Boy Scouts of America
The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is an organization for boys between the ages of 7 and 14, and for both young men and women between the ages of 14 and 21, based in the United States of America, with some presence in other countries. BSA is part of the global Scouting movement and national member of the World Organization of the Scout Movement.
Aims and principles
The BSA is the largest youth organization in the United States. Its aim is to provide an educational program for boys and young adults to build character, to train in the responsibilities of participating citizenship, and to develop personal fitness. The purpose of the BSA, to develop character and leadership, is carried on primarily through outdoor activities including camping, hiking, canoeing and other related activities. There is an emphasis on personal development through community service, assuming leadership positions, and individual challenge through Merit Badges.
The principal founders were Ernest Thompson Seton and William D. Boyce who first incorporated the BSA on February 8, 1910, on the model of scouting established by Robert Baden-Powell. U.S. President Woodrow Wilson signed a bill chartering the Boy Scouts of America as a private organization on June 15, 1916.  (http://www.scouting.org/factsheets/02-507.html)
Because Baden-Powell was also associated with the YMCA in Britain, news of the early Boy Scout manual, Scouting for Boys, had already reached the United States. The Boy Scout movement, however, did not reach the U.S. until 1909, when it was instituted by William D. Boyce.
The story of how Boyce came to be interested in Scouting has appeared in various forms. All versions agree on the following: Boyce, a publisher from Chicago, was lost in London's famous fog when he was met by a boy who showed him the way to his destination; the boy then refused an offer of payment for his services.
Some versions claim that Boyce actually knew about Scouting before he ever met the boy in question, having in fact come to London with the intent of learning more about the organization, and that the place he was seeking in the fog was actually Scouting headquarters. Some assert that the boy vanished into the fog after refusing Boyce's money, but others declare that the two arranged to meet again, so that the boy could show Boyce to the headquarters. Still others hold that the boy was uniformed at the time. The truth of the matter may never be known for sure.
Boyce returned to the United States and, with two other businessmen, Edward S. Stewart and Stanley D. Willis, incorporated the Boy Scouts of America. The first troop was Troop 1, based at a YMCA. Edgar Robinson, an important administrator of the YMCA in Chicago, agreed to help Boyce organize the Boy Scouts as a national organization.
The BSA had many rival organizations in its early days, including:
The Woodcraft Indians and the Sons of Daniel Boone eventually merged with Boyce's organization; the consolidation was complete by the late 1910s.
The Boy Scouts of America was successfully organized by 1910, when Seton, Beard and Baden-Powell, along with Boyce, Edgar Robinson and others, called a national meeting. The first national officers were selected, and it was agreed that the President of the United States (then Taft) was to be the Honorary President of the BSA, a tradition that is still followed today. The Scouts were then incorporated by Boyce on February 8, 1910.
In 1911, the Boy Scouts of America published the first American Boy Scout manual ("Handbook for Boys"), a revision of Seton's version. This was the first appearance of the American Scout Oath and Law. The British version was a pledge of allegiance to the King. James E. West wrote the Scout Oath, and added three points to the British version of the Scout Law (brave, clean and reverent).
In 1912, Sea Scouting became an official program. Sea Scouting is now part of the Venturing program of the Boy Scouts of America focused primarily on maritime activities. Boys' Life magazine also began in 1912, and continues today to be the official Boy Scout magazine. In 1913, the Scouting magazine for leaders started.
In 1916 Paul Sleman, Colin H. Livingstone, Ernest S. Martin and James E. West successfully lobbied Congress for a federal charter for BSA. Also in 1916, Baden-Powell organized Wolf Cubs in Britain, for boys too young for the Boy Scouts (minimum age twelve at the time). In BSA, Wolf Cubs became Cub Scouts.
In 1920 the first International Scout Jamboree, a gathering of scouts from all over the world, was held in London. Jamborees are currently held every four years, in varying countries. It will never be held in the United States because BSA, in contrast to numerous other Scouting organizations around the globe, accepts female youth members only within its Venturing Division, and not in the Cub Scout or Boy Scout divisions.
The Order of the Arrow, a Scouting Honor Society began in 1915. It was officially recognized by the National Council in 1936 and became fully integrated into the BSA in 1948.
BSA's National Office is currently located in Irving, Texas. The National Organization is divided into four regions each composed of area Councils, which range in size from two small West Virginia counties (Mountaineer Council) to all of DC and much of Maryland and northern Virginia (National Capital Area Council). The Councils may be further divided into Districts.
The fundamental unit of organization within Boy Scouts of America is the small group called the patrol. Several patrols are grouped into a larger unit known as a Pack, Troop, or Crew, dependent upon the particular BSA Scouting division. Actual operation varies from unit to unit, and in many cases, few decisions are made at the patrol level.
The BSA has three membership divisions:
Creed and rank advancement
The ranks of Boy Scouting are, in order of award:
The ranks up to First Class are awarded for knowledge of Scout skills (first aid, cooking, knots, etc.) The Star and Life ranks require that the boy serve in a position of responsibility for several months (most of the positions listed in Troop Organization below are acceptable for this requirement) and give community service. The Eagle Scout rank likewise requires a position of responsibility, as well as a large community service project planned entirely by the Eagle Scout candidate, and the earning of 12 specifically required merit badges plus 9 more, for a total of 21. (A portion of the merit badge requirement must be completed for both the Star and Life ranks.) The ranks require a progressively increasing commitment to the Scout Oath and Law (see above). (A full listing of requirements can be found at List of BSA rank requirements.)
After attaining the rank of Eagle, a scout may earn Eagle palms. For three months of troop service and five additional merit badges beyond the twenty-one required for the Eagle Rank, a Bronze Palm is earned. If a Scout fulfills this requirement a second time, he earns a Gold Palm, and for a third time a Silver Palm. If he continues his progress, he may receive additional palms in the same repeating order.
Every rank advancement involves a Scoutmaster conference and a Board of Review. At the conference, the Scout is tested on his knowledge of all skills required for the rank he seeks to advance to, and all ranks he has earned. The Board of Review is a test of the Scout's personal growth and his relationship with the Scouting organization.
Scout activities are conducted at the discretion of the troop, but all troops' programs have some similarities.
Troops typically hold meetings once a week, though some do not meet during the summer. The activities conducted at troop meetings vary widely, from Scout skills training to camping trip planning to games.
Patrol meetings independent of troop meetings may be held to conduct troop business, such as the creation of a patrol flag. Most patrols do not hold regular meetings independent of troop meetings, but some go so far as to organize their own outings. Patrol activities are planned by the patrol leader (see Organization).
Troops also typically hold excursions once a month or more. These are typically camping trips. These campouts are an important place for Scouts to work on skills and rank advancement, and also to entertain themselves. Some troops also hold regular backpacking trips. Other excursions are more unusual, involving, for example, rafting, climbing or rappelling.
Most councils, if not all, own and operate one or more permanent camps. These camps host a variety of activities throughout the year, but are most heavily used during the summer. Troops stay at these camps for a week at a time. Summer camps are important places for the earning of merit badges, particularly those that require special facilities, such as archery or canoeing. Purely recreational activities are also available, and most camps offer day-long overnight side trips. Troops may choose to attend the summer camp operated by their own council, or one in a more distant location.
Every four years (except between 2005 and 2010 to co-incide with the centennial of BSA) the national council holds its National Scout Jamboree. These are usually held at Fort AP Hill in Virginia and draw 30,000+ scouts from across the United states.
The national Scout organization also operates a number of high-adventure bases, including Philmont Scout Ranch and the Florida National High Adventure Sea Base. Troops may choose to visit high-adventure bases instead of or in addition to the standard summer camp.
There are several adults which oversee a Boy Scout troop, the head of these being the Scoutmaster. The Scoutmaster is the central adult responsible for the safety and continuity of the troop. Several trained and uniformed Assistant Scoutmasters assist him in troop operations. The Troop Committee, generally composed of any of the Scouts' parents who wish to participate, deals with troop business matters. The Committee often creates subcommittees and selects officers.
Many troops are associated with so-called Chartered Organizations, which provide meeting space and often other assistance. A troop's relations with the chartered organization are handled by the Committee.
Troops are divided into patrols of several boys, commonly between six and eight. Each patrol elects a Patrol Leader (PL), who may then appoint one or two Assistant Patrol Leaders (APLs). The highest position of responsibility within the troop is that of the Senior Patrol Leader (SPL), elected by the troop at large, followed by his Assistant Senior Patrol Leader (ASPL), whom he appoints with the assistance of the Scoutmaster. APLs are appointed by PLs; ASPLs are appointed by the SPL with the advice of the Scoutmaster. The SPL is the leader of the troop and is the one who organizes meetings, events, and outings with the advise of his Patrol Leaders' Council.
Non-leadership positions of responsibility include:
Troops are grouped into districts covering a small geographical area. Districts are likewise organized into councils. There are over three hundred councils, organized into Regions, subsidiary to the National Council.
Awards, honors and symbolism
The BSA offers many awards and honors, such as:
Badges of rank:
Merit badges may be earned in any of more than one hundred different subjects. Some merit badges relate to personal development and adult living; others represent Scout skills; many are handicrafts or hobbies; most are potential career options.
Uniform and insignia
The standard Scout uniform, worn by Scouts and adult leaders, includes:
Many patches are worn at specific places on the uniform shirt:
The Boy Scouts give female adult leaders all of the privileges of male adult leaders. Although this was not true in decades past, the policy was instituted in response to a shortage of adult males willing to participate actively in running the troops. While many scouting adults do have their own children in the program, it is not necessary to have a child in the program to be actively involved with a scout unit.
Until 1954, the Boy Scouts of America was a segregated organization. Colored Troops, as they were officially known, were given little support from Districts, Councils and the national offices. Some scouting executives and leader believed that Colored Scouts and Leaders would be less able to live up to the ideals of the Boy Scouts.
Some practices of the organization have received increased public attention, largely beginning in the last quarter of the 20th century. Two particularly controversial policies have been the BSA leadership's prohibition (usually enforced) of atheist or homosexual members and leaders. Some donors of funding or meeting space have reduced their support in protest of these policies while other donors have increased their support of Scouting in part specifically due to the policies.
BSA policy has also led to disagreement between the BSA and the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA). The UUA has tolerance as one of its defining virtues, and this includes respect and inclusion of atheists, gays, and lesbians. The BSA, which had long recognized the UUA religious badges, along with the badges of other religions that utilized the Boy Scout programs, withdrew recognition of the badges, saying that Boy Scouts could no longer wear Unitarian Universalist badges on their uniforms. The UUA attempted to compromise, removing language that the BSA considers offensive from its official program manuals and informing young Unitarian Universalist Boy Scouts of the UUA viewpoint regarding tolerance through other means. However, the BSA did not accept the UUA alternative. The UUA decided to continue its Boy Scout program and encourage Boy Scouts to wear the Unitarian Universalist religious badges on their uniforms.
The BSA believes that "an avowed homosexual is not a role model for the values espoused in the Scout Oath and Law". Officially, the BSA makes no effort to discover the sexual orientation of any person. Critics contend that some leaders within BSA have investigated and expelled non-avowed homosexuals from the organization  (http://www.bsa-discrimination.org/Gays-Top/Review_BSA_Gay_Policy/review_bsa_gay_policy.html).
Lawsuits over this matter have gone as high as the United States Supreme Court, which ruled (in Boy Scouts of America v. Dale) that the BSA is a private association with the right to set its own standards for membership and leadership.
Some policy opponents note the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, perhaps the single largest donor to BSA, has threatened to remove all support if the policy against homosexuals is removed, and that this is the single largest reason for the policy. Policy opponents note that the LDS Church in Canada funds the Scouting organization there, in spite of an explicit policy allowing homosexual leaders, and also funds the Girl Scouts of the USA who similarly tolerate openly homosexual leadership.
Some contend that individual councils, such as the Boston Minuteman Council and Old Colony Council of Massachusetts, have not enforced the controversial policies, apparently defying the national council. In August 2001, a spokesperson for the Boston Minuteman Council was quoted by the Boston Globe as saying "Discussions about sexual orientation do not have a place in Scouts. the Scouts will not inquire into a person's sexual history, and that person will not expose their sexual orientation one way or the other." The council argued that their "don't ask, don't tell" policy does not, in fact, conflict with the national policy, but in public discussions, some supporters and opponents of the national policy have regarded the above-cited Massachusetts' councils' policies as meaningfully different from the national policy.