Listening In: Patti Garibay and Mark Hancock

WARREN SMITH, HOST: I’m Warren Smith and today you’ll be listening in on conversations I had recently with the leaders of to fast growing youth organizations that are providing a Christian alternative to the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts.

We’ll hear from Mark Hancock, a founder and president of Trail Life USA and Patty Garibay, founder and president of American Heritage Girls.

HANCOCK: We’re in 49 states. We’re in over 800 churches, 28,000 members. But you have to look at the stories that we’re hearing and because now the troops have a little bit of maturity around them, you know, where they’ve identified their leaders and they got some experience. That depth of the work that’s being done in young men’s hearts and in the fathers who are in the program and the men who are in the program is just, it’s just phenomenal what it is that we’re seeing from the field. So it’s very rewarding to watching it grow and get deeper.

That was Mark Hancock with Trail Life USA who we’ll hear from later in the program, but let’s get started today with Patty Garibay of American Heritage Girls.

First, though, a little bit of background. Both the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts have been much in the news over the last couple of years. The Boy Scouts recently broke with 100 years of tradition to accept gay scouts and then gay adult leaders into the program. Though the scouts have had some programs for girls since the 1970s it recently started to accept girls in all of its formerly boys-only programs.

The Girl Scouts has undergone a great deal of change as well. It has remained girls-only, but it’s been moving in a more liberal direction for decades, adopting many of the ideological positions of the feminist movement. Recently a Girl Scout service project for its top award—the gold award—was a service project that promoted Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider.

For these reasons and many more, Christian families have had a tough time finding a youth program that provided some of the outdoor, leadership, and adventure experiences of scouting, but doing so in a Christian environment. That’s why nearly 25 years ago, Patti Garibay founded American Heritage Girls and, more recently, Mark Hancock led a group of men who found a Trail Life USA. Patti Garibay and the parents who founded American Heritage Girls began in Ohio in 1995 and today that group has more than 43,000 members in all 50 states. In 2009 American Heritage Girls formed a relationship with the Boy Scouts, but by 2013 changes in the scouting program forced them to dissolve that relationship. Today, American Heritage Girls and Trail Life USA work closely together, often meeting in the same churches on the same nights, which helps to create a family night for many churches who sponsor both organizations. I had these conversations with Patti Garibay and Mark Hancock at the annual meeting of the National Religious Broadcasters held in Anaheim, California.

Patti, welcome to the program. I don’t remember the last time we chatted in this kind of a setting where we were recording the conversation, but it was three or four years ago when you brought me up to speed then on American Heritage Girls. But now it’s been awhile. So what’s new? I mean, you guys seem to be growing. I see you everywhere. I mean life is good?

PATTI GARIBAY, GUEST: Life is very good. We are continuing to grow and that’s exciting to us because we’re able to impact more girls, more families and more communities. And that’s what we’re really called to as Christians. But we are excited about being at NRB. We are so excited about launching Raising Godly Girls, a minute that we’re going to have on radio and also a website that will provide tools for the toolbox for parenting how to navigate the culture today with today’s girls.

It includes biblical worldview items as well as how to talk about combating bullying and combating gender identity, combating all these issues that are confronting girls and boys today. So each AHG is really coming alongside.

SMITH: Well that sounds right. So can you talk a little bit, just in terms of basic numbers, the growth, I mean, how many units, how many girls? How many states, that kind of thing, just to bring us up to speed.

GARIBAY: All over the country. Every state of the union, of course, 50 states and even 14 international countries.


GARIBAY: Over 50,000 members are in American Heritage Girls and we are experiencing our 24th year of ministry. So tens of thousands of girls over those years had benefited from this program. But it’s not just the girls, it’s their families as well. We’re blessed to be part of the ministry.

SMITH: Well, I know that any ministry like yours doesn’t want to be known just for what it stands against, but also what it stands for. But I think it is fair to say that there’ve been a lot of things going on, especially in youth organizations that you guys were at least partly a reaction to. And those trends have continued. The Girl Scouts, for example, just gave their top award, I think they call it their gold award, to a young girl that did a service project for Planned Parenthood. The Boy Scouts now are accepting girls at pretty much all levels of their organization. When you hear that, what goes off in your mind as the leader of this other youth movement for godly girls?

GARIBAY: I think what really comes to mind is the greater the need there is for American Heritage Girls and for parents to know there are options, that you don’t have to settle for something that might be counter to your faith and your values, but rather align and complimentary. And that’s what AHG really does.

It also disturbs me that I believe for money’s sake, the Boy Scouts have acquiesced so many of their membership standards and now to think accepting girls, certainly not part of Lord Baden Powell’s founding mission.

SMITH: Well, I know that you don’t want to say too much about that problem because that’s their problem, but it’s hard for me to, I think you’re probably right. I think they did it for money’s sake, but how could that possibly be helping them? I mean, because so many folks like me and my family who were active in Boy Scouts for many, many years, it’s that kind of stuff that causes me to leave the scouts not become more active in the scouts. And I’m guessing, I’m wondering if I could pivot from that observation to you. Are you finding that that Christian families are actively seeking out Christian alternatives like yours may be greater than they have in the past?

GARIBAY: I think they find the benefit of eternally impactful organization or ministry for their kids to be part of. Sports are great. They’re not always eternally impactful. They’re looking for things that will create a moral barometer for the kiddos that will be beyond what the family’s teaching, but what other adults are breathing into them and other peers to come alongside and gird them so that these girls can stand alone in their faith and say this is what I believe and this is why. So, really, the biblical worldview, understanding who you are and whose you are, so critical. Girl identity is really what we focus on.

SMITH: Well, Patti, I want to mostly talk about American Heritage Girls, but I can’t resist asking a quick question about Trail Life USA and the relationship that you guys have with them because I know you were the first on the block, so to speak.

Y’all started, as you said, I think more to 24 years ago, nearly a quarter century ago. Trail Life, much more recent than that. But correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems to me that you guys are working together in many cities around the country so that families can take their kids to brother and sister organizations on the same night and really turning it into kind of a family affair. Is that fair to say?

GARIBAY: We like to call it family ministry and churches are chartering these together so that there’s something for the boys and something for the girls. Now, these programs are very specific to that gender. They are not identical. They’re not just slapped with another word on there to include the girls and boys. They’re specifically detailed for those individuals. And so it works beautifully together.

SMITH: Well, walk me through if you would, and for our listeners who may be coming to American Heritage Girls for the first time.

What happens with the girls. So you know, a young girl that starts out in, if it was the old girl scout model, it might be a Brownie. But in the American Heritage Girls, they start out at that young age—probably six, seven, eight years old.

GARIBAY: Five years old.

SMITH: Wow. And when you get a girl that young and then you got them all through elementary, junior high, and high school, what kind of a girl do you want to come out the other end? What character qualities do you want to see built into their lives and what more practical skills do you want to build it into their lives?

GARIBAY: Really a woman of integrity that loves the Lord. That’s what our product would be, ideally. And we do that through service and badges and advancements and leadership and also outdoor skills where the girls can learn a little bit about self reliance and the beauty of God’s creation. All of these things working together make their faith a very relevant and takes that, puts legs on their faith, takes it off that Sunday shelf and puts it into everyday life. And it works so beautifully.

SMITH: One of the things that I’m observing as I look at, I mean I’ve got two sons and I’ve got two daughters. They’re mostly grown now. My youngest daughter’s 19 years old. But, you know, I’m seeing, for example with my young girls, that they are having trouble finding men of integrity to date in relationships and that you go to most college campuses, especially if you’re going to a Christian college campus, you’ll sometimes find 60-65% of the student body are girls there. And the men that are there are often not mature enough to be husbands and providers and fathers in those families. How do you prepare young girls for that reality in our culture where boys don’t know how to be men?

GARIBAY: That’s so true. It’s really for them to understand that there’s a maturation process and the fact that we have to emasculated men over the years. And I believe, I blame it on the feminist movement and also the dumbing down of men and it’s a horrible thing and it’s against God’s order. And the girls have to be patient and wait, you know, pray, really. And that’s what we really encourage them is to pray for your spouse, pray for your mate, and, no, it’s not going to happen immediately. The boys are needing a longer time to mature, frankly.

SMITH: And well, in the meantime, you’re developing leadership skills in the women as well, to take their role as leaders in their families and in their churches whenever they mature out of or grow out of, graduate out of the American Heritage Girl process?

GARIBAY: For us, leadership is not the person in the front of the line. It’s anyone in the line because leadership is influence. And so for girls to positively influence in their circles of influence and to do it in a Christlike way, it’s really what we’re all about. And so it’s not just the fun of the line, but it’s all throughout the line.

SMITH: Patti, I mentioned a couple of moments ago the Girl Scouts gold award and of course many people know the Boy Scouts Eagle Award. Trail Life USA has the freedom award. What’s the top award an American Heritage Girls?

GARIBAY: American Heritage Girls’ top award is the Stars and Stripes Award. And the girls are in this through doing a lot of service, of course, on a big project, just like we all knew in scouting. But what they also do is spiritual life ambition essay where they reflect on their time in American Heritage Girls, how it impacted them and what God is calling them for in the future. And that is such an amazing process to see that most girls have come into this program very unconfident, very nervous, very shy, and suddenly they are able, through this time of maturation and really learning new skills, able to say, this is what I believe the Lord’s calling me to and I can do it through his power.

SMITH: Well, I really love that idea because I think that one of the problems that the Evangelical Church has today is that they think if I’m an evangelist or a missionary or a pastor, that’s a sacred vocation. That’s a special vocation, not realizing that every vocation, if you’re called by God and you’re doing it for God’s glory, is equally sacred. And it sounds like you guys are teaching that very lesson to the girls and encouraging them to move in whatever direction they’re gifted and called.

GARIBAY: That’s exactly right. And it doesn’t have to be nontraditional roles, which is really what the women’s movement wants to say. But any role can be used for God’s glory.

SMITH: Patty, I’ve been following y’alls growth over the past, you know, 15 or 20 years, relatively closely. And yet I was surprised to find out that y’all are in foreign countries now. What’s the future like? If you could project another 5, 10, 15, 20 years into the future, what do you hope American Heritage Girls looks like then?

GARIBAY: Honestly, when people ask me that question, my first response is wherever the Lord wants us to be. We are truly a ministry of his. It’s not my ministry, it’s his. And so as the Lord opens doors and we go through them and just step one day at a time in obedience, he is showing us amazing things and I don’t know what the future will be, but I can say one thing for sure, we will walk in obedience for that future.

SMITH: Patti, as I hear you describe your program and especially your partnership with Trail Life USA. It sounds to me like at least in part that this is a response to just how busy and crazy people’s lives are these days. That you’ve intentionally designed the program so that this is not like one more thing that I got to do but rather integrates into all of family life. Is that fair?

GARIBAY: That is a very fair assumption because American Heritage Girls is really not about calling the equipped but equipping the called and when the Lord calls you to something, he will find the margin of time for you to be able to do that and American Heritage Girls, he equips their volunteers as well as it’s a family friendly organization where all of the daughters in a family can be in the same troop because of the way the program has been built. And then when you come alongside with brother and dad with the child life program, you’ve got the whole family out once every other week or so. And they experience a great, great investment in their time.

SMITH: You know, Patti, there’s been a lot in the news over the last few years. The #MeToo movement, sexual abuse in the church, you know, I don’t quite know where I’m going with the question other than, you know, as a ministry leader, a leader of a ministry to girls, you have to deal with these issues. You have to have thought about them. What do you think of them? What are y’all doing?

GARIBAY: Absolutely. You know, first and foremost, we do believe parents are the people that God has entrusted with their children to teach these things. American Heritage Girls has created a Raising Godly Girls website that will help parents have a toolbox in order to find out where and what are the resources out there that are really good that can help me navigate this perhaps gender identity issue that my daughter is having right now or this this self mutilation issue that she’s dealing with.

And this does happen to Christian families and Christian girls. And so it is a reality we must take. American Heritage Girls is very pro-life and some people have said, oh my goodness, your political. No, that is not a political issue. That is a moral issue and American Heritage Girls is not afraid to talk about that.

SMITH: You know, Patti, all four of my kids went to Christian schools. Three of my four and went to Christian colleges and the other one went to the Air Force Academy, which has kind of a different species of a college. But you know, so I’ve become familiar with kind of this saying among Christian colleges and Christian schools, which is that parents will often send their kids there because they the kids love it. They want to be there. Or in some cases the kids tolerate it, the parents want them to be there. And the third reason is we want the school to fix my kid. My kid’s broken and I want the kid fixed. What’s y’alls philosophy kind of along those lines. Do you require the kids to be Christians? Do you require the parents to be Christians? And if the answer to that is no, you’re going to get a lot of kids that these ideas are going to be brand new to them.

GARIBAY: Absolutely. American Heritage Girls does not require its girl members to be Christians, no. Part of the philosophy of American Heritage Girls is to be an outreach ministry. And so yes it does sometimes cause problems, but even within the Christian ranks, we are not infallible. We are human. There is still sin there. And we do address that. We have a special program helping girls navigate sin and morality and go to the charter organizations. Again, the spiritual leaders of the charter organization can help as well as the parents navigate this. As far as adult members of American Heritage Girls, they do agree with the statement of faith that the charter organizations agree with and we do expect the leaders to have a higher calling and to be of the Lord and to live that kind of a life.

SMITH: Up next, Mark Hancock of Trail Life USA. Trail Life, as it’s often called, has its roots in a group called On My Honor, that was the group originally founded to help reform the Boy Scouts of America and to prevent it from taking some of the steps that it has ultimately taken in recent years such as the acceptance of gay leaders and girls into it’s historically all boy program. When the Boy Scouts proved to be adamant in pursuing its direction, some of those same leaders formed Trail Life USA in 2013. So Trail Life is much younger than American Heritage Girls, but it has grown much faster. And today Trail Life has about 30,000 members in 50 states and a national camp and headquarters in South Carolina.

In fact, regular listeners to this program may remember that I did a show dedicated in Trail Life USA back in 2017 that included a walking tour with Mark Hancock of Trail Life’s South Carolina Facility Camp Aiken. I also covered the group’s inaugural national meeting for WORLD in 2013. You can find both of these stories and many more by going to the WORLD News Group website and using the search engine to find what you’re looking for.

But all that’s history and I wanted to sit down with Mark Hancock to find out what’s happening right now. We were able to catch up at the annual meeting of the National Religious Broadcasters in Anaheim, California.

Mark, welcome back to the program. A couple of years ago I was down with you in South Carolina and we got to tour the Trail Life headquarters and it was just really exciting then to see that development. And now here we are at National Religious Broadcasters and Trail Life has really grown. And before we get into some of the other maybe bigger cultural issues that I wanted to talk about, just give me an update on Trail Life. How are y’all doing?

MARK HANCOCK, GUEST: Well it’s going great. In the last couple of years we’ve seen significant growth. Every year we’re seeing about 10 to 12% growth in terms of membership. But what’s even bigger than that is the depth of the impact that we’re able to have on boys now. We’re in 49 states, we’re in over 800 churches, 28,000 members. But you have to look at the stories that we’re hearing and because now the troops have a little bit of maturity around them, you know, where they’ve identified their leaders and they got some experience. The depth of the work that’s being done in young men’s hearts and in the fathers who are in the program and the men who are in the program, it’s just phenomenal what it is that we’re seeing from the field. So it’s very rewarding to watch it grow and get deeper.

SMITH: Well, I bet it is. I know you and I were both active in the boy scouting movement for years. And sometimes I imagine when people ask me about Trail Life, you know, should I be, you know, Trail Life’s a new organization, you know. Especially as former scouters, they would say, you know, Trail Life is a new organization. Should I really get involved and I always say to them, imagine it was 100 years ago and you had the opportunity to be in on the ground floor of the scouting movement and they’re like, oh yeah. You know, and to me that’s what’s exciting about Trail Life is that you guys are starting this amazing national movement that is distinctively Christian and the Lord’s blessing it and the opportunity to be involved in that must be pretty darn exciting to be one of the founders.

HANCOCK: Well, it’s legacy kind of work. And any man who is starting a troop out of his church is starting something that for generations will be there, you know and so it’s not just the legacy of the national program. Any man who is engaged and wants to see boys grow, he can start a troop in his church, get a couple of adult leaders together and they are changing generations and long after they move or they go on to heaven or whatever it is, that troop, that ministry that they start could continue to produce a great change in boys’ lives.

SMITH: Well, I know, Mark, that the narrative of Trail Life is much bigger, much greater than the relationship that many of the members originally had with the scouts. The Boy Scouts had made some changes that were moving in a direction away from Christian ideals and you and other men and women got together to found Trail Life USA. So you could stand firmly on biblical ideas and, like I say, I know that’s only a part of your narrative and you don’t want to focus on being against something but rather on standing for something. But I do think it’s important to mention that context to say that if it’s possible things in our culture and things in youth ministry, youth work have only gotten worse in the last few years. There is almost a bonafide war on boys going on right now in this country.

HANCOCK: Yeah, I’d say it seems or at least a war on boyhood itself. It seems like boyhood of some sort of social disease that we’re trying to eradicate. And all of the systems now of our culture are really geared for girls or, probably more accurate than that, geared for neither boys or girls. And we just think that Trail Life USA, because we’re Christ-centered and that’s a significant difference from Boy Scouts of America. And we’re also unapologetically boy-focused because we believe that boys and girls are different. And I know that’s politically incorrect to say. It’s not very popular. I’m not going to get his statue’s built for me, you know, because I say things like that. But boys and girls are different. And with society running in the direction opposite of that, to take away the significance of being a boy and significance of being a girl and the incredible strengths and plans and skills and abilities that boys and girls separately have, to take that away from them we think is a sad thing. So you’re right and every day it seems to get worse and worse.

SMITH: Well, if we could summarize that sort of pathology in our culture as the war against boyhood that part of your solution for that is Trail Life USA, of course. But the idea of just letting boys be boys, but letting boys be boys in the context of Christian leadership and Christian mentorship. And you’ve written a booklet about that idea of letting boys be boys and you’ve identified a few strategies to help bring that about. Can you say a little more about that?

HANCOCK: Sure. It’s called Let Boys Be Boys. And I actually wrote this for our troop leaders and then I realized that it really speaks to a larger audience than that because there are men and women who are leading groups of boys maybe their Sunday school class or some sort of community program or something like that and that these same ideas because they are core to who we are as humans will really function in any organization. So I  wrote the book in order to speak to people who are leaders of boys. And so the subtopic is three winning strategies for leaders of boys. And so we lay out those strategies from a 30,000 foot level. And then we get down to the nitty gritty and says, here’s what you can actually do to make a difference in a boy’s life.

SMITH: Well, we don’t, obviously, if people want to know they can read the book, but can you give us some headlines? What are those three strategies?

HANCOCK: Sure. The first thing is we need to embrace the scientific evidence of physical and psychological differences in boys and girls. You know, like I said, it’s politically incorrect to say that, but there are actual physical and biological differences between boys and girls that go beyond just the obvious, you know. The way that their eyes are constructed. Boys and girls eyes are constructed differently so that boys are more sensitive to motion at a distance and girls are more sensitive to things up close. And so you put a boy in a classroom and you put a worksheet in front of him as a young boy and you tell them we’re going to color now. I mean you might as well just be beating him with a stick. He just doesn’t want to do it. He isn’t wired for that. So that begins to look like a boy who has an educational problem. And boys are two times more likely to be put into special education, three times more likely to be declared ADHD. And some of it is because these physical differences in boys and girls.

Another one is the way that they hear. Young girls can hear 10 times better than young boys. And so if you’ve got a soft spoken teacher and you’re in a classroom and that boy can’t stay focused cause he isn’t catching every word, well he looks a lot like a kid with ADHD because he’s not engaged with what’s going on there. He looks uninterested or he’s going to get into trouble just because of that physical difference because we’re not addressing that. We’re pretending like there isn’t a difference there.

SMITH: Well, you know Mark, it’s interesting that we have to tell people that reality matters because that’s in essence what you’re saying, right? It’s that this is not an ideological or a political or a religious idea, you’re just talking about physics and chemistry and this is reality.

HANCOCK: It’s not a social construct. You don’t teach boys to have a different eye structure than the girls. You don’t teach boys to hear different than girls. The brain structures… You know how we talk about the left brain or right brain. Well, that’s really only true for boys. You know, girls can function left and right brains at the same time. So if you’re teaching a math class, which is pretty much a logical skill, girls can make connections left brain to right brain to add life to that teaching where boys are really kind of restriction in that area.

And this is just science. This isn’t a social construct. It isn’t something that, you know, because a boy was born with certain parts that as a parent we decided he was going to have that kind of brain. He was born that way.

SMITH: So that’s number one. What’s number two?

HANCOCK: Number two is boys really need risk and competition. And this is part of our design. When you look at the things that made our society great, you can point back to men who are winning men who took chances to head across an ocean or took chances to go to the moon or found a country, you know, or fight for their freedom or whatever. That comes out of risk and competition and we’re taking it out of our society. I mean, especially for boys, you know, recess, we’re taking things like tag away or those kind of things because actually this quotes educators saying that that tag, it affects their self esteem if they get tagged a lot.

And so we’re taking that out just to remove any risk and competition from them. You know, the whole participation trophy thing we talk about. Well, we’re producing a whole generation of what I call “unproductive narcissists.” They’re unproductive because we haven’t really expected anything of them. And they’re narcissists because we haven’t allowed them to fail. So these boys have these dreams where I am going to be the next Mark Zuckerberg or I’m going to be the next Bill Gates or I’m going to invent something. Or I read about some guy and they have these kinds of fantasies because they haven’t failed. And so there’s this whole failure to launch where we have more young men living at home than since the census began counting that in 1960. Because men are … they don’t know how to deal with failure because they haven’t been taught that, hey, sometimes the other team is going to win.

So you put a boy in a court, you put a boy in a competition, you put a boy in a classroom, and you take away those elements of risk and you say everyone’s going to get a trophy. Well, the boy’s like, really? You know, I can work really hard and I’m going to get the same thing everybody else does? So what happens is we drive them to that inside world where they can progress, where they can win where they get points and levels and gain things. And that’s the video game world. So they intuitively know that they’ve got to go somewhere to get better at something and to win and compete. So we drive them to video games and then we criticize them for playing so many video games. So boys can’t even win for winning. So they just seem to lose across the whole thing.

Boys are looking primarily for three things, three questions that you want to be able to answer. One is who’s with me? Who’s in charge? And what’s our mission? And if when we’re in front of boys, if we’re not answering those three questions clearly, who’s with me, who’s in charge? They need to know who’s in charge. You have a substitute teacher walk into a classroom, the boys are going to challenge that more so than girls. Girls have a tendency to accept I’m your substitute teacher. Oh, I understand. I’ll do what you say. Boys need something more than that. They need for that person relationally to make that connection and earn that right to be in charge. And the third thing, what’s our mission?

Well, who does a really good job at answering those three questions is gangs. And if we could learn from gangs what it is that they do, they clearly identify who’s with me. You know, they dress them up a certain way. They know who they are, they know what they’re part of. They have a name, they have something that they stand for. Who’s in charge? Very clear hierarchal order. And what’s our mission? They always know what the mission is. And that’s extremely attractive for young mean. That’s why they’re so successful in recruiting when we can’t get boys to stay in school because they’re answering those questions for boys. So, like you said, we have to recognize that these are realities in the way the boys are wired. And instead of trying to get them to think different, we have to create an environment where they can succeed. And most of our schools and most of our churches and a lot of our public facilities are designed for girls.

Everybody sits there and one person talks. Well, that boy wants to be engaged. He doesn’t want the one person talk. He wants to be the one who’s talking. He got something to say. And so we have to open ourselves up to say, OK, boys are different than girls. They’re going to learn different. So let’s stop fighting that and let’s start catering to them. And creating again another generation of men like we’ve seen in the greatest generation. Men who understood that you fight for things, and it’s worth fighting for things.

SMITH: So number one is that boys and girls really are different. Number two is that risk and competition really matter. And number three?

HANCOCK: Third thing is physical movement. You know, science has shown us that movement activates all the brain cells. John Ratey, associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, has proven this, that that movement act wakes up the brain cells for boys. So you see a boy in a classroom and he intuitively knows I’ve got to move if I’m going to stay engaged with this teacher. You want my brain, I’ve got to fidget. You gotta let me fidget. Well, of course, as a teacher, somebody who’s trying to establish order, you’ve got to moving, boy. “Sit still, be quiet, pay attention.” You’re shutting his brain down. And so he’s now disengaged because he can’t be at his full at his full potential. We’re taking that movement away from him. So we have to recognize that boys need that. We’re taking recess away. We’re limiting recess. Yesterday I was in a hotel lobby and there was a family at the next table with two boys—eight and 10 years old approximately. And I had Let Boys Be Boys book with me. So walked over and I set it down at the table. I said, you know, mom and dad, this is for you. You’ve got two boys. I think they were getting ready to go to Disneyland. They’re all dressed up and the boys were just all over the place. I mean, they’re ready to go. And the father got up and took the sons somewhere and the mother continued to sit there at the table. And I saw she picked up the book, she started leafing through that and she came over and she sat down at my table. She said, “I got to tell you this.” She said, “I’ve got to give this book to my son’s teacher because she won’t let him move. And for his punishment, they took recess away from him.” And she says, “I know that that makes it even harder for him.”

And so we’re making it more difficult by taking away the things that they need in order to learn. And it’s tragic and it’s creating this generation of boys they’re behind girls in every single academic category. Every single one of them. And in the 1960s, I believe it was, 60% of college students were boys. 40% were girls. That’s completely flipped now. There are more girls graduating bachelors degrees, there more girls graduated with master’s degrees, more girls graduating with doctoral degrees than boys. And in every single measurable category, girls are leading leading boys academically because we’ve designed schools for them.

SMITH: Well, Mark, to bring us back full circle, that’s what y’all are trying to do at Trail Life, right? I mean, you guys are trying to create an environment where boys can be boys and they can develop intellectually, spiritually and emotionally into men.

HANCOCK: Yeah. Every single one of those strategies we endeavor to work in our Trail Life troop meetings. If you walk in a Trail Life troop meeting, hopefully it doesn’t look like a Sunday school or classroom. We encourage the leaders, get the chairs out of the room, stack them all up against the wall, throw a bunch of Legos or something on the ground while you’re teaching the boys. Let them work with their hands. Let them stay physically involved with something and they’re listening to you. They may not look like they’re listening to you, but they catch things by osmosis. They don’t catch things by focus. So you’ve got to give them an environment that looks different than the environment they’re already failing in other places. You know, Warren, one of the saddest quotes that I read is right after the Boy Scouts admitted girls, I saw a quote in a newspaper article when they interviewed a scout master and he said, “We love having girls in our troop. They’re so much smarter and better behaved.” And I thought those poor boys, you know? They’re in school all day and that’s what they hear. Why can’t you sit still like Sally? And now they’re going to their Boy Scout meeting and, you know, they’re being told the same thing there. Why can’t you sit still? Look at the girls. Look how well behaved the girls are being. The boys are learning over and again I don’t fit here. There’s something wrong with me. And it’s tragic what it’s causing in boys today.

SMITH: Well, Mark, I pray the Lord continues to bless your ministry and Trail Life USA. Thank you so much for being on the program and for letting me help tell the story.

HANCOCK: Thank you, Warren. Appreciate you.

(Photo/Trail Life USA)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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