor of American studies at the University of California at Davis, argues that the founding of the U.S. Scouting movement in 1910 was a response to social concerns over masculinity that were remarkably similar to "the boy problem" of today. This historic frame gives the study broader dimensions, although for the most part Mechling concerns himself with analyzing the specifics and myriad meanings of camp songs, rituals, play and language. Not surprisingly, since one of the main purposes of Scouting is the production of "normal" (i.e., heterosexual) boys, homophobic language and slurs are "a central theme at [the] camp." Mechling does a great job at detailing how, ironically, forms of homoeroticism (including transvestism) are promoted to reinforce a heterosexual identity as well as alleviate sexual and identity-based tension. Using a wide range of critical and cultural works, plus a detailed examination of how Scouting manuals have changed over the years (especially regarding volatile issues like masturbation), Mechling weaves his observations into an evaluation of how Scouting's self-image and purpose has changed in response to social transformations, and finally into a critique of the national Scouting policy forbidding homosexuals, atheists and girls to join. Measured in its criticism, and ultimately supportive of Scouting (while acknowledging the pain experienced by gay scouts), this is a smart book that combines fascinating research with a critique of contemporary politics. (Nov.)Forecast: The Scouting ban on homosexuals continues to be a contentious issue, from funding to membership. This book will be brandished by the left and thundered against by the right in short, it should be well reviewed and is a possible pundits' sleeper. Prominent display in gay and lesbian sections or stores should result in steady browser sales, and campus sales are also assured.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Mechling (American studies, Univ. of California, Davis) condenses 20 years of research on Boy Scout Troop 49 into an account of one two-week encampment in California's Sierra Nevada Mountains. He examines the Scouts' recent problems with the "three Gs" God (should atheists be admitted to the Scouts?), girls (should young women be admitted?), and gays (should openly gay Scouts and Scoutmasters be admitted?) and delves into how the Scouts attempt to mold boys into heterosexual men. Some readers will find his highly psychoanalytic interpretations hard trekking seeing cans of Coca-Cola as symbols for feces seems to be pushing the envelope a bit. Others might react negatively to his observation that in order to create the heterosexual male the Scouts instill unhealthy doses of misogyny and homophobia. And still others will blanch upon hearing that the Scout camp emulates a huge, outdoor, boys' locker room, complete with raw language, bawdy jokes and songs, and fixations on flatulence and females. Mechling feels that there is much good to be said about the Boy Scouts, but after reading this study readers might have their doubts. Recommended for large public and academic libraries. Jim Burns, Ottumwa P.L., IA
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 28, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This is a very thoughtful, very provocative look at Scouting -- not only the Boy Scouts of America as an organization, but the experience of being a Scout for one troop of boys and their adult Scout leaders. The book keeps details of this experience in the foreground -- you really get to see what the Scouts do at their summer encampment, hear what they have to say, the kinds of jokes and stories they tell, and so on - but it also examines these details for what they reveal about young boys becoming older boys and older boys becoming men. All this works because the book is a good read, not only as a story (of one troop's summer camping adventure) but also as a meditation on adults and kids, American life in these modern times, and so on.
Some readers and reviewers may try to pigeon-hole the book as a critique of Scouting, or focus only on the policy issues (i.e., how the BSA has handled issues of God, Gays, and Girls), but that's way off base. The author certainly gives some attention to these issues and he is critical of some official BSA positions. But he's also clearly sympathetic towards the Scouting experience, and he's smart about what's going on for kids of Scouting age. A fan of scouting who's taking a close look and asking important questions that go well beyond Scouting in their implications. Highly recommended.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 20, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Excellent study of the Boy Scouts at the turn of the century seen through the experiences of one troop at summer camp. Mechling's compression of twenty years into one narrative can be slightly confusing in places, but works well overall. Though he makes no effort to hide his personal views (supported by sociological reasearch and his own experiences as a Scout), he carefully illustrates the complexity of the issues confronting the organization as it heads into its second century. I could have done without the Freudian analysis of teenage boys' relationship to their bodies, but otherwise it's a very thoughtful and thought-provoking book.
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3 of 19 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on December 19, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This was the best book I ever read.It was very exiting for me to read.I loved that book,and I would prefor to read. It would be a good book report.
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