The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is one of the largest Scouting organizations and youth organizations in the United States, with about 2.4 million youth participants and about one million adult volunteers. The BSA was founded in 1910, and since then, about 110 million Americans have been participants in BSA programs at some time. The BSA is part of the international Scout Movement and became a founding member organization of the World Organization of the Scout Movement in 1922.
The mission of the Boy Scouts of America is to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law. Youth are trained in responsible citizenship, character development, and self-reliance through participation in a wide range of outdoor activities, educational programs, and, at older age levels, career-oriented programs in partnership with community organizations. For younger members, the Scout method is part of the program to instill typical Scouting values such as trustworthiness, good citizenship, and outdoors skills, through a variety of activities such as camping, aquatics, and hiking. To further these outdoor activities, the BSA has four high-adventure bases: Northern Tier (Minnesota, Manitoba, and Ontario), Philmont Scout Ranch (New Mexico), Sea Base (Florida), and Summit Bechtel Reserve (West Virginia), as well as close to a hundred separate camps and reservations specifically dedicated to scouts.
The traditional Scouting divisions are Cub Scouting for boys and girls ages 5 to 11 years, Scouts BSA for boys and girls ages 11 to 17, and Venturing for young men and women ages 14 (or 13 and having completed the 8th grade) through 21. Learning for Life is a non-traditional affiliate that provides in-school and career education. On February 1, 2019, the Boy Scouts of America officially renamed their flagship program, Boy Scouting, to Scouts BSA to reflect their change of policy to allow girls to join (in sex-segregated troops).
The BSA operates traditional Scouting by chartering local organizations, such as churches, clubs, civic associations, or educational organization, to implement the Scouting program for youth within their communities. Units are led entirely by volunteers appointed by the chartering organization, who are supported by local councils using both paid professional Scouters and volunteers.
|Boy Scouts of America|
|Location||United States, Europe, Japan|
|Founded||February 8, 1910|
|Chief Scout Executive||Michael B. Surbaugh|
|National Chair||Jim Turley|
|National Commissioner||Ellie Morrison|
|Affiliation||World Organization of the Scout Movement|
|Governing body||National Executive Board|
The progressive movement in the United States was at its height during the early 20th century. With the migration of families from farms to cities, there were concerns among some people that young men were no longer learning patriotism and individualism. The YMCA was an early promoter of reforms for young men with a focus on social welfare and programs of mental, physical, social and religious development.:72–82
BSA had two notable predecessors in the United States: the Woodcraft Indians started by Ernest Thompson Seton in 1902 in Cos Cob, Connecticut, and the Sons of Daniel Boone founded by Daniel Carter Beard in 1905 in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1907, Robert Baden-Powell, founded the Scouting movement in England using elements of Seton's works among other influences. Several Scout programs for boys started independently in the US. (see Scouting in the United States). Many of these Scout programs in the US merged with the BSA.:52
In 1909, Chicago publisher W. D. Boyce was visiting London, where he encountered a boy who came to be known as the Unknown Scout. Boyce was lost on a foggy street when an unknown Scout came to his aid, guiding him to his destination. The boy then refused Boyce's tip, explaining that he was a Boy Scout and was merely doing his daily good turn. Interested in the Boy Scouts, Boyce met with staff at the Boy Scouts Headquarters and, by some accounts, Baden-Powell. Upon his return to the US, Boyce incorporated the Boy Scouts of America on February 8, 1910. Edgar M. Robinson and Lee F. Hanmer became interested in the nascent BSA and convinced Boyce to turn the program over to the YMCA for development in April 1910. Robinson enlisted Seton, Beard, Charles Eastman, and other prominent leaders in the early youth movements. Former president Theodore Roosevelt, who had long complained of the decline in American manhood, became an ardent supporter. In January 1911, Robinson turned the movement over to James E. West who became the first Chief Scout Executive and Scouting began to expand in the US:148
The BSA's stated purpose at its incorporation in 1910 was "to teach [boys] patriotism, courage, self-reliance, and kindred values.":7 Later, in 1937, Deputy Chief Scout Executive George J. Fisher expressed the BSA's mission: "Each generation as it comes to maturity has no more important duty than that of teaching high ideals and proper behavior to the generation which follows." The current mission statement of the BSA is "to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law." Boy Scouts of America is distinct in its use of the term "Scout Oath" rather than "Scout Promise". The difference is that while the former phrase implies that a Scout is making his promise before God, the latter phrasing indicates that the Scout makes his commitment in the presence of fellow human beings.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormon Church) was the first partner to sponsor Scouting in the United States, adopting the program in 1913 as part of its Mutual Improvement Association program for young men.
In May 2018, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced that, effective year-end 2019, it would no longer sponsor scouting units (packs, troops, crews, ships, posts) with the Boy Scouts of America to focus on its own global youth leadership and development program, although Mormon youth are free to join scouting units sponsored by other organizations.
The BSA holds a congressional charter under Title 36 of the United States Code, which means that it is one of the comparatively rare "Title 36" corporations in the United States. On behalf of the BSA, Paul Sleman, Colin H. Livingstone, Ernest S. Martin, and James E. West successfully lobbied Congress for a federal charter for the BSA which President Woodrow Wilson signed on June 15, 1916. One of the principal reasons for seeking a congressional charter was as a way to deal with competition from other Scout organizations including the United States Boy Scouts and the Lone Scouts of America. The 1916 statute of incorporation established this institution among a small number of other patriotic and national organizations which are similarly chartered, such as the Girl Scouts of the USA, the Civil Air Patrol, the American Legion, the Red Cross, Little League Baseball, and the National Academy of Sciences. The federal incorporation was originally construed primarily as an honor; however, it does grant the chartered organization some special privileges and rights, including freedom from antitrust and monopoly regulation and complete control over the organization's symbols and insignia. The special recognition neither implies nor accords Congress any special control over the BSA, which remains free to function independently.
In the BSA, Scouting is considered to be one movement with four main programs:
There are about 100,000 physically or mentally disabled Scouts throughout the United States. Anyone certified as disabled "may enroll in Scouting and remain in its program beyond the regulation age limits. This provision allows all members to advance in Scouting as far as they wish." Advancement is measured by the achievement to the best of the Scout's abilities.
The Boy Scouts of America offers several other programs and subprograms beyond the traditional membership:
Learning for Life is a school and work-site based program that is a subsidiary of the BSA. It utilizes programs designed for schools and community-based organizations that are designed to prepare youth for the complexities of contemporary society and to enhance their self-confidence, motivation, and self-esteem. Exploring is the worksite-based program of Learning for Life with programs based on five areas of emphasis: career opportunities, life skills, citizenship, character education, and leadership experience.
Learning for Life is not considered a traditional Scouting program; it does not use the Scout Oath, Scout Law, uniforms, or insignia of traditional Scouting. All Learning for Life programs are open to youth and adults without restriction based on gender, residence, sexual orientation, or other considerations other than age requirements.
Unlike the BSA's Learning for Life, membership in the traditional BSA programs has been more restricted and controversial. Until the 2010s, girls were not allowed to join Cub Scouting or Boy Scouting, but could join Venturing and Sea Scouting; women can be adult volunteers in all programs. On October 11, 2017, the BSA announced that girls would be allowed to become Cub Scouts, starting in 2018, and be a part of the Scouts BSA Program, starting in 2019.
Today, the BSA does not prohibit gay adults or youth from participation. It is a common belief that the BSA does prohibit members who are atheist and agnostic based on its "duty to God" principle and that members (adult and youth) agree with the Declaration of Religious Principle in the bylaws. However, the BSA has had Buddhist troops since 1920 and many Buddhists are atheists or agnostics. The BSA also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Unitarian Universalist Association in 2016 which specifically gives ultimate authority over a participant's spiritual welfare to the individual Unitarian Universalist congregation. The MOU also specifically includes within Unitarian Universalist chartered troops Humanism as an acceptable form of spirituality as well as Earth-centered religions.
In 2000, the Supreme Court ruled in Boy Scouts of America v. Dale that Boy Scouts, and all similar private voluntary organizations, have the constitutionally protected right under the First Amendment of freedom of association to set membership standards. In 2004, the BSA adopted a new policy statement, including a "Youth Leadership" policy that disallowed members to continue in leadership positions in the event they were to hold themselves out as "open and avowed homosexuals."
At the Scouts annual meeting in April 2012, a leader from the Northeast presented a resolution that "would allow individual units to accept gays as adult leaders". However, in July 2012, at the culmination of a review started in 2010, an 11-person committee convened by the BSA reached a "unanimous consensus" recommending retaining the current policy. Intel, UPS, and Merck cut financial ties with the BSA over the policy decision. Within the BSA National Executive Board, members James Turley, CEO of Ernst & Young, and Randall Stephenson, CEO of AT&T and who was then "on track to become president of the Scout's national board in 2014" and later was, publicly opposed the policy and stated their intention "to work from within the BSA Board to actively encourage dialogue and sustainable progress" in changing the policy. On January 28, 2013, the BSA announced they were considering rescinding the ban on homosexuals, allowing chartered organizations to determine local policy.
On May 23, 2013, 61% of the 1,400-member BSA National Council voted to remove the restriction denying membership to youth on the basis of sexual orientation while emphasizing that any sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual, is not allowed. The resolution went into effect on January 1, 2014, but Scout leaders who were "open and avowed homosexuals" were still prohibited. The policy specifically states that BSA does not inquire into a person's sexuality. Gay rights groups hailed the decision, but vowed to press on until all gay members were accepted. Some churches and conservative members threatened to quit the Boy Scouts in response. On June 12, 2013, the Southern Baptist Convention passed non-binding resolutions urging the BSA not to change their policy. In September 2013, a new scouting group called Trail Life USA was created, in support of what founders call "traditional, Christian" scouting. Subsequently, some Christian denomination congregations replaced their Boy Scouts of America troops with those of Trail Life USA.
In May 2015, Boy Scouts of America President Robert Gates said it was time to end the ban on gay leaders. Gates said, it "cannot be sustained," any longer. On July 10, 2015, the Boy Scouts of America Executive Committee agreed, and referred the matter to the National Executive Board. On July 27, 2015, the Boy Scouts of America National Executive Board voted to lift the organization's blanket ban on openly gay leaders and employees. Local chartering organizations are still permitted to set their own standards based on religious principle for selecting the adult volunteers for their unit.
On January 30, 2017, the Boy Scouts of America announced that transgender boys would be allowed to enroll in boys-only programs, effective immediately. Previously, the sex listed on an applicant's birth certificate determined eligibility for these programs; going forward, the decision would be based on the gender listed on the application. Joe Maldonado became the first openly transgender boy to join the Scouts on February 7, 2017. In 2016, he was rejected from the Boy Scouts for being transgender, but the policy was changed after his story became nationally known.
On October 11, 2017, the Boy Scouts of America announced that girls would be welcomed into Cub Scouts beginning in fall of 2018, with an early adopter program beginning on January 15, 2018 in councils that wish to participate early. The announcement included the statement that girls in Cub Scouting will simply be called "Cub Scouts" but that a name would need to be given to the new Boy Scout equivalent program for girls that will launch in February 2019; the name will be "Scouts BSA". On January 16, 2018, Abigail Lemon of Euless, TX became the BSA's symbolic first female Cub Scout.
On November 6, 2018, the GSUSA filed a federal trademark lawsuit seeking to block the BSA from rebranding itself simply as "Scouts."; this is not the first time the two organizations have legally contested the use of the term, scout.
The objectives of the BSA are referred to as the Aims of Scouting: Character, Citizenship, Personal Fitness, Leadership. The BSA pursues these aims through an informal education system called the Scout method, with variations that are designed to be appropriate for the age and maturity of each membership division. Each unit is sponsored by a community organization as part of their youth program and is involved in the neighborhood and community.
Cub Scouts wear a uniform that gives each Scout a level of identity within the den, the pack and the community. The Scouts learn teamwork by meeting and working together in a den of four to ten boys or girls under adult leadership. They learn and apply the ideals codified in the Scout Oath and the Scout Law through an advancement system using age-based ranks earned by completing required and elective adventures. Some advancement is done in the home and is intended to involve the entire family and many Cub Scout activities include family members.
In the Scouts BSA program, Scouts learn to use the ideals spelled out in the Scout Oath, the Scout Law, the Outdoor Code, the Scout motto ("Be prepared"), and the Scout slogan ("Do a good turn daily"). They wear a uniform and work together in patrols of four to ten boys with an elected patrol leader. Scouts share responsibilities, apply skills learned at meetings and live together in the outdoors. The advancement system provides opportunities for personal growth and self-reliance. Scouts interact with adult leaders who act as role models and mentors, but they are expected to plan their own activities within the troop and to participate in community service. Opportunities are provided for leadership training with practical application.
Venturers are expected to know and live by the Venturing Oath and Venturing Code. They associate and work directly with adults as partners, but the crew is led by elected youth officers who are given opportunities to learn and apply leadership skills. Venturers plan and participate in interdependent group experiences dependent on cooperation. An emphasis on high adventure provides opportunities for team-building and practical leadership applications. A series of awards provide opportunities for recognition and personal growth. Each award requires the Venturer to teach what they have learned to others, thereby returning the skill and knowledge back to the community and enabling the Venturer to master those skills.
In October 2012, the National Council announced that, as a result of the findings and recommendations of a select committee made up of volunteer Scouters, the Cub Scout and Venturing programs would transition to use of the Scout Oath and Law, and in the case of the Venturers, the Boy Scout three-finger salute and sign as well. The Venturing change was expected to occur in late 2013 or early 2014; and the Cub Scout change in mid-2015.
Eagle Scout is the highest rank one can receive in Scouts BSA. A Scout who attains this rank is called an Eagle Scout. Since its introduction in 1911, the Eagle Scout rank has been earned by more than two million young men. Requirements include earning at least 21 merit badges and demonstrating Scout Spirit through the Scout Oath and Law, service, and leadership all before or by age 18. This includes an extensive service project that the Scout plans, organizes, leads, and manages. Eagle Scouts are presented with a medal and a badge that visibly recognizes the accomplishments of the Scout. Additional recognition can be earned through Eagle Palms, awarded for completing additional tenure, leadership, and merit badge requirements. Many famous Americans are Eagle Scouts: astronaut Neil Armstrong, film director Michael Moore, TV host Mike Rowe, Steven Spielberg, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and President Gerald Ford are just a small sample of Eagle Scouts.
Starting in February 2019, girls will be eligible to earn ranks and merit badges including Eagle Scout, following the same requirements as the boys. There will even be extra time afforded to girls and boys 16 years or older joining Scouts BSA to complete all Eagle Scout requirements since the minimum time required is about 18 months. Additionally, this first class of female Eagle Scouts will be recognized in a group ceremony.
The national Scout jamboree is a gathering of Boy Scouts and Venturers from across the US. It is usually held every four years, with some adjustment for special years such as the 2010 National Scout Jamboree that celebrated the BSA centennial. The first jamboree was held in 1937 at the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C. Since then, jamborees have been held in varying locations. Beginning in 1981, the jamboree has been held at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia. A permanent location owned by the BSA was sought in 2008 for future jamborees, high adventure programs and training. The Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve near Beckley, West Virginia, is now the permanent site beginning with the 2013 National Scout Jamboree.
The Boy Scouts of America operates several high-adventure bases at the national level. Each offers a wide range of programs and training; a typical core program may include sailing, wilderness canoeing or wilderness backpacking trips. These bases are administered by the High Adventure Division of the National Council.
Current high-adventure bases of the Boy Scouts of America include Philmont Scout Ranch, Northern Tier National High Adventure Bases, Florida National High Adventure Sea Base, and The Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve.
The BSA offers a wide variety of mandatory and optional training programs in youth protection, outdoor skills and leadership.
Every adult leader must complete Youth Protection Training, and then is strongly encouraged to complete a general overview training called This is Scouting, and a Fast Start training specific to his/her program level. Position-specific training is then offered for all direct-contact leaders. Upon completion of basic training, a leader may wear the Trained emblem on his/her BSA uniform.
Supplemental skill-specific training is also available to BSA volunteers to gain knowledge in outdoors skills including camping, hiking, first aid, Leave No Trace, swim safety, climbing safety, hazardous weather, and other skills.
The highest level of BSA training is Wood Badge, focused on helping participants develop leadership skills while participating in an outdoor program over two weekends. Some councils offer high-adventure training for adults using the Powder Horn program. Sea Scouting leaders can take the Seabadge advanced leadership and management course.
Scout youth leaders may attend the unit-level Introduction to Leadership Skills for Troops. Local councils offer the advanced National Youth Leadership Training and the National Council offers the National Advanced Youth Leadership Experience conducted at Philmont Training Center. The Boy Scouts of America also offers the NYLT Leadership Academy which trains youth staff members from across the country for council-level NYLT courses.
Venturers and Sea Scouts may attend the unit-level Introduction to Leadership Skills for Crews or Introduction to Leadership Skills for Ships. Crew officers can attend Crew Officer Orientation, and then a council-provided Kodiak leadership training program.
The Boy Scouts of America operates a National Camping School program which trains people how to run various departments or areas at the Scouts BSA summer camps. Some online training is offered, but most areas require an in-person week-long training program at one of the National Camping Schools. After successfully completing a week-long program, a person is entitled to wear the National Camping School patch. The regular-size patch may be worn on the right breast shirt pocket, in the temporary patch spot. National Camping School certification is valid for five years.
The National Council is the corporate membership of the Boy Scouts of America and consists of volunteer Scouters who meet annually. The day-to-day operations of the National Council are administered by the Chief Scout Executive and other national professional staff. National Council members include volunteers who are elected National Officers and Executive Board members, regional presidents, the local council representatives, members at large, and honorary members. The national headquarters has been in Irving, Texas since 1979.
Since the founding of the BSA in 1910, the President of the United States has served as the organization's honorary president during his term in office, former presidents serve as honorary vice presidents for their lifetimes.
The BSA National Executive Board governs the organization. The 2015 National Executive Board consisted of 79 members.
The board is led by the national president, a volunteer elected by the National Council. Board members included regular elected members, regional presidents, and up to five appointed youth members. The Chief Scout Executive is the board secretary and non-voting member. The National Executive Board has a number of standing committees that correspond to the professional staff organization of the National Council.
Present and past members of the National Executive Board include former presidential nominee Mitt Romney, Ernst & Young CEO James Turley and AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson. Other members included LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson.
The Program Impact Division is responsible for developing the Scouting program and includes the volunteer committees and staff working on volunteer training, youth development, and other program impact needs. The All Markets membership emphasis includes focus groups and special committees working to improve outreach to youth and families in various underserved ethnic populations, with literature and marketing materials targeting Hispanic/Latino families, Asian-American families, and African-American families. The BSA also participates in the American Indian Scouting Association in partnership with the Girl Scouts of the USA.
The Outdoor Adventure Division oversees four high adventure bases Philmont Scout Ranch, Northern Tier National High Adventure Bases, The Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve, and Florida National High Adventure Sea Base, as well as other special programs and the Order of the Arrow.
Other divisions provides support for the world and national jamborees and International Scouting relations. The Membership Impact Division works to sustain marketing efforts and relationships with the national organizations that make up the predominant number of chartered organizations, such as Lions International, Rotary International, Kiwanis International, American Legion, Elks, VFW, and all religious denominations chartering BSA units.
The National Supply Group is responsible for developing and selling uniforms, apparel, insignia, literature, and equipment. It sells equipment and supplies through National Scout Shops, local council trading posts, authorized independent resellers, and online at ScoutShop.org. Supply Group also licenses trademarks for use by other commercial vendors. The Administrative Group provides internal administration service and support. It includes the Marketing and Communications Division responsible for marketing the BSA program, administering the national websites, and publishing Scouting for adult leaders and Boys' Life for youth.
The National Scouting Museum is located at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. Exhibits include high adventure sections, hands-on learning experiences, interactive exhibits, and a historical collection tracing uniforms, themes, and documents from the beginning of the Scouting movement in America. Among the museum's artifacts are the Eagle Scout medal of Arthur Rose Eldred, the first Eagle Scout.
Each region has a volunteer president, assisted by volunteer officers, board members, and committee members. The day-to-day work of Scouting is managed by the regional director, assistant and associate regional directors, and area directors. Regions and areas are subdivisions of the National Council and do not have a corporate status separate from the BSA.
The BSA program is administered through 272 local councils, with each council covering a geopolitical area that may vary from a single city to an entire state. Councils receive an annual charter from the National Council and are usually incorporated as a charitable organization.
The council level organization is similar to that of the National Council. The council executive board is headed by the council president and is made up of annually elected local community leaders. The board establishes the council program and carries out the resolutions, policies, and activities of the council. Board members serve without pay and some are volunteer Scouters working at the unit level. Youth members may be elected to the council executive board according to the council by-laws.
The Scout executive manages council operations—including finance, property management, advancement and awards, registrations, and Scout Shop sales—with a staff of other professionals and para-professionals. Volunteer commissioners lead the unit service functions of the council, help maintain the standards of the BSA, and assure a healthy unit program.
The BSA charters two councils for American Scouts living overseas, largely on military bases in Europe and Asia. The Transatlantic Council, headquartered in Livorno, Italy, serves BSA units in much of Europe, and the Far East Council, headquartered in Japan, serves units in the western Pacific areas. The Direct Service branch makes the Scouting movement available to US citizens and their dependents living in countries outside these jurisdictions or in isolated areas. The Aloha Council in Hawaii also serves BSA units in the American territories of American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and in the sovereign countries of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and Palau.
The Greater New York Councils are unique in that they are divided into five boroughs with each led by a borough Scout executive and each borough then divided into districts. Similarly, due to Scouting population and geographic distance, the Utah National Parks Council is divided into 12 Sectors with each led by a volunteer assistant vice president and assistant council commissioner with each sector then divided into districts.
Councils are divided into districts with leadership provided by the district executive, district chairman, and the district commissioner. Districts are directly responsible for the operation of Scouting units and, except for the district executive, are mostly staffed with volunteers. The voting members of each district consist of volunteer representatives from each chartered organization having at least one BSA unit, plus annually elected members-at-large who in turn elect the district chairman. Boroughs and districts are subdivisions of the local council and do not have a separate corporate status.
The Boy Scouts of America partners with community organizations, such as religious congregations, fraternal groups, service clubs, and other community associations, to provide the Scouting program for the particular neighborhood or community in which the particular organization wishes to reach out to youth and families. These organizations hold charters issued by the BSA and are known then as chartered organizations. Each chartered organization provides the meeting place for BSA youth, oversees the volunteer leaders, and agrees to follow the basic BSA safety policies and values-based program, and the organization is considered the "owner" of its local program, much like a franchise.
Within each chartered organization, there may be one or more "units". A unit is a group of youth and adults which are collectively designated as a Cub Scout pack, Boy Scout troop, Venturing crew, or Sea Scout ship. Each chartered organization may charter as many units as it wishes, but usually only 3 or 4 (one unit for each program level). The BSA council provides the leader training, inter-unit activities, camping programs, volunteer and professional support, and insurance coverage. Units also create their own activities (such as monthly camping trips, outings, or service projects), and most meet weekly at the place of the chartered organization for youth to learn basic skill development and practice leadership in small groups known as dens and patrols.
|Name of Organization||Total Units (2012 / 2013)||Total Youth (2012 / 2013)|
|The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints||37,882 / 37,933||420,977 / 437,160|
|United Methodist Church||11,078 / 10,703||371,491 / 349,614|
|Catholic Church||8,570 / 8,131||283,642 / 259,297|
|Parent-teacher groups other than PTAs||3,712 / 3,076||153,214 / 126,207|
|Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)||3,663 / 3,520||127,931 / 119,879|
|Lutheran||3,902 / 3,728||119,701 / 111,483|
|Baptist||4,099 / 3,532||109,298 / 91,526|
|Groups of citizens||3,445 / 2,633||106,852 / 84,497|
|Private schools||2,837 / 2,579||101,563 / 91,828|
|Parent-Teacher Association/Parent Teacher Organization||1,661 / 1,473||69,812 / 60,171|
The BSA at its peak reportedly had 4.8 million members in the 1970s with its membership plunging to less than half across its 266 local councils; down from 2.9 million in 2006 to roughly 2.3 million youth members just over a decade later.
The National Council is incorporated as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and is funded from private donations, membership dues, corporate sponsors, and special events with total revenues of $237 million.
In addition to donations from individuals, the BSA receives extensive donations from major corporations. In 2010, their top corporate donors were, in order, Intel, Emerson, Verizon, 3M, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Pfizer, Valero, UPS, U.S. Bank, Eli Lilly, GE, and Monsanto. However, Intel and UPS cut funding to BSA in 2012.
Scouting and Boy Scouts are well known throughout American culture. The term "Boy Scout" is used to generally describe someone who is earnest and honest, or who helps others cheerfully; it can also be used as a pejorative term for someone deemed to be overly idealistic.
Prominent Americans in diverse walks of life, from filmmaker Steven Spielberg (who helped launch a merit badge in cinematography) to adventurer Steve Fossett to politicians, were BSA members as youths. Over two-thirds of all astronauts have had some type of involvement in Scouting, and eleven of the twelve men to walk on the Moon were Scouts, including Eagle Scouts Neil Armstrong and Charlie Duke. The pinewood derby—a wood car racing event for Cub Scouts—has been declared "a celebrated rite of spring" and was named part of "America's 100 Best" by Reader's Digest.
President Gerald Ford said, "I can say without hesitation, because of Scouting principles, I know I was a better athlete, I was a better naval officer, I was a better congressman, and I was a better prepared President."
Famed American illustrator Norman Rockwell's works were closely associated with the Boy Scouts of America for much of the 20th century.:43 Beginning in 1913, Rockwell began illustrating covers of Boys' Life, the magazine for BSA youth. He also drew the organization's annual calendar illustrations between 1925 and 1976.:89
In 1969, as a tribute to Rockwell's 75th birthday, officials of Brown & Bigelow and the Boy Scouts of America asked Rockwell to pose in Beyond the Easel for a calendar illustration. As part of the US Bicentennial celebrations in 1976, Rockwell's Scouting paintings toured the nation and were viewed by 280,000 people.:155 In 2008, a twelve-city US tour of Rockwell's works was scheduled.
Alvin Townley wrote in Legacy of Honor about the large positive impact of Eagle Scouts in America. Townley cited such examples as how Scouts, especially Eagle Scouts, were disproportionately represented among Hurricane Katrina's volunteer relief workers; just as they are disproportionately represented among members of the United States Senate.:152 Former Governor Rick Perry of Texas is an Eagle Scout who defended BSA policies and restrictions against ACLU criticisms in his book, On My Honor: Why the American Values of the Boy Scouts Are Worth Fighting For.
Mark Mays, CEO of Clear Channel Communications, told a magazine interviewer in May 2008 that, "Particularly in the very impactful ages of youth 11 to 14 years old, when they can really go astray and you're taking the time to spend with them and focus on cultural core values like reverent, trustworthy, loyal, and helpful —all of those different things ... Scouting has a huge positive impact on boys and their lives, and that in turn positively impacts our communities and society as a whole."
Mayor of New York City and business tycoon Michael Bloomberg, said that the BSA's Scout Law required of all Boy Scouts—a Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent—are "all the American values ... Americans have quaintly simplistic ways and direct ways of phrasing things ... I think it's one of the great strengths of this country.":116
Peter Applebome, an editor of The New York Times, wrote in 2003 of his experience as an adult participating with his son in Scouting activities, "I feel lucky to have had this unexpected vehicle to share my son's youth, to shape it, and to be shaped by it as well." He concluded that, although Scouting is viewed by some as old-fashioned, "Scouting's core values ... are wonderful building blocks for a movement and a life. Scouting's genuinely egalitarian goals and instincts are more important now than they've ever been. It's one of the only things that kids do that's genuinely cooperative, not competitive.":319–320
At the turn of the 20th century, Halloween had turned into a night of vandalism, with destruction of property and cruelty to animals and people. Around 1912, the BSA, Boys Clubs and other neighborhood organizations came together to encourage a safe celebration that would end the destruction that had become so common on this night.
The Boy Scouts of America are quite particular about how and when the Scout uniforms and insignia may be used in film and other portrayals; and for that reason, most films and television productions made in the US utilize "ersatz" Scouting organizations. Examples of this include the "Order of the Straight Arrow", portrayed in the King of the Hill cartoon series, and the "Indian Guides" depicted in the 1995 Chevy Chase film, Man of the House. One exception to this policy is the Walt Disney movie Follow Me, Boys! with Fred McMurray portraying a Scoutmaster of a rural troop. It was released to theaters in 1966 and re-released in 1976. Another is the final scene of The Sopranos television show, where Tony Soprano sits down to dinner in a restaurant. At another table, several Cub Scouts, in full uniform, are seated.
From the inception of the Scouting movement, Scouts have been urged to "Do a Good Turn Daily", as it is the slogan for the Boy Scouts of America. The first national Good Turn was the promotion of a safe and sane Fourth of July in 1912. During World War I, Every Scout to Save a Soldier was a slogan used to motivate children involved in Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts to help sell War savings stamps. Scouting for Food is an ongoing annual program begun in 1986 that collects food for local food banks. In 1997, the BSA developed Service to America with a commitment to provide 200 million hours of service by youth members by the end of the year 2000. As part of Service to America, the BSA provided service projects in conjunction with the National Park Service (NPS). In October 2003, the Department of the Interior expanded the program with the creation of Take Pride in America, opening service to all Americans.
Service to America became Good Turn for America in 2004 and expanded to address the problems of hunger, homelessness, and inadequate housing and poor health in conjunction with the Salvation Army, the American Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, and other organizations.
Scouting sex-abuse cases are situations where youth involved in Scouting programs have been sexually abused by someone who is also involved in the Scouting program. J.L. Tarr, a Chief Scout Executive in the United States, was quoted in the 1980s in an article regarding sexual assault cases against Scout leaders across all 50 states: "That's been an issue since the Boy Scouts began." Several reports have surfaced over the years regarding incidents of sexual abuse within the Boy Scouts of America to include incidents of repeat offenders. There have also been several high-profile court cases that resulted in convictions and settlements involving such incidents. On October 19, 2012, the Boy Scouts of America were forced by court order to release over 20,000 pages of documentation on 1200 alleged child sexual abuse cases within the organization from between 1965 and 1985.
In the 1980s BSA developed its Youth Protection program, to educate youth, leaders and parents about the problem as a whole, and to introduce barriers to sexual abuse of children using the Scout program to reach victims. "Two deep" leadership dictates that no adult member can be alone with any youth member (other than their own child). Before joining, youth must discuss with their parents a pamphlet on sexual abuse and adults must take youth protection training and, since 2003, new adult members must pass a criminal background check (adults who were already members had to pass a background check by 2008). The Youth Protection Plan from the organization is linked to in a CDC report on such programs.
In December 2018, the BSA hired law firm Sidley Austin LLP for assistance with a possible chapter 11 bankruptcy filing. Lawsuits arising from sexual misconduct by BSA volunteers and employees dating back to the 1960s prompted this action. Bankruptcy would stop litigation of at least 140 lawsuits filed against the organization alleging misconduct by scoutmasters.
In recent decades, membership in the BSA and income have significantly declined. In addition in May 2018, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the largest charterer of Scouting units, announced that it would withdraw from all BSA programs as of December 31, 2019. According to public filings researched by the Wall Street Journal, nearly $12 million was paid to the law firm Ogletree Deakins over a three-year period from 2015 just for litigation counsel.
In its latest annual report, BSA officials stated that the organization's future financial situation will be predicated on the outcome of various sex abuse related litigation and the associated direct costs to the organization. The annual report states that the BSA may have "to pay damages out of its own funds to the extent the claims are not covered by insurance or if the insurance carriers are unable or unwilling to honor the claims."
Due to reports surfacing in the 1970s and 80s regarding a high level of bullying in the Boy Scouts, efforts were made to develop a no-tolerance bully policy within the Boy Scouts of America. In the 1990s, the Boy Scouts acknowledged that the organization had a problem with bullying, in particular due to a "boys will be boys" attitude within Scouting before the 1970s, when adult leaders tended to overlook younger or weaker Scouts who were "picked on" by older boys, such adult leaders feeling that bullying "toughened someone up", labeling boys as "snitches" and "tattletales" should bullying be reported to the adult leadership.
Due to the personal nature of bullying, as well as the act itself not being considered as serious a crime as sexual assault, published media reports of bullying in the Boy Scouts were generally unknown by the public with some rare exceptions. One of the more widely published accounts of Boy Scout bullying occurred in July 1987 when a Boy Scout at the Goshen Scout Reservation was severally beaten in his sleep by several other Scouts. The incident resulted in the Goshen staff's changing the lay-out of its camp sites, to prevent having sites in extremely isolated areas, as well as assigning camp staff members to each visiting troop as "advisors" and also to watch for fights or other trouble resulting from conflicts developing at the various camp-sites.
In the 21st century, the Boys Scouts have adopted a "Bullying Awareness Program" which trains adults to recognize the signs of bullying, especially in isolated environments such as extended camp-outs in the wilderness or at summer camp. Parents are also advised on what to do, and whom to contact, should a Scout state they are being bullied by other Scouts. Dealing with the bullies themselves is also addressed, in particular those bullies who "game the system", pretending to be compassionate and apologetic to bully victims when adults confront them, only to return to such behaviors when the adults are no longer present.
Children can be Scouts if they have completed the fifth grade and are at least 10 years old, OR have earned the Arrow of Light Award and are at least 10 years old, OR are age 11 but have not reached age 18. ... Venturers and Sea Scouts registered in a crew or ship prior to their 21st birthday may continue as members after their 21st birthday until the crew or ship recharters or until they reach their 22nd birthday, whichever comes first.
The Boy Scouts of America (BSA), one of the largest private youth organizations in the United States, has policies which prohibit those who are not willing to subscribe to the BSA's Declaration of Religious Principle, which is usually interpreted as banning atheists, and, until January 2014, prohibited all "known or avowed homosexuals", from membership in its Scouting program. The ban on adults who are "open or avowed homosexuals" from leadership positions was lifted in July 2015. Prior to these policy changes, BSA had denied or revoked membership status or leadership positions for violation of these foundational principles. The BSA had contended that its policies were essential in its mission to instill in young people the values of the Scout Promise, or Oath, and Scout Law.The organization's legal right to have these policies has been upheld repeatedly by both state and federal courts. In Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, the Supreme Court of the United States has affirmed that as a private organization, the BSA can set its own membership standards. The BSA's policies have been legally challenged but have not been found to constitute illegal discrimination because as a private organization in the United States, the BSA has the right to freedom of association, as determined in the court case. In recent years, the policy disputes have led to litigation over the terms under which the BSA can access governmental resources, including public lands.
These policies have led to various disputes and controversies. In 2012, both Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and then President Barack Obama stated that they opposed the ban on gay Scouts. On May 23, 2013, the BSA's National Council approved a resolution to remove the restriction denying membership to youth on the basis of sexual orientation alone effective January 1, 2014. The policy for adult leaders remained in place until July 27, 2015.Boy Scouts of America v. Dale
Boy Scouts of America et al. v. Dale, 530 U.S. 640 (2000), was a case of the Supreme Court of the United States, decided on June 28, 2000, that held that the constitutional right to freedom of association allowed the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) to exclude a homosexual person from membership in spite of a state law requiring equal treatment of homosexuals in public accommodations. More generally, the court ruled that a private organization such as the BSA may exclude a person from membership when "the presence of that person affects in a significant way the group's ability to advocate public or private viewpoints". In a five to four decision, the Supreme Court ruled that opposition to homosexuality is part of BSA's "expressive message" and that allowing homosexuals as adult leaders would interfere with that message.The ruling reversed a decision of the New Jersey Supreme Court that had determined that New Jersey's public accommodations law required the BSA to readmit assistant Scoutmaster James Dale, who had made his homosexuality public and whom the BSA had expelled from the organization for that reason.COPE (Boy Scouts of America)
COPE is an acronym for Challenging Outdoor Personal Experience, a program in the Boy Scouts of America. It consists of group initiative games, trust events, and high and low ropes course. Some activities involve a group challenge, while others develop individual skills and agility. Participants climb, swing, balance, jump, rappel, and devise solutions to a variety of problems. It is also jokingly called Children On Playground Equipment because of the activities the scouts participate in.Cub Scouting (Boy Scouts of America)
Cub Scouting is part of the Scouting program of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), available to boys and girls from kindergarten through fifth grade, or 5 to 10 years of age and their families. Its membership is the largest of the five main BSA divisions (Cub Scouting, Scouts BSA, Venturing, Exploring and Sea Scouting). Cub Scouting is part of the worldwide Scouting movement and aims to promote character development, citizenship training, personal fitness, and leadership.Eagle Scout (Boy Scouts of America)
Eagle Scout is the highest achievement or rank attainable in the Scouts BSA program of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). Since its inception in 1911, only four percent of Scouts have earned this rank after a lengthy review process. The Eagle Scout rank has been earned by over 2.5 million youth.Requirements include earning at least 21 merit badges. The Eagle Scout must demonstrate Scout Spirit, an ideal attitude based upon the Scout Oath and Law, service, and leadership. This includes an extensive service project that the Scout plans, organizes, leads, and manages. Eagle Scouts are presented with a medal and a badge that visibly recognizes the accomplishments of the Scout. Additional recognition can be earned through Eagle Palms, awarded for completing additional tenure, leadership, and merit badge requirements.Exploring (Learning for Life)
Exploring is an interactive, worksite-based career education program of Learning for Life, an affiliate of the Boy Scouts of America. Participants in the program are called Explorers and previously Explorer Scouts. The program serves youth in 6th-8th grades (Exploring clubs), and young men and women who are 14 through 20 years old (Exploring posts). Exploring units (clubs or posts), are sponsored by local businesses, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations, and usually focus on a single career field, but can also introduce youth to a variety of career fields within a single unit.
Prior to 1998, the Exploring program was the main BSA program for older youth and included posts with an emphasis on outdoor activities, which are now part of the Venturing program.First Class Scout (Boy Scouts of America)
First Class Scout is a rank in the Boy Scouts of America, the rank above Second Class and below Star Scout. It is the highest of the lower four ranks in Scouting, and is the minimum rank that need be attained for entry into the Order of the Arrow or service as a troop's senior patrol leader.
Robert Baden-Powell wanted a First Class Scout to be the complete outdoorsman. Originally, First Class scout was the final and highest rank. Later ranks were originally recognitions of earning merit badges beyond First Class, and not properly ranks. Now these additional ranks form a second tier where Scouts can further develop leadership skills and explore potential vocations and avocations through the merit badge program.
For a brief period in Scouting's history, prior to the introduction of Eagle Scout, First Class Scout was the highest rank in the BSA; for several more years, it was the highest rank needed (until Star and Life became mandatory) for Eagle.
The number of Scouts achieving First Class within one year of joining is still one of the key measures of unit effectiveness. Studies have shown that if a Scout achieves First Class within a year of joining, he typically stays in the Scout program for at least three years. Scouts who do so are more likely to retain Scout values as an adult and achieve the BSA primary mission of "producing useful citizens".Greenwich Council (Boy Scouts of America)
The Greenwich Council of the Boy Scouts of America was founded in 1912. Its headquarters resides at 63 Mason Street in Greenwich, Connecticut.High Adventure Bases of the Boy Scouts of America
High Adventure Bases of the Boy Scouts of America are outdoor recreation facilities located in several locales in North America operated by the Boy Scouts of America at the organization's national level. Each facility offers wilderness programs and training that could include wilderness canoeing, wilderness backpacking trips, or sailing, and provide opportunities for Scouts to earn the 50-Miler Award. These bases are administered by the High Adventure Division of the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America.List of national presidents of the Boy Scouts of America
The national president is the leading volunteer of the Executive Board of the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America, a position comparable to the chairman of a board of directors.
Effective 2018, the role of National President has been renamed National Chair. The National Chair is a member of the National Key 3 along with the National Commissioner and the Chief Scout Executive.Merit badge (Boy Scouts of America)
Merit Badges are awards earned by members of Scouts BSA, based on activities within the area of study by completing a list of periodically updated requirements. The purpose of the merit badge program is to allow Scouts examine subjects to determine if they would like to further pursue them as a career or vocation. Originally, the program also introduced Scouts to the life skills of contacting an adult they hadn't met before, arranging a meeting and then demonstrating their skills, similar to a job or college interview. Increasingly, though, merit badges are earned in a class setting at troop meetings and summer camps.
Each merit badge has a pamphlet (booklet) associated with it; the pamphlet contains information on completing the requirements for the badge. Scouts must meet up with their Scoutmasters to receive a signed blue card in order to begin working on a merit badge. The Scout then contacts an adult who is registered as a counselor for that merit badge in order to learn which badge requirements they must complete before meeting. Once these requirements are completed, the Scout meets with the counselor to demonstrate that the Scout has completed the requirements. The counselor then 'signs off' on each requirement. After completing the merit badge, the Scout can then purchase a merit badge patch.The award of a merit badge is represented by a circular patch with an image representing the badge's topic. The patches for the Eagle-required merit badges are distinguishable by the silver ring on the outside edge. Merit badges are displayed on a sash which can be worn with the Boy Scout uniform on formal occasions. Every year the National Council reviews and updates a certain number of merit badges. There are over 100 merit badges.
Scouting organizations in other countries issue or have issued merit badges, including Canada, Indonesia, Japan, Spain, Thailand, and the United Kingdom. Austria has a program similar to merit badges for certain age groups.Northeast Region (Boy Scouts of America)
Northeast Region is one of the four administrative regions of the Boy Scouts of America. It covers the northeastern states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and the northern portion of Virginia. It also covers the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and the Transatlantic Council. The other three regions are Southern, Western, and Central. Each region is then subdivided into areas.
Each region has a volunteer president, assisted by volunteer officers and board members, and the day-to-day work of Scouting is managed by the regional director, assistant and associate regional directors, and area directors. Regions and areas are subdivisions of the National Council and do not have a corporate status separate from the BSA.Quartermaster Award (Boy Scouts of America)
The Quartermaster Award is the highest rank attainable in the Sea Scouting program of the Boy Scouts of America.Ranks in the Boy Scouts of America
The advancement program for Boy Scouts of the Boy Scouts of America is symbolized by the earning of seven ranks. The advancement program is often considered to be divided into two phases. The first phase from joining to First Class is designed to teach the boy Scoutcraft skills, how to participate in a group and to learn self-reliance. The Scout badge is awarded when the Scout demonstrates a rudimentary knowledge of the Scouting ideals and program. Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class have progressively harder requirements in the areas of Scoutcraft, physical fitness, citizenship, personal growth and Scout Spirit.
The second phase: Star, Life, and Eagle, is designed to develop leadership skills and allow the Scout to explore potential vocations and avocations through the merit badge program. The Star and Life ranks require that the boy serve in a position of responsibility and perform community service. Except for Scout rank (and Eagle Palms as of August 1, 2017), all ranks require that the candidate participate in a Scoutmaster conference and pass a Board of Review.Religious emblems programs (Boy Scouts of America)
A variety of religious emblems programs are used by the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) to encourage youth to learn about their faith and to recognize adults who provide significant service to youth in a religious environment. These religious programs are created, administered and awarded by the various religious groups, not the BSA, but each program must be recognized by the BSA.Scouts BSA
Scouts BSA (formerly known as the Boy Scouts) is the flagship membership level of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) for boys and girls between the ages of 11 and 17. It provides youth training in character, citizenship, and mental and personal fitness. Scouts are expected to develop personal religious values, learn the principles of American heritage and government, and acquire skills to become successful adults.
To achieve these, Scouting applies eight methods of Scouting: Ideals (viz., the Scout Oath, the Scout Law, the Scout Motto, and the Scout Slogan), the patrol method, participation in outdoor programs, advancement, adult association, personal growth, leadership development, and the uniform.
The participants, known as Scouts, are organized in Scout troops, administered by volunteers with support of paid professional staff. Youth and adult members are referred to as Scouts, and the adult leaders as Scouters. Prior to February 1, 2019, the program was called Boy Scouts, and girls were not allowed to participate.In 1994, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, an industry publication, released the results of the largest study of charitable and non-profit organization popularity and credibility. The study ranked the Boy Scouts as the 7th "most popular charity/non-profit in America" of over 100 charities researched with 42% of Americans over the age of 12 choosing Love and Like A Lot for the Boy Scouts .Sea Scouting (Boy Scouts of America)
Sea Scouting is a program of the Boy Scouts of America for young men and women ages 14 to 20. Along with Cub Scouting, Scouts BSA, and Venturing, Sea Scouting provides a program for religious, fraternal, educational, and other community organizations to use for character, citizenship, and mental and personal fitness training for youth. As part of this training, Sea Scouts are expected to develop personal religious values, learn the principles of American heritage and government, and acquire skills that will prepare them to become successful adults.
Sea Scouting is the BSA's implementation of the Sea Scout program, initially developed in 1910 by Warington Baden-Powell in England. The founders of Sea Scouting in the United States are Arthur A. Carey of Waltham, Massachusetts, and Charles T. Longstreth of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Both leaders independently established Sea Scout groups in the summer of 1912. This accomplishment was recorded in the inaugural issue of Scouting.
The advancement scheme for Sea Scouts places an initial emphasis on nautical skills before encouraging the youth to take a major role in planning activities in the unit. Young men and women who are willing to abide by the requirements of BSA membership, including agreeing to live by the ideals expressed in the Sea Promise, Scout Oath, and Scout Law are eligible to join a Sea Scouting ship. Ships are administered by volunteers with the assistance and support of some paid professional staff.
As of 2016, Sea Scouting is currently its own independent program within the BSA. From 1998 to 2016, it had been part of Venturing, and prior to that part of Exploring.Space derby
The space derby is a racing event for Cub Scouts in the Boy Scouts of America that is similar to the pinewood derby car race. Cub Scouts (the young-age division of the Boy Scouts of America) race miniature balsa wood gliders that are propelled by a rubber band and propeller.Western Region (Boy Scouts of America)
For administrative purposes, the Boy Scouts of America is divided into four regions—Western, Central, Southern, and Northeast. Each region is then subdivided into areas. Western Region covers all of Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming, and parts of Montana, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Texas, as well as the countries of Japan, the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand.Each region has a volunteer president, assisted by volunteer officers and board members, and the day-to-day work of Scouting is managed by the regional director, assistant and associate regional directors, and area directors. Regions and areas are subdivisions of the National Council and do not have a corporate status separate from the BSA.
Boy Scouts of America
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