Boy Scouts of America
A similar but entirely separate group is the Girl Scouts, founded in 1912 by Juliette Gordon Lowe.
The Boy Scouts of America is one of the nation's largest and most prominent values-based youth development organizations. It promotes fun, educational skills, survival skills and activities identified with manliness. 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. National headquarters is in Irving, Texas.
The first Boy Scout troop in the United States was founded in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, in May 1909, by Anglican priest John Forbes Mitchell while on assignment for the Church of England. It was the first international charter of the British Boy Scouts. William Dickson Boyce (1859-1929) incorporated the Boy Scouts of America on February 8, 1910.
The programs were largely copied from the British models set out by Sir Robert Baden-Powell, who began both the non-competitive merit badge system to encourage development in diverse skills, and the rank advancement system to encourage core skills. Even more important was the Social Gospel influence of "muscular Christianity" promulgated by the YMCA in the Era of the Third Great Awakening, 1910-30.
The new Boy Scouts of America quickly merged with the Woodcraft Indians, founded by Ernest Thompson Seton (1860-1946); and the Sons of Daniel Boone, led by Daniel Carter Beard (1850-1941). Seton became the BSA's first Chief Scout (1910-1915), and Beard the National Scout Commissioner of the United States.
Beginning in 1913, the National Office organized troops into local councils, to coordinate activities, administration, and growth. Growth was rapid. By 1921 there were 400,000 boy scouts and 17,000 scoutmasters.
Scouting is not just for the benefit of the boys. It is also an opportunity for adult men to mentor youth and themselves practice outdoor skills. The success of the Scouts resulted in part from increased concern over the maintenance of masculinity in a world of cities and office buildings. Theodore Roosevelt often sounded the tocsin. Adult men in the 1900-1930 era believed that the opportunities for the development and expression of masculinity were being restricted. Scouting was a means to counteract perceived forces of feminization in the world of adolescents. The Scouting movement provided adult men, denied by their occupations, an opportunity to validate the traditional image of masculinity.
There are five programs in the Boy Scouts of America. Cub Scouting programs are for boys in first grade through fifth grade (or seven through 10 years of age); the motto for Cub Scouts is to, "Do Your Best." Ninety five percent of all Boy Scouts have participated in Cub Scouts at some time. For boys who are 11 through 17 years of age, or have earned the Cub Scouting Arrow of Light award and are at least 10 years old, or have completed the fifth grade and are at least 10 years old, they can take part in the Boy Scouts of America program. The Boy Scouts motto is to, "Be Prepared," and the slogan is to, "Do a Good Turn Daily." The three other possible programs is Varsity Scouting, Venturing, and Order of the Arrow.
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Defining America's greatness
Many presidents have praised and addressed the Boy Scouts over the years. President Calvin Coolidge told Scouts in 1924 that the three fundamentals of scouthood are reverence for nature, for the law and for God.
"There is new life in the soil for every man. There is healing in the trees for tired minds and for our overburdened spirits, there is strength in the hills, if only we will lift up our eyes. Remember that nature is your great restorer....Resolve that the sacrifices by which your great opportunities have been purchased will be matched by a sacrifice, on your part, that will give your children even a better chance....Faith is the great motive power, and no man realizes his full possibilities unless he has the deep conviction that life is eternally important, and that his work, well done, is a part of an unending plan."
The Scout Oath & Law
The Scout Oath & Law are the guiding principles of Scouting, and are generally recited at the beginning or end of a Troop meeting.Scout Law:
A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.
On my honor, I will do my best: To do my duty to God and my
country, and to obey the Scout Law, To help other people at all times. To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morallystraight.
The requirements and order of the BSA ranks have changed over the years, although the names have only changed little. The current order is as follows:
- Second Class
- First Class
- Star Scout
- Life Scout
- Eagle Scout
Rank of Eagle Scout
The highest rank that may be attained by a Boy Scout is that of Eagle Scout, which 2% of Scouts nationwide earn. One of the requirements for this rank is leading a service project to benefit either the community at large, or a specific non-profit organization, such as a school or a church. Other requirements include earning at least 21 merit badges (including 12 predetermined ones), being active in the troop for a minimum amount of time, holding a position of leadership within one's troop, and appearing before a Board of Review. All of the requirements for an Eagle Board of Review must be completed before a candidate's 18th birthday (although exceptions may be made for Scouts with mental disabilities), although the Board of Review may occur after this date. Some notable Eagle Scouts include:
- The BSA reaffirmed its view that an avowed homosexual cannot serve as a role model for the traditional moral values espoused in the Scout Oath and Law and that these values cannot be subject to local option choices.
Starting in the late 1990s this led to several high-profile lawsuits, such as the one brought by the ACLU of San Diego, which proposes that the discriminatory practices of the organization should make them ineligible for the use of public funds or public lands.
The homosexual cases culminated in the Supreme Court's Dale decision in 2000, which ruled that as a private organization, the Scouts were entitled to choose their own members. The ACLU lost, but as noted by Robert Bork Jr., spokesman for the BSA and son of the former Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork, the ACLU "has been trying ever since to have the Scouts expelled from the public square." Gay rights activists in dozens of cities have persuaded United Way to stop supporting the Scouts.
Prohibition of homosexual scout leaders is not universal within the BSA, however. The Massachusetts Minuteman Council, for example, adopted a bylaw in 2001 barring exclusion of anyone on the basis of race, religion, or sexual orientation. The bylaw, which resembles the U. S. Military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, permits homosexuals to lead troops so long as they do not discuss their sexual orientation. A few other councils have similar policies.
In 2013, the Boy Scouts of America lifted its ban on gay youth. In 2015, the organization lifted its ban on gay leaders.
- Dean, John Isaac. Scouting in America, 1910-1990, PhD dissertation U. of South Carolina. Dissertation Abstracts International 1993 53(8): 2713-A. DA9239032, 448p.
- Macleod, David. "Act Your Age: Boyhood, Adolescence, and the Rise of the Boy Scouts of America," Journal of Social History 1983 16(2): 3-20, in JSTOR
- Macleod, David. Building Character in the American Boy: The Boy Scouts, YMCA, and Their Forerunners, 1870-1920 (2004), standard scholarly history excerpt and text search
- Mechling, Jay. On My Honor: Boy Scouts and the Making of American Youth. (2001) 323 pp. accounts of how the Scouts work in practice, with much attention to songs, rituals, and games excerpt and text search
- Tucker, William. "Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Persecuted: Across the Country, the Boy Scouts Are under Attack," National Review Volume: 60. Issue: 17. September 15, 2008. pp 32+ online edition
- Wills, Chuck. Boy Scouts of America: A Centennial History (2009), popular
- Boy Scouts of America. Handbook for scout masters (1914) 352 pages online edition
- Founders, scouting.org.
- About the BSA
- Overview of Boy Scouts of America
- Clifford Putney, Muscular Christianity: Manhood and Sports in Protestant America, 1880-1920 (2001)
- Those who have earned the Arrow of Light may cross over at 10
- Exceptions are made to the upper age limit for those with disabilities
- Coolidge, "Telephone Remarks to a Group of Boy Scouts," July 25, 1924
- Notable Eagle Scouts (PDF), nesa.org.
- Mass. Scouts permit gay leaders, Chicago Sun-Times, Aug 2, 2001
- "Boy Scouts of America moves to stop banning gay troop leaders," Los Angeles Times, July 13, 2015.
- Boy Scouts of America - Home
- Values of Americans - BSA
- National Jamboree
- Introduction to Merit Badges - A complete list, in alphabetical order, of all of the current merit badge subjects.
- Advancement & Awards - The Boy Scout is rewarded for each achievement, which helps him gain self-confidence.
- Requirements for ranks and merit badges