Boy Scouts of America
|Boy Scouts of America|
|Founded||February 8, 1910|
|Chief Scout Executive||Wayne Brock|
|Executive Vice President, President-Elect||Robert Gates|
|Affiliation||World Organization of the Scout Movement|
|Governing body||National Executive Board|
The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is one of the largest United States, with 2.7 million youth members and over 1 million adult volunteers. Since its founding in 1910 as part of the international Scout Movement, more than 110 million Americans have been members of the BSA.
The BSA's goal is to train youth 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 inculcate typical Scouting values such as trustworthiness, good citizenship, and outdoors skills, through a variety of activities such as camping, aquatics, and hiking. The BSA has several locations in Florida, Minnesota, New Mexico, and West Virginia in the United States and Manitoba and Ontario in Canada that allow Scouts to participate in the various aforementioned outdoor activities which are collectively called high-adventure bases.
The BSA is a constituent member of the Professional Scouters and volunteers.
The influence of Scouting on American society is frequently cited by both its advocates and critics. Critics have called the BSA's membership obligations unfair, resulting in litigation in various state and federal courts.
- Federally chartered corporation 1.1
- Traditional membership 2.1
- Learning for life 2.2
- Membership controversies 2.3
Aims, methods, and ideals 3
- Scout Oath 3.1
- Scout Law 3.2
- Outdoor Code 3.3
- National Council 4.1
- Governance and the National Executive Board 4.2
- Groups and divisions 4.3
- Regions and areas 4.4
- Local councils 4.5
- Chartered organizations and units 4.6
- National Camping School 5
- Corporate funding 6.1
Leadership training 7
- Adult leadership training 7.1
- Youth leadership training 7.2
Impact on American life 8
- Good Turns 8.1
- Sex abuse cases 8.2
- National Scout jamboree 9
- High adventure bases 10
- Eagle Scout 11
- References 12
- Further reading 13
- External links 14
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 In 1896, years before the Scouting movement was founded, Baden-Powell met the American born Chief of Scouts in British Africa, Frederick Russell Burnham, and learned from him the fundamentals of scouting, inspiring him and giving him the plan for the program and the code of honor of Scouting for Boys, and thus restoring the old traditions of American Youth.
BSA had two notable predecessors in the United States: the Woodcraft Indians started by Ernest Thompson Seton in 1902 and the Sons of Daniel Boone founded by Daniel Carter Beard in 1905 in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1907, British General Robert Baden-Powell founded the Scouting movement in England using elements of Seton's works among other influences. Several small local Scouting programs for boys started independently in the U.S., soon after, many of these programs 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 Scouting program, Boyce met with General Baden-Powell, who was Chief Scout at the time. Upon his return to the U.S., Boyce incorporated the Boy Scouts of America on February 8, 1910. Edgar M. Robinson and Lee F. Hanmer became interested in the nascent BSA movement 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, was 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 U.S.: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  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." The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 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.
Federally chartered corporation
The BSA holds a
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.
A Scout who attains this rank is called an 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, Academy Award-winning (2002) film director Michael Moore, TV host Mike Rowe, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and President Gerald Ford are just a small sample of Eagle Scouts.
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 which was the site of the 2013 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.
High adventure bases
The national Scout jamboree is a gathering of Boy Scouts 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.
National Scout jamboree
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.
 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  There have also been several high profile court cases that resulted in convictions and settlements involving such incidents. Several reports have surfaced over the years regarding incidents of sexual abuse within the Boy Scouts of America to include incidents of repeat offenders. 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."
Sex abuse cases
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.
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 on-going 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.
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 U.S. 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. A notable exception to this policy 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.
 At the turn of the 20th century,
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
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
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."
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 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.
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 U.S. Bicentennial celebrations in 1976, Rockwell's Scouting paintings toured the nation and were viewed by 280,000 people.:155 In 2008, a twelve-city U.S. tour of Rockwell's works was scheduled.
:89 Famed American illustrator
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."
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.
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.
Impact on American life
Order of the Arrow members may attend the National Leadership Seminar, run multiple times each year by each region.
Venturers and Sea Scouts may attend the unit-level Venturing Leadership Skills Course. Crew officers can attend Crew Officer Orientation, and then a council-provided Kodiak leadership training program.
Boy Scout and Varsity Scout youth leaders may attend the unit-level Troop Leadership Training. 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.
Youth leadership training
The highest level of BSA training is Wood Badge, which is 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.
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.
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.
Adult leadership training
The BSA offers a wide variety of mandatory and optional training programs in youth protection, outdoor skills and leadership.
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.
Robert Mazzuca, Chief Scout Executive of Boy Scouts of America, received $1,211,572 in salary and compensation. This is the 4th highest compensation package given by any charity to the head of the charity, according to Charity Watch. Charity Watch rates BSA an "A".
The above numbers are for National Council operations and do not include local council income or expenses.
The Boy Scouts of America operates a National Camping School program, which trains people how to run various departments or areas at the Boy Scout 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 Camp 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.
National Camping School
|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 Organization||1,661 / 1,473||69,812 / 60,171|
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, Varsity Scout team, or Venturing crew/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.
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 outreach 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.
Chartered organizations and units
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 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.
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 U.S. 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 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 assures a healthy unit program.
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 selected to the council executive board according to the council by-laws.
The BSA program is administered through 273 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.
- Central Region covers all of Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, Wisconsin, and parts of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, South Dakota, Virginia, and West Virginia.
- Northeast Region covers all of Connecticut, District of Columbia, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virgin Islands (U.S.), parts of Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia, and members of the BSA Transatlantic Council.
- Southern Region covers all of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Tennessee, and parts of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.
- Western Region covers all of Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, most of Montana, parts of Nebraska, South Dakota, and Texas, territories located in the Pacific Ocean, and members of the BSA Far East Council.
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.
For administrative purposes, the BSA is divided into four regions— Each region is then subdivided into areas.
Regions and areas
The National Scouting Museum is located in Irving, Texas. Exhibits include Norman Rockwell paintings, 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.
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 ScoutStuff.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 Outdoor Adventure Division oversees four "High Adventure" bases Philmont Scout Ranch, Northern Tier National High Adventure Bases, the 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.
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.
Groups and divisions
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 include LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson.
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.
The BSA National Executive Board governs the organization. One source reports that there were 72 members of the NEB in 2001, while the BSA's 2011 report lists 77 members.
Governance and the National Executive Board
 Finally, since the founding of the BSA in 1910, the
The charter authorized and set standards for the incorporation of the BSA and provided for the "exclusive right to use emblems, badges, descriptive or designating marks, and words or phrases" that they adopt.
promote, through organization, and cooperation with other agencies, the ability of boys to do things for themselves and others, to train them in scoutcraft, and to teach them patriotism, courage, self-reliance, and kindred virtues, using the methods that were in common use by boy scouts on June 15, 1916.
The BSA was granted a 36 USC 309), stating that their purpose is to:
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.
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 Boy Scout Oath and Promise, and in the case of the Venturers, the Boy Scout three-finger salute and sign as well. The Venturing change will occur in late 2013 or early 2014; the Cub Scout change will take effect in mid-2015.
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 returning the skill and knowledge back to the community and enabling the Venturer to master those skills.
"As an American, I will do my best to be clean in my outdoor manner, to be careful with fire, to be considerate in the outdoors, and to be conservation minded."
"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 morally straight."
Boy 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.
Cub Scouts wear a uniform that gives each boy a level of identity within the den, the pack and the community. The boys learn teamwork by meeting and working together in a den of four to ten boys under adult leadership. They learn and apply the ideals codified in the Cub Scout Promise and the Law of the Pack, and in the Character Connections program that develops the core values of citizenship, compassion, cooperation, courage, faith, health and fitness, honesty, perseverance, positive attitude, resourcefulness, respect and responsibility. The advancement system uses both age-based ranks and an optional Academics and Sports Program designed for the development of physical, mental and emotional fitness. Most advancement is done in the home and is intended to involve the entire family and many Cub Scout activities include family members.
The objectives of the BSA are referred to as Aims of Scouting: moral character development; citizenship training; and development of physical, mental, and emotional fitness. 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.
Aims, methods, and ideals
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. Scout leaders who are "open and avowed homosexuals" are 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. Subsequently, some Christian denomination congregations replaced their Boy Scouts of America troops with those of Trail Life USA.
About a year later, the Boys Scouts dropped the ban on gay scouts, as of January 1, 2014. However, openly gay leaders will still be banned from the Boy Scouts.   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. 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".
 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." In 2000, the Supreme Court ruled in
Unlike the BSA's Learning for Life, membership in the traditional BSA programs is more restricted and controversial. Girls may not join Cub Scouting or Boy Scouting, but may join Venturing and Sea Scouting; women can be adult volunteers in all programs. The BSA prohibits "open and avowed" gay and lesbian adults from participation. The BSA takes a similar prohibitive stance toward both children and adults who are atheist and agnostic, citing its "Duty to God" principle.
Learning for Life is not considered a traditional Scouting program; it does not use the Scout Promise, 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.
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
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.
- Cub Scouting is the largest of the three programs, available to boys from first to fifth-grade or 7 to 11 years. The program is designed to pursue the aims of character development, citizenship training, and personal fitness. Cub Scouting is divided into age-based levels of Tiger Cubs, Wolf, Bear, and Webelos Scouts.
Boy Scouting is the flagship program of the BSA for boys ages 11 to 18. (Boys who have achieved the Cub Scout Arrow of Light Award or have completed the 5th grade can join as young as 10 years old)  It uses outdoor activities such as camping, aquatics and hiking to achieve the aims of character, citizenship and personal fitness training.
- Varsity Scouting is a sub-division of Boy Scouting available to boys ages 14 to 18; it adds a program of high adventure and sporting activities.
- The Order of the Arrow is the Boy Scouting national honor society for experienced campers, based on American Indian traditions and is dedicated to the ideals of brotherhood and cheerful service.
Venturing is the program for young men and women ages 14 through 21. Its purpose is to provide positive experiences to help youth mature and to prepare them to become responsible adults.
- Sea Scouting is a sub-division of Venturing focused on nautical activities.
In the BSA, Scouting is considered to be one movement with three main programs:
That the purpose of this corporation shall be to promote, through organization and cooperation with other agencies, the ability of boys to do things for themselves and others, to train them in Scoutcraft, and to teach them patriotism, courage, self-reliance, and kindred values, using the methods which are now in common use by Boy Scouts.
Paul Sleman, Colin H. Livingstone, Ernest S. Martin and James E. West successfully lobbied Congress for a federal charter for the BSA–partly as a way to deal with competition from the Lone Scouts of America, which President Woodrow Wilson signed on June 15, 1916. It reads:
 The special recognition neither implies nor accords Congress any special control over the BSA, which remains free to function independently.