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Unguided, Ungrounded, Unappreciated, Uninspired: How Trail Life USA Aims to Solve the ‘Boy Crisis’


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The Daily Signal

Tyler O'Neil

December 11, 2023

Trail Life USA isn’t just a Christian alternative to the Boy Scouts; it’s an answer to the deep crisis affecting boys in America.

“We’re growing boys into godly men,” Mark Hancock, the scouting organization’s CEO, tells “The Daily Signal Podcast.” “We’ve discovered a proven process for turning boys into godly men, and it involves four things.”

Hancock, today’s guest on the podcast, diagnoses four major problems American boys face: They are unguided, ungrounded, unappreciated, and uninspired.

“One in four boys now doesn’t have a father in his household,” Hancock says. “They go to school, 76% of teachers are female. Eighty-something percent of Sunday school teachers are female. So, these girls have wonderful models of leadership. Boys don’t have that, so we are guiding boys. We think that’s important.”

Trail Life USA requires leaders to be confessing Christians, but it welcomes boys of any or no faith tradition.

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Trail Life USA

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The Free Press

Jonathan Haidt: I’m Worried About the Boys, Too

I’ve spent years trying to understand the mental health crisis among teenage girls. But both sexes are suffering.

Jonathan Haidt

December 5, 2023

Since 2015, I have been trying to solve a mystery: all of a sudden, around 2013, rates of depression, anxiety, and self-harm began rising rapidly for American adolescents. Those born in and after 1996—Gen Z—have the worst mental health of any generation for which we have data (going back to the “Greatest Generation,” born 1900 to 1925).

Teen Girls Reporting More Depression

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But from a researcher’s point of view, trying to understand causal factors, the relative change is also important. It tells us that something changed in the early 2010s that impacted boys at least as much as girls. We see similar patterns in many other mental health variables. The relative change is only occasionally larger for boys (as in Figure 1), but it is often in the same ballpark.

Boys Are Retreating

In scientific research, everything depends upon specifying the correct variables. The dependent variable is the one that we measure as the outcome. We try to understand how it changes in response to the independent variable, which is the one that we manipulate in the lab, or the one that the world manipulates for us (such as by giving some kids a smartphone, others not).

Back when I was focused on anxiety and depression as the dependent variables, the story of technology (as the independent variable) seemed to be a story that was mostly about girls. But once I read an early draft of Richard Reeves’ book Of Boys and Men, I realized that I had been focused on the wrong dependent variables. For boys and young men, the key change has been the retreat from the real world since the 1970s, when they began investing less effort in school, employment, dating, marriage, and parenting.

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