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Looking at the BSA from the outside.

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For anyone who isn't in the BSA, but might be in Scouting somewhere else, the question "Why do they do that?" Or "How do they do that?" Pops up every now and then.


I have never been to the Land Down Under (My little sister is in your neck of the woods for the Christmas Holiday.)

I kinda think that Australian Scouting is very much like English Scouting? I might be way off base!

Also, I have now been doing things over here for the past quarter century! So I know things have changed a lot in the UK.

Here are a few things that I had a hard time understanding and getting used to.


1/ The cost of American Scouting.

Back home everything was done by volunteers.

The Staff who worked for the National organization (At 25 Buckingham Palace Road and then later at BP House) was less than most Councils have over here.

The Council I serve is a very small one, with only four Districts and about 6,000 youth, but last time I looked the budget was about 1.3 million dollars (US. With a little more than 25% of that being spent on salary and benefits for staff.

As you can imagine needing that sort of cash does make funding a very high priority.

2/ Summer Camp.

I was a Scout Leader in the UK for about 11 years. Every Summer we would load up all of the Troops camping equipment and go off to summer camp for two weeks.

Some years we camped in a field that a local farmer would provide, some years we'd use a National Camp site. But other than a camp shop and maybe equipment that could be rented or just used! The camp provided a place to camp.

I was shocked when I came to the USA back in 1977 and seen Scouts come to camp to stay in tents that were already up, eat in a dining hall and run around from Merit Badge station to station. Admittedly not every Troop does this but it is the norm rather than the exception.

The biggest challenge the Scoutmaster has is where he is going to place his chair!

3/ Charters.

Back when I was a UK Scout Leader, I received a warrant from the Scout Association.

The Scout units were part of the Scout Association.

Some did meet in Church owned property, some had the name of a church on their name tag. I for a while was a Assistant Cub Scout Leader for the 35th Fulham (St. Thomas of Canterbury)

Most of the kids in both the Pack and the Troop were Catholic, but the church had no say in who the leaders would be or what the Scout units did or didn't do.

If an adult did something wrong, volunteers at the District and County level dealt with it and the wrong doer ran the risk that the Scout Association, would pull his or her warrant.

A Pack, a Troop and maybe a Venture Scout Unit would form a Scout Group, with the Pack feeding the Troop and the Troop feeding the Venture Unit (I know this has now changed a little, because there are more sections.)

The Scout Group was led by a Group Scout Leader. He worked closely with a Scout Committee, but nine times out of ten most groups didn't have a committee and never felt the need to have one. The running of the Scout Group was left to the leaders who led the sections.

This idea of serving both the "Scouts" along some other "Master" along with a committee, which may or may not have had any Scouting or real dealing with youth groups experiences seemed really odd to me,

4/ Commissioners.

Back home the District Commissioner was the top guy in the District (The top guy in a county was the County Commissioner.) There really was no such thing as Commissioner Service and no Commissioner was in any way linked to a unit or Scout Group.

My old District had something like 60 units, with only a District Commissioner along with three Assistants.

5/ The Scout Oath.

Back home it was the Scout Promise. I kinda think that making it an Oath and expecting young kids to make an Oath? Might be a bit over the top.

I'd loved to have been able to hear what BP had to say about "To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight."

I know that BP and James E. West didn't get along. Mainly because West wanted Scouting to be a little more business like than BP.

I was very happy with:

On my honor, I promise that I will do my best to do my duty to God and to the Queen, to help other people and to keep the Scout Law.



When I first got involved with the BSA, I was very impressed with a lot of what was going on and on how well organized everything seemed.

Over time I now see that all this organization is not really doing that much for the end user (The kids in the organization.

The quality of the program he receives in both the UK and the USA is dependent on the imagination and know how of the leader at the unit level.

I wouldn't say that one is better than the other.

But the cost of providing that program here in the USA is so very high.

I just received our Council newsletter. Half of the pages are about the popcorn sale, the rest is about FOS (The Council asking for donations) and it seems that a week at camp is going to cost almost $300.00.

I understand and accept that this is the way things are and have to be. But it is a long way from what Scouting back in London was 25 years back.


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Eamonn - is there as much emphasis on advancement elsewhere as there is in the BSA? Our summer camps, unfortunately, are geared for advancement. The main purpose many of the adults put their sons into Scouting, at least at the troop level, is to earn the Eagle rank.


I've had two sons go through the program - both earning Eagle. I'd say for one, "it took" and for the other, well, he's only 18 but I'm hoping for rewards downstream from now. :)(This message has been edited by acco40)

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Thinking and looking back to when I was a Scout and later on as a leader. Scouting seemed to be more about belonging to the group and doing stuff as part of that group rather then becoming or earning something.



I'm willing to bet my last dollar that the Scouts who spent Summer camps with the Troop I was the leader of did a lot more "Stuff" and were a lot more self-sufficient that the Scouts I see at our Council Summer camp running from one Merit Badge class to the next.

Their investment of time was a lot bigger than the American Scouts, being as most English Scout only got six weeks off during the summer.

While I'm not up to date on all the changes that have taken place in England, from what I have read it does seem that there is a big shift from advancement to participation.

I'm not sure how many or what percent of English Scouts go on to become Queen or King Scout's. But being as you couldn't become or start working on it until you became a Venture Scout at age 16 (Back in the day.) I'm tempted to think that it's less than the number that make Eagle Scout.

It's strange I don't ever remember anyone ever saying that they joined Scouts in the UK in order to become a Queen's Scout.

It was just something that you kinda fell into if you belonged to an active group.


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The term 'Advancement' is something that i am un familiar with, and will also sound strange to many Scouters in the UK.

In UK Scouting ( Scout association ) Scouts can work towards various badges and awards, with the top award being the Quens Scout award, although these awards and acheivements are not the be all and end all of Scouting in the UK, especialy since the old style progressive training scheme - Scout award , pathfinder award, etc etc for Scouts was replaced with the more modular Challenge awards sometime around 2003.

There are a few other ( non aligned to WOSM, and not part of the UK Scout association) Scouting organisations in the UK, Such as the Baden-Powel Scouts, Brittish Boy and Girl Scouts, FSE Scouts, and a few others, although all of these are very much minority Scouting groups, and i havent met any one involved in any of them.

As for Camping the two week summer camps are extremly rare, as Leaders dont have the time avialable off work etc, although its styill very much farmres field/campsite etc where the Scouts have to help with the setting up of tents and everythig else, and the leadres usualy sort out and/or run all the activitys ( depending on what activity authorisations are required under the adventurous activitys permit scheme)


When ive met BSA Scouts and international events ( in the UK and at Kandersteg in Switzerland )

I was hellping out with an international camp in the UK, when we were asked to deal with an incident. The incident was that some people were drinking alcohol on the camp, when we checked there were a few leaders having a few beers, as they werent causing a disturbance there was no problem. the American Scouters were also surprised when we told them there were some bars on site ( beer tents ), likewise we were surpised when we found out that alcohol is completly banned for everyone on US BSA camps.


These UK Scout Association factsheets may be of interest

Advice for UK Scout leaders taking Scouts to the USA


Scouting Facts USA



Another thing that, to me looks odd, is the amount of influence that certain groups or bodies have on Scouting in the USA, such as the Latter day saints church. And to me the whole Chartering organisation system seems unusual, where as in the UK most Scout groups are there own entity, only answerable to District/county/regional/national UK Scouting.


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Well imagine my surprise at the UK world jamboree to find the first thing inside the main gate was a biergarten sponsored by the German Scouts and just inside the entrance to the staff area was a massive pub tent. As one of the US Scouts said, "They have beer AND girls?!? My God, we'd have 400 kids in our troop!"


The co-ed program is probably the most obvious difference between the programs. Going to jamboree I was prepared for that. What I was not exepecting were the ages of the "adults" in the UK -- and the rest of the world, for that matter. The staff area of jamboree was like a big college fraternity house.


I may not have this right, but it was explained to me that in the UK the Venturers and Rovers (to age 25) run the programs. Much beyond age 25 or 30 folks are somewhat discouraged from being what we would call "direct contact" leaders. Most older adults tend to serve in committee positions or as Scout Group leaders.


Two of my work mates at Jambo were a father and son. The son was in college but still very active in the Scout Group. We concluded that one of the differences is that American kids tend to go away to college, creating a fairly hard break with their Scout troop about the time they reach 18. In the UK, simply because of geography, the kids tend to stay closer to home for college and are able to stay active in their Scout Group.


The son asked my why all the American are so old. Of course we know that the typical "career track" for most BSA volunteers is to become involved when their sons reach Scouting age. Not too many folks stay active from youth straight through.


According to my jamboree buddy, one of the problems with this for the UK Scouts is financial. Since most of their volunteers are in their 20s, they don't have the disposable income the older American volunteers do, who are more into their higher-earning years. And perhaps to your point about budgets, Ea., maybe it is simply that there isn't the same amount of money sloshing around in the UK Scouts Association.


Scouting in America has been a capitalist enterprise from the beginning. The story of the Unknown Scout is largely bull. W.D. Boyce may have been helped through the London fog by a Boy Scout, but the idea that this was his first exposure to Scouting and from it he decided to bring Scouting to the US is buncom. Boyce was a publisher and went to London looking for new material. He clearly saw "scouting" (small 's') as a way to tap the market for boys books. Initially, all the money was in the books.


I rather imagine the early days in the US like the dot-com bubble a few years ago. Lots of start-ups to begin with, merging, consolidating, disappearing, until the market leaders rose to the top. Beard, Seaton and the YMCA all had similar programs which merged into Scouting. Beard's program (what was it, Daniel Boone Boys?) was helped along as a column he wrote for Ladies Home Journal. William Randolph Hearst (another publisher) ran a separate scouting organization up until World War II.


In the very early days, BSA operated much more as Eamonn describes. Local Commissioners were "commissioned" by the BSA to charter units in their local area and served much the same function as the current professional staffs and service centers. The story is that the volunteers hired-out fundraising and membership to paid staffers. That's largely myth, too. West very intentionally set out to establish BSA as a national organization and to put it on a business-like footing. The implementation of the current system of professional staff was more deliberate and top-down than the story would lead you to believe.


But I think all of that is a cultural thing. That's just how we get things done in the US -- by building organizations. We don't name camps after folks who were den leaders for 40 years. We name camps after independently successful business people who donate big bucks and spend their one hour a week on the phone getting other folks to donate big bucks. (And please don't send me a list of camps named for long-time den leaders. You get my point.)


The structure of non-profits in the US also makes a big difference. I certainly don't know anything about the UK the way Eamonn does the US, but I was surprised to learn at world jamboree that in the UK there is no such thing as a "charitable deduction." There was fairly little corporate involvement at jamboree because there is no incentive for businesses to be involved, other than through a pure business relationship. The only two businesses I recall at jamboree was the company which had the contract to run the staff dining halls and a grocery chain which sold sundries on site.


In the US, "non-profit" doesn't mean "no money." Folks can make a very comfortable living in the non-profit sector. No one is going to get Bill Gates rich working for the Scouts, but save a few new-hire DEs, I don't see anyone starving, either.


You guys are right about advancement. At jamboree one of my standard conversation starters was to ask kids what rank they were or if they were a Queens Scout. Here, that's a perfectly reasonable questions. There I'd get a look as if to ask, "who cares?" They would have to pause and think before answering.(This message has been edited by Twocubdad)

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Most of the 'staff' you will see at international camps in the UK are recruited from the Scout Network section ( aged 18-25)

As for leaders at the grass roots level running Beaver/Cub/Scout/Explorer Scout meetings theres a wide variety of ages.

At my local Scout group we have a Beaver Leader in her late 60's, and two in there 40's, The Cub leaders are in their 30's, 40's and 60's, Scouts we have a mixture of 30 year olds and 50/60 somehtings, and the Explorer Scout leaders are 50 something and 20 something.

The old upper age limit on Scout leaders in the UK was scrapped a few years ago as there is a shortage of Leaders, and an increase in youth membership, with quite a few groups having to operate a waiting list as they dont have enough leaders/space to cope.


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Eamonn you must realize what you posted?


1) The cost of scouting in the UK is better (lower cost and more value)

2) Summer camps are better in the UK

3) Chartering /Scouting organization relationship are better in the UK

4) Commissioners structure is better in the UK

5) The UK scout oath is better.



6) Advancement is better too


OK so in your opinion UK scouting is better.


You just want us to know this, debate this or what?


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"The son asked my why all the American are so old. Of course we know that the typical "career track" for most BSA volunteers is to become involved when their sons reach Scouting age. Not too many folks stay active from youth straight through."


Quite true. As you noted, most leave for college at 18. Others often leave to start lives/families, and come back (maybe) when their kids join. And some of those leave when their kids do. There are the odd youth who still stay involved when they age out, but they are usually the exceptions.


"Scouting in America has been a capitalist enterprise from the beginning. The story of the Unknown Scout is largely bull. Boyce was a publisher and went to London looking for new material. He clearly saw "scouting" (small 's') as a way to tap the market for boys books. Initially, all the money was in the books."


Except that Boyce made NO money from scouting. He wasn't a BOOK publisher. He published weekly papers. In fact, the BSA was a drain on him, as was the Lone Scouts of America, which was probably the main reason he allowed it to merge into the BSA. So where was the money???


If you study Boyce, you see he saw the value of the program for he many newspaper boys selling his papers (who became his Lone Scouts), not as a money-making venture.


"I rather imagine the early days in the US like the dot-com bubble a few years ago. Lots of start-ups to begin with, merging, consolidating, disappearing, until the market leaders rose to the top. Beard, Seaton and the YMCA all had similar programs which merged into Scouting."


Maybe so, but I doubt any where doing it to make money...


" Beard's program (what was it, Daniel Boone Boys?) was helped along as a column he wrote for Ladies Home Journal."


Sons of Daniel Boone. But was he or anyone else making money off it? There were no books, manuals or stuff to sell. Ditto Seton's Woodcraft Indians.


"William Randolph Hearst (another publisher) ran a separate scouting organization up until World War II."


Nope. Hearst was involved with the American Boy Scouts, but dropped them early on. They became the United States Boy Scouts and were shut down around 1917. There were no rival scout orgs after WWI, unless you count the Woodcraft Indians or the Salvation Army's Life Saving Scouts (not sure when they were shut down).



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But is UK, or any other national Scouting organisation better than the other?


Im pretty sure, if not convinced that if Eamonn came to Scouting in the UK he would find plenty of issues and things that he didnt agree on, didnt like or both.


1) The cost of scouting in the UK is better (lower cost and more value)

2) Summer camps are better in the UK

3) Chartering /Scouting organization relationship are better in the UK

4) Commissioners structure is better in the UK

5) The UK scout oath is better.


6) Advancement is better too


Is the cost fo Scouting in the UK lower? i dont know exactly how much things cost with the BSA, but if a weeks long summer camp costs US$300.00, then that comes out roughly as GB180 which is roughly what a week long organised camp would cost in the UK.

As for summer Camps, with UK Scouting being highy dependant on volunteers finding people who can take the time off work and lose some holiday ( vacation ) entitlement, to either lead the camps or to be on the staff at larger camps is a huge problem, hence why most organised camps are staffed by younger adults who are at university/college and have the time, and with older people who have retired/part retired being able to help more with the organisation.


As for the comisioners structure, again with it at local level being all voluntary based ( with vrey few paid positions) things can sometimes be frustraitingly slow, its taken over 8 months for me to get a specific ( but very limited) adventurous activity permit since completing the course and passing the assesment, likewqise its not uncomon for some people to recieve a 5 years of service ( or whatever year ) a few years late.

As for advancement,


Promise vs Oath, its little more than a play on words.


The BSA scout oath is this:

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.


the UK Scout Promise is this:

On My honour, I promise that i will do my best,

to do my duty to God, and to the Queen,

To Help other people, and to keep the Scout law

and the UK Scout law:

1. A Scout is to be trusted.

2. A Scout is loyal.

3. A Scout is friendly and considerate.

4. A Scout belongs to the worldwide family of Scouts.

5. A Scout has courage in all difficulties.

6. A Scout makes good use of time and is careful of possessions and property.

7. A Scout has self-respect and respect for others.


parts of the UK Scout law could easily be summed up with the words "To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight" especialy the bits about Trust, loyalty, self - respect, courage and so on.


Is the grass greener on the other side? in my opinion no, its just a different shade of green.

Scouting is a worldwide movement, that has grown and adapted its self to encompass all the different cultures and peoples of this world while still remaining true to its core values that inspired the moevement in the first place.

Online places such as this allow us to see what may be done slightly differently elsewhere, and learning about these differences lets us all gain a greater appreciation of the true diversity of Scouting on a truly global scale.


Some Countries may do things slightly differently to what we know as Scouting, but no matter where we are from, or what language we may speak we all do Scouting.




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For Pint:

I'm sure Scouting in the UK has a published set of goals, objectives, outcomes etc..., that provide some foundation for the program. I'm interested in what they are. For comparison's sake, this is how it's roughly laid out for the 11 through 17 age group Boy Scout program here in the States.


The Aims of Scouting:

Character Development

Citizenship Training

Personal Fitness


The Methods of Scouting:

Ideals (that would be the Scout Oath and Law)


Outdoor Programs


Association with Adults

Personal Growth

Leadership Development



By the way, it is encouraging to see from your posts that Scouting continues to do quite well in your country.

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Well, after that intro from Eammon, I'd better post something, hadn't I?


Yes, the Australian model is much closer to the UK model than the BSA. A few evolutionary changes over the past couple of decades, but nothing radical. Very few people are paid for what they do in Scouting. Some admin staff at state and national level, some camp wardens, and....I'm running out. Oh, there's a lady paid to do admin work for our region (one level below state). She is probably one of 15 in the whole country in that role. My state and national commissioners are both gentlemen who have retired from other careers, and now get their travel and accommodation expenses paid to do their hobby full time. No more payment than that.


Camps costs vary a lot. Sometimes almost nothing (just food and transport). Tops is a national Jamboree, held every three years. Just by chance, one happens to be starting this very day! (Sadly, I'm not there.) It costs the kids around $1400 all up. (That's Australian dollars.) Most troops do a lot of fund-raising activities in the time leading up to such events. That tends to build a stronger spirit among those going anyway. I get the impression that the self fund-raising thing might be a big difference. We can run a BBQ/sausage sizzle at our local mega-hardware store and make $1500 in a day. Many other options are used to raise funds.


My Scout Group - that means a collection of Venturers, Scouts, Cubs and Joeys (our version of Beavers) for one town - is lucky enough to have its own hall on land donated to the Scouts (and Girl Guides, but please don't tell them!) by a land developer 50 years ago. Those Groups who don't own a hall often use one provided by the local municipal council and pay a low, nominal yearly rental fee. Some share community facilities. Very few are connected with churches. But in that I think we're also touching on a fundamental societal difference between the USA and Australia. We just don't do religion like you Americans do.


Scouts Australia and its various sub-bodies own a lot of camp sites, or one can genuinely go bush and pay nothing. Dining huts? Never heard of them. (Well, they're pretty rare.)


So yes, it's different from the USA. But, I had the great pleasure of being in Yosemite National Park almost exactly two years ago, and saw some kids and adults in a uniform I recognised. Walked up and offered a left hand shake to one of the adults, explaining simply that I was a Scouter from Australia, and it was as if we had known each other for years. A lot to chat about. The physical environment obviously helped (Yosemite is wonderful), but I tell that story to emphasise that the common bonds are much stronger than the differences.(This message has been edited by HiLo)

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Oh, and I meant to mention our promise. It's similar to the UK one, with two (and a half?) differences.


Instead of "do my duty to God", we have "do my duty to my God". Make of that what you will. Obviously it personalises it for the individual. Some have argued that it explicitly allows atheists to join by enabling them to say to themselves "I have no God, therefore I have no duty to do in that area". Buddhism is officially the second biggest religion in Australia, and there is no Buddhist supreme being equivalent to the Christian God, so it's nice to give that sector of our society a choice too.


The next part is a bit odd in that we give members a choice. It says that we do our duty "...to Australia" or "...to the Queen of Australia". Obviously we've Australianised it from the UK version, and we give people a choice of acknowledging that Queen Elisabeth is still our head of state, or not. It gives the nod to the fact that a fair few Australians would like to have an Australian head of state rather than Her Majesty.


Joeys, Cubs and the younger Scouts tend not to care much about that choice, and leaders tend to dictate which version is used, but older Scouts, Venturers, Rovers and leaders do make a choice.


Moving on, when I look at BSA from the outside, something that concerns me is the bit about being "morally straight". The word straight has become a much more loaded one since it was first put into the oath, and, for many, has gained an anti-gay meaning that it originally didn't have. That ambiguity is unhealthy. It allows some to use it as a tool for exclusion, rather than just being a guide to good living. It did not originally mean "not gay", and it would be wonderful if that word could now be replaced with something else closer to the original meaning.

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The way you have put it, I sound like I'm trying to rub someones nose in it!

This was never my intention.

The BSA has done a far better job of getting more adults involved in Scouting than any other Scouting organization that I know of.

The largest youth camp on the planet is owned and operated by the BSA.

There is no such thing s a charter in the UK so I'm not sure how you can post " Chartering /Scouting organization relationship are better in the UK" ??


I'm not a great fan of how Council Camps are set up and ran, but I'm willing to admit that there are different horses for different courses.

I'm also willing to admit that the BSA has done a wonderful job of "Selling" Eagle Scout Rank.

In my view maybe too good a job!

I hope that you noticed that I didn't even mention advancement in my original post, I was answering a question asked by acco40.


I have family members who belong to different Scout Organizations all over the world and I have visited different countries, sometimes with a Troop in tow and seen some of how they work.

In my opinion which is not worth a dime! Some things that others do seem like wonderful ideas and other things are maybe not so wonderful.

Having said that one thing that does seem to remain constant is the great work that volunteers all over the world do for the kids in the areas where they live.

Most of these volunteers are just average people who give up their time and their hard earned cash to make a difference in the lives of the kids thy work for. They have little or no control about how the organization is set up.

A very good pal of mine who has been in Scouting as long as I have been (We were both Scouts in the same District at the same time.)Is a member of the LDS Church in the UK.

He is very unhappy about some of the changes that have been made in the UK. If you were to talk with him, he firmly believes that American Scouting is where it's at and that English Scouting is going to someplace in a handbag.

Anyone in this forum is free to ignore what I post, they can if they wish think that I'm a first class twit. No one has to participate in any thread or topic they don't want or wish to participate in.






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