The Mission, Aims, and Methods of the Boy Scout Program (BSA)
Scouting isn't just a fun outdoor program. As Baden-Powell said, it's a game with a purpose. The Boy Scouts of America expresses that purpose via its mission statement, its three general aims, and its eight specific methods. The combination of those eight methods is what makes Scouting unique.
The information and explanations below are taken from the BSA's Troop Leader Guidebook (copyright 2015).
BSA Mission Statement
"to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Scout Law"
Aims of Boy Scouting
Physical, Emotional, and Mental Fitness
Methods of Boy Scouting
The Troop Leader Guidebook compares the eight methods to an eight-cylinder engine: "When all eight pistons are firing, the car moves powerfully yet smoothly toward its destination. When a few pistons get fouled, the car lurches haltingly along. When only one or two pistons are firing, you might as well get out and walk." The methods are listed in alphabetical order, "but they could be listed in any order because they are all equally important."
During adolescence, boys begin looking for guidance from adults other than their own parents (who often seem in their eyes to grow less intelligent by the second). Boy Scouting offers Scouts positive role models in the form of Scoutmasters and assistant Scoutmasters, merit badge counselors, camp staff members, and other caring adults who are willing to listen, encourage, challenge, and guide. As boys move into leadership positions in the troop, adults become their colleagues, assisting them in running the program.
Boy Scouting's ranks, merit badges, and special awards recognize Scouts for learning skills and taking on responsibilities, and that recognition encourages them to learn more skills and take on greater responsibilities. Some Scouts reach the highest rank, Eagle Scout, demonstrating their leadership abilities and service commitment while earning merit badges in a broad array of subjects. Others stop short of Eagle Scout rank but still learn valuable skills such as first aid and money management and gain exposure to careers or hobbies they may pursue for a lifetime.
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—and so does the Boy Scout leader. Scouts and Scouters (adult Scout leaders) who incorporate the ideals into their daily lives are said to have Scout spirit.
The ideal troop is led by Scouts who are guided by adults. Through formal training, informal coaching, and on-the-job experience, Scouts learn and practice how to lead others and manage projects. Every Boy Scout has the opportunity to lead in some way, whether as part of a team, as a leader of his patrol, or as a troop leader such as the senior patrol leader (the top youth leader in the troop) or quartermaster (the youth leader in charge of equipment). A number of approved positions of rank outlined in the Senior Patrol Leader Handbook can satisfy rank advancement requirements. Adults understand that their role is to create a safe place where Scouts can take on responsibilities, learn from their failures, and achieve success.
Boys don't join Scouting to have their character developed. They join Scouting to camp, to hike, to get dirty, and to have fun. The program is built around outdoor activities; to a large extent, troop meetings should be devoted to learning outdoor skills and getting ready for the next outing (and occasionally washing dirty dishes from the last outing).
Each troop is made up of one or more patrols: groups of about eight Scouts who camp together, cook together, play together, and learn together. In patrols, Scouts learn citizenship and practice leadership at the most basic level, and strong patrols are essential building blocks of strong troops.
While personal growth sounds like an aim of Boy Scouting, it is actually a method—assuming that the troop's leaders ensure opportunities for growth. Those opportunities include individual Good Turns and patrol and troop service projects, as well as the Scoutmaster conferences that are held before boards of review and at other times. Troop leaders constantly look for ways to encourage each Scout to grow and stretch. Another aspect of personal growth is the religious emblems program, in which Scouts can receive recognition for growing in their faith.
The Boy Scout uniform does several things: It demonstrates unity within the troop and the larger Scouting movement. It minimizes the racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic differences between Scouts. It reminds the wearer that he is a Scout and is expected to act like one. And it serves as a sort of wearable trophy case where individual Scouts can display the badges that symbolize what they have achieved in Scouting.