"In all of this, it is the spirit that matters. Our Scout Law and Promise, when we really put them into practice, take away all occasion for wars and strife among nations."
—Lord Baden-Powell, Scouting's founder
Purpose of the BSA
The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) was incorporated to provide a program for community organizations that offers effective character, citizenship, and personal fitness training for youth.
Specifically, the BSA endeavors to develop American citizens who are physically, mentally, and emotionally fit; have a high degree of self-reliance as evidenced in such qualities as initiative, courage, and resourcefulness; have personal values based on religious concepts; have the desire and skills to help others; understand the principles of the American social, economic, and governmental systems; are knowledgeable about and take pride in their American heritage and understand our nations role in the world; have a keen respect for the basic rights of all people; and are prepared to participate in and give leadership to American society.
Scouts BSA Program Membership
Scouts BSA is a year-round program for boys age 11-17. Boys who are 10 may join if they have received the Arrow of Light Award or have finished the fifth grade. Scouts BSA is a program of fun outdoor activities, peer group leadership opportunities, and a personal exploration of career, hobby and special interests, all designed to achieve the BSA's objectives of strengthening character, personal fitness, and good citizenship. Scouts BSA program membership, as of December 31, 2015, is
840,654 Scouts BSA/Varsity Scouts
Thousands of volunteer leaders, both men and women, are involved in the Scouts BSA program. They serve in a variety of jobs everything from unit leaders to chairmen of troop committees, committee members, merit badge counselors, and chartered organization representatives.
Like other phases of the program, Scouts BSA is made available to community organizations having similar interests and goals. Chartered organizations include professional organizations; governmental bodies; and religious, educational, civic, fraternal, business, labor and citizens groups. Each organization appoints one of its members as the chartered organization representative. The organization is responsible for leadership, the meeting place, and support for troop activities.
Who Pays for It?
Several groups are responsible for supporting Scouts BSA: the scout and their parents, the troop, the chartered organization, and the community. Scouts are encouraged to earn money whenever possible to pay their own expenses, and they also contribute dues to their troop treasuries to pay for budgeted items. Troops obtain additional income by working on approved money-earning projects. The community, including parents, supports Scouting through the United Way, Friends of Scouting campaigns, bequests, and special contributions to the BSA local council. This income provides leadership training, outdoor programs, council service centers and other facilities, and professional service for units.
Aims and Methods of the Scouting Program
The Scouting program has three specific objectives, commonly referred to as the Aims of Scouting. They are character development, citizenship training, and personal fitness. The methods by which the aims are achieved are listed below in random order to emphasize the equal importance of each.
The ideals of Scouts BSA are spelled out in the Scout Oath, the Scout Law, the Scout motto, and the Scout slogan. The Scout measures himself against these ideals and continually tries to improve. The goals are high, and as he reaches for them, he has some control over what and who he becomes.
The patrol method gives Scouts an experience in group living and participating citizenship. It places responsibility on young shoulders and teaches scouts how to accept it. The patrol method allows Scouts to interact in small groups where members can easily relate to each other. These small groups determine troop activities through elected representatives.
- Outdoor Programs
Scouts BSA is designed to take place outdoors. It is in the outdoor setting that Scouts share responsibilities and learn to live with one another. In the outdoors the skills and activities practiced at troop meetings come alive with purpose. Being close to nature helps Scouts gain an appreciation for the beauty of the world around us. The outdoors is the laboratory in which Scouts learn ecology and practice conservation of natures resources.
Scouts BSA provides a series of surmountable obstacles and steps in overcoming them through the advancement method. The Scout plans his advancement and progresses at his own pace as he meets each challenge. The Scout is rewarded for each achievement, which helps him gain self-confidence. The steps in the advancement system help a Scout grow in self-reliance and in the ability to help others.
- Associations With Adults
Scouts learn a great deal by watching how adults conduct themselves. Scout leaders can be positive role models for the members of the troop. In many cases a Scoutmaster who is willing to listen to scouts, encourage them, and take a sincere interest in them can make a profound difference in their lives.
- Personal Growth
As Scouts plan their activities and progress toward their goals, they experience personal growth. The Good Turn concept is a major part of the personal growth method of Scouts BSA. Scouts grow as they participate in community service projects and do Good Turns for others. Probably no device is as successful in developing a basis for personal growth as the daily Good Turn. The religious emblems program also is a large part of the personal growth method. Frequent personal conferences with his Scoutmaster help each Scout to determine his growth toward Scouting's aims.
- Leadership Development
The Scouts BSA program encourages scouts to learn and practice leadership skills. Every Scout has the opportunity to participate in both shared and total leadership situations. Understanding the concepts of leadership helps a scout accept the leadership role of others and guides him toward the citizenship aim of Scouting.
The uniform makes the Scouts BSA troop visible as a force for good and creates a positive youth image in the community. Scouts BSA is an action program, and wearing the uniform is an action that shows each Boy Scout's commitment to the aims and purposes of Scouting. The uniform gives the Scout identity in a world brotherhood of youth who believe in the same ideals. The uniform is practical attire for Scouts BSA activities and provides a way for Scouts to wear the badges that show what they have accomplished.
Local councils operate and maintain Scout camps. The National Council operates high adventure areas at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico, the Northern Tier National High Adventure Program in Minnesota and Canada, the Florida National High Adventure Sea Base in the Florida Keys and the Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia. About 70 councils also operate high-adventure programs.
The BSA conducts a National Scout jamboree every four years and participates in World Scout jamborees (also held at four-year intervals). In 2009, with the purchase of 10,600 acres of land in West Virginia to create the Summit Bechtel Reserve, they now have a permanent location for the National Jamboree.
The Beginning of Scouting
Scouting, as known to millions of youth and adults, evolved during the early 1900's through the efforts of several men dedicated to bettering youth. These pioneers of the program conceived outdoor activities that developed skills in young boys and gave them a sense of enjoyment, fellowship, and a code of conduct for everyday living.
In this country and abroad at the turn of the century, it was thought that children needed certain kinds of education that the schools couldn't or didn't provide. This led to the formation of a variety of youth groups, many with the word "Scout" in their names. For example, Ernest Thompson Seton, an American naturalist, artist, writer, and lecturer, originated a group called the Woodcraft Indians and in 1902 wrote a guidebook for boys in his organization called the Birch Bark Roll. Meanwhile in Britain, Robert Baden-Powell, after returning to his country a hero following military service in Africa, found boys reading the manual he had written for his regiment on stalking and survival in the wild. Gathering ideas from Seton, America's Daniel Carter Beard, and other Scout craft experts, Baden-Powell rewrote his manual as a non military skill book, which he titled Scouting for Boys. The book rapidly gained a wide readership in England and soon became popular in the United States. In 1907, when Baden-Powell held the first camp out for Scouts on Brown sea Island off the coast of England, troops were spontaneously springing up in America.
William D. Boyce, a Chicago publisher, incorporated the Boy Scouts of America in 1910 after meeting with Baden-Powell. (Boyce was inspired to meet with the British founder by an unknown Scout who led him out of a dense London fog and refused to take a tip for doing a Good Turn.) Immediately after its incorporation, the BSA was assisted by officers of the YMCA in organizing a task force to help community organizations start and maintain a high quality Scouting program. Those efforts climaxed in the organization of the nation's first Scout camp at Lake George, New York, directed by Ernest Thompson Seton. Beard, who had established another youth group, the Sons of Daniel Boone (which he later merged with the BSA), provided assistance. Also on hand for this historic event was James E. West, a lawyer and an advocate of children's rights, who later would become the first professional Chief Scout Executive of the Boy Scouts of America. Seton became the first volunteer national Chief Scout, and Beard, the first national Scout commissioner.
The BSA publishes the Scouts BSA Handbook (more than 38.7 million copies of which have been printed); the Patrol Leader Handbook, which offers information relevant to boy leadership; the Scoutmaster Handbook; more than 100 merit badge pamphlets dealing with hobbies, vocations, and advanced Scout craft; and program features and various kinds of training, administrative, and organizational manuals for adult volunteer leaders and Scouts. In addition, the BSA publishes Scout Life magazine, the national magazine for all scouts (paid magazine circulation is more than 1.1 million) and Scouting magazine for volunteers, which has a paid circulation of 1 million.
Conservation activities supplement the program of Scout advancement, summer camp, and outdoor activities and teach young people to better understand their interdependence with the environment.