What Is Boy Scouting?
Purpose of the BSA
The Boy Scouts of America 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
nationšs 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.
Boy Scout Program Membership
Boy Scouting, one of the traditional membership divisions of the BSA, is
available to boys who have earned the Arrow of Light Award or have completed
the fifth grade, or who are 11 through 17 years old. The program achieves the
BSAšs objectives of developing character, citizenship, and personal fitness
qualities among youth by focusing on a vigorous program of outdoor
Currently, the Boy Scout program membership is*
|1,003,691||Boy Scouts/Varsity Scouts |
|*As of December 31, 2000|
Thousands of volunteer leaders, both men and women, are involved in the
Boy Scouting program. They serve in a variety of jobseverything from
unit leaders to chairmen of troop committees, committee members, merit badge
counselors, and chartered organization representatives.
Like other phases of the program, Boy Scouting 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 Boy Scouting: the boy
and his parents, the troop, the chartered organization, and the community.
Boys are encouraged to earn money whenever possible to pay their own
expenses, and they also contribute dues to their troop treasuries to
ay 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.
Ideals. The ideals of Boy Scouting are spelled out in the
Scout Oath, the Scout Law, the Scout motto, and the
Scout slogan. The Boy 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.
Patrols. The patrol method gives Boy Scouts an experience in
group living and participating citizenship. It places responsibility on
young shoulders and teaches boys 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
Outdoor Programs. Boy Scouting 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 Boy
Scouts gain an appreciation for the beauty of the world around us. The
outdoors is the laboratory in which Boy Scouts learn ecology and practice
conservation of nature's resources.
Advancement. Boy Scouting provides a series of surmountable
obstacles and steps in overcoming them through the advancement method.
The Boy Scout plans his advancement and progresses at his own pace as he
meets each challenge. The Boy Scout is rewarded for each achievement,
which helps him gain self-confidence. The steps in the advancement system
help a Boy Scout grow in self-reliance and in the ability to help others.
Associations With Adults. Boys 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 boys, encourage them, and take a sincere interest in them
can make a profound difference in their lives.
Personal Growth. As Boy 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 Boy Scouting. Boys 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 Boy Scout to determine his growth toward Scouting's
Leadership Development. The Boy Scout program encourages boys to
learn and practice leadership skills. Every Boy Scout has the opportunity
to participate in both shared and total leadership situations. Understanding
the concepts of leadership helps a boy accept the leadership role of others
and guides him toward the citizenship aim of Scouting.
Uniform. The uniform makes the Boy Scout troop visible as a force
for good and creates a positive youth image in the community. Boy Scouting
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 Boy Scout identity in a world brotherhood of youth who believe
in the same ideals. The uniform is practical attire for Boy Scout activities
and provides a way for Boy Scouts to wear the badges that show what they
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,
and the Florida National High Adventure Sea Base in the Florida Keys.
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).
Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia, was the site of the 1997 National Scout
The Beginning of Scouting
Scouting, as known to millions of youth and adults, evolved during the
early 1900s 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 Scoutcraft experts,
Baden-Powell rewrote his manual as a nonmilitary 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 campout for Scouts on Brownsea 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 Boy Scout Handbook (more than 37 million copies
of which have been printed); the Junior Leader Handbook, which offers
information relevant to boy leadership; the Scoutmaster Handbook; more
than 100 merit badge pamphlets dealing with hobbies, vocations, and advanced
Scoutcraft; and program features and various kinds of training, administrative,
and organizational manuals for adult volunteer leaders and Boy Scouts. In a
ddition, the BSA publishes Boys' Life magazine, the national magazine
for all boys (magazine circulation is more than 1.3 million) and Scouting
magazine for volunteers, which has a circulation of 900,000.
Conservation activities supplement the program of Boy Scout advancement,
summer camp, and outdoor activities and teaches young people to better understand
their interdependence with the environment.