Scouts BSA: Be Prepared

April 6, 2020

Scouts BSA might look like it’s all for the camping and cooking from someone unfamiliar with the program, but it’s actually about the leadership. Unlike the Cub Scouts which is run by the Adult Leaders, the Boy Scouts focus on each boy’s personal growth. Part of this is by having a Scout-led program. That means meetings, camping trips, and more are primarily scheduled and planned by the Scouts in charge, though there are always Adult Leaders for extra help. The camping and cooking is just an added bonus to its main objective of building upon each Scout’s leadership skills.


The Troop functions much like a regular company with the Senior Patrol Leader, known as the SPL, acting a bit like a CEO. The structure has also been compared to that of a republic because almost all of the leadership positions are elected, not assigned. It’s very much determined by popular vote. That way, kids learn two very valuable lessons; for those voting, politicians are crooks and you should make decisions based on qualifications and not personal biases, and for those running, how to best appeal yourself to your audience. It also teaches confidence to those who may not usually try to step up or push themselves. Though highly competitive and slightly biased, the Scouting election process is relatively stress-free compared to others, and there are always people there to support you and push you to greater things. It’s no coincidence that people like Michael Bloomberg and President Gerald Ford were Eagle Scouts; those business and leadership skills are main focuses in the program.


Speaking of business, communication, delegation, and servant leadership are some key points for all Scouts with leadership positions. Many Adult Leaders have admitted seeing people in their offices making the same mistakes in their thirties that they were able to recognize and fix in their teens during the Scouting program. Among life skills, Scouts BSA also teaches regular skills and plain common sense. Those come mostly in the form of merit badges and rank requirements. You learn how to perform CPR, tie a square knot, how to fold the American flag, how to recognize poison ivy, and more just through rank advancement. 


Merit badges go into even more depth. The thirteen Eagle-required merit badges focus on basic skills like money-management, health, how and why you should be environmentally cautious, first aid, cooking, and more. Non-Eagle-required merit badges is where it gets fun. Some focus on hobbies like golf or genealogy, but almost all of them are meant to expose the Scouts to career paths they may have never considered before.There are one hundred thirty-seven opportunities to find a sport of activity you love and may want to keep pursuing in the future. Take for example the medicine, public health, veterinary medicine, and safety merit badges. They are all excellent choices for someone interested in becoming a doctor. Maybe traffic safety, truck transportation, mining in society, painting, home repairs, and American labor are more your speed. No problem! There’s literally a merit badge for everyone, and Scouts can actually suggest new merit badges to Nationals. Scouts BSA is designed for Scouts to get a ton of exposure to leadership skills, career paths, and ethics early on.


The BSA also highlights “Scout-worthy” behavior among other things. This can be seen in the Scout Oath, Law, Slogan, Motto, Outdoor Code, Leave No Trace principles, and more. They want every Scout to be the best person they can be and encourage people to work towards better things. 


As aforementioned, the Scouting program focuses on youth leadership. Yes, there is Troop leadership, but much more goes into it than that. If you are lucky enough to have a leadership position in the Troop, no matter how small, you are supposed to go through two training sessions. Independent Living Skills Training (ILST) is a prerequisite for National Youth Leadership Training (NYLT), and both teach very valuable leadership skills. Most Scouts will take the courses at one point or another. There is also leadership training to become a Den Chief, Scouts in the Troop that work with Cub Scouts. You get a “trained” patch when you complete the training which can be added to your uniform.


By far the most prestigious program is the Order of the Arrow. Eligible only to Scouts with at least fifteen camping nights ranked First Class and above who are elected in by the Troop, it is the national honor society of the BSA. It is also Scout-led, mostly by teens and college students. Once again, OA members receive a patch and sash to acknowledge their membership. Of course, there are many more awards, training, and special patches, more than one person could ever name or earn. 


However, there has been some stigma surrounding the program. You’ve most likely heard of sexual abuse stories within the BSA. In more recent years the buddy system and two-deep leadership have been in place and highly enforced to keep that from happening, so the problem is now in the past. Some people also believe that Scouting is highly religious, and that is true for some. Yet again, even though “duty to God” and “reverence” are specifically mentioned in the program, many Scouts are of faiths other than Christianity and even agnostic.


In summary, the Scouting program is one of the best opportunities out there for boys and girls of all ages. It prepares kids for life, because Eagle Scout is more than just a resumé buffer. It sets you up for success.