Task forces propose moving to one Oath and Law for all programs

UPDATE (Oct. 17, 2012): This proposal has been approved. Read more here.

Scouting’s core values are the same in every program, but the words used to express and affirm those values differ depending on whether you’re in Cub Scouting, Boy Scouting, or Venturing.

That may soon change.

The Scout Oath and Scout Law — engrained in the minds of Boy Scouts everywhere — also would be used for Cub Scouting and Venturing if a proposal by a group of volunteer-led task forces is approved.

That would mean Cub Scouts would recite the Scout Oath and Law instead of the Cub Scout Promise and Law of the Pack. Similarly, Venturers would no longer use the Venturing Oath and Venturing Code.

Here’s what else I know: 

Why the proposed change?

After considerate deliberation, volunteers and professionals recommended the change to “reinforce the connection between all of our BSA programs and the mission of the Boy Scouts of America.”

Because “it is the mission of the BSA ‘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,’ it is the task forces’ judgment that this goal is best achieved if all programs use the Scout Oath and Law as their primary statement of values and ideals.”

When would it take effect?

If approved, the change would take effect during the 2015-2016 program year.

“The recommendation has been reviewed and endorsed by the national support committee responsible for program content changes. It has also been discussed and endorsed by the national officers of the BSA, and Wayne Perry has directed that the recommendation be brought forward to the National Executive Board at its October 2012 meeting,” according to the Scout Wire post (link below).


The official BSA e-newsletter Scout Wire is where I first learned of the proposed change.

What do you think?

Share your opinions on the proposed change by leaving a comment below.

187 thoughts on “Task forces propose moving to one Oath and Law for all programs

  1. Please, do not make a single oath & law. After decades in scouting I think this would be a weong choice. We offer a deliniation between the children of Scouting in Cub Scouting to the maturing young men of Boy Scouting. Viewed in an Ages & Stages mindset, the Cubs can understand the values associated with their Promise & Law of the Pack. The Oath & Law of the Boy Scouting I believe would be too hard of a value interpretation for Tigers and Cubs. We begin that transition in Webelos, which is probably the earliest the higher level thinking processes are mature enough to process it.

      • Sure memorization is the easy part. But what happens when the words dont convey the meaning that you hope to achieve?

        Look at the Venturing Oath and Code:
        As a Venturer, I promise to do my duty to God and help strengthen America, to help others, and to seek truth, fairness, and adventure in our world.

        As a Venturer, I believe that America’s strength lies in our trust in God and in the courage, strength, and traditions of our people.
        I will, therefore, be faithful in my religious duties and will maintain a personal sense of honor in my own life.
        I will treasure my American heritage and will do all I can to preserve and enrich it.
        I will recognize the dignity and worth of all humanity and will use fair play and goodwill in my daily life.
        I will acquire the Venturing attitude that seeks truth in all things and adventure on the frontiers of our changing world.

        That is has really deep and rich meaning- and the best part is that it was written by youth. These words convey a very mature understanding of a young person’s place in our world, and they are exceptionally high ideals to live up to. Most adults cant convey, in such a few short words, a more eloquent code to live up to, that addresses religion, personal honor, treating others as you want to be treated, and just being a nice person. This should be admired, not done away with. No amount of streamlining or good marketing can compete with this.

        • It’s also overly long. An oath, like a Mission Statement, should be concise and meaningful. It should capture the imagination – just a little bit – and be understood by those both hearing and speaking it.

          I’m all for the concept of simplifying the Venturing Oath a bit. I’m not sold on the need to do complicate something for Cub Scouts though.

        • You want to simplify the Venturing Oath?

          As a Venturer, I promise to do my duty to God and help strengthen America, to help others, and to seek truth, fairness, and adventure in our world.

          It’s only a single long sentence. That’s pretty darn “concise and meaningful”.

        • I really don’t think you could make the Venturing Oath any more simple. I like it, I think it reflects the Venturing program and those youth the program serves. The code may be a bit long, but I like it also and do not want to see it changed.

  2. Linda and Betty raise important points. When the possibility of making this change came up, the first thing we did was look into these very questions and recruit some experts in education to help. It turns out that there is very little difference in readability between the current Cub and Scout versions. We also found that, because the Scout Oath uses more concrete language than the Law of the Pack, it may actually be easier for younger boys to understand. Of course, they will not get the full impact of the Scout Oath and Law as Tigers, any more than they do currently. Nor do we expect our youngest members to memorize their Oath and Law, either currently or in the future. They start by repeating after the leader, then start to learn the basics of what the words mean, and gradually gain understanding as they get older. With either Oath and Law, the process is the same. Ages and Stages still applies, with the boys gaining greater understanding as they gain maturity–as they do with many things in life.

    Rest assured that the conversation would not have continued if research had shown a substantial learning issue. I too was taught that the Cub Promise and Law of the Pack were “age appropriate”. It turns out, however, that this was probably someone’s opinion or best guess and is not supported by measures of learning.

    So the question becomes, does it make sense to focus our efforts on the stated mission of the B.S.A.–to instill the values of the Scout Oath and Law. I believe it does. But this does not suggest that programs in all the handbooks will be anything other than age-appropriate. They will always be age-appropriate. As with any learning, we must start with the most basic pieces of understanding and build upon them.

    On a personal note, I’ve been a member for over 50 years and had positions in Cubs, Scouts, District, and Council, and am the son and father of Eagle Scouts. I’m very concerned about maintaining the traditions of Scouting. But I also embrace the concept changing when it makes sense for better serving youth–as Scouting has done throughout its history.

    John Savage,
    411 Team Member–Chair of the Outdoor Skills and Adventure Track & Chair of the Oath/Law Study

    • The oath is :
      As a Venturer, I promise to do my duty to God and help strengthen America, to help others, and to seek truth, fairness, and adventure in our world

      It’s actually Shorter than the Boy Scout Oath.

      But what Venturing suffers from isn’t an overly long oath, its brand identity, and its just starting to build that. The solution isnt to wipe it away. Its education!

    • John,
      Thanks for coming on this forum to talk about the “why”. I’m glad that you consulted education experts in looking at the One Oath, and thank you for your years of service. But I am disappointed that it appears you didn’t talk to the core of the Venturing Program– the Venturers themselves. I know there were some Venturers involved in this TF, but I guess I mean the large number of rank-and-file Venturers across the country. An informal poll of our crew found one Youth who thought this was okay– and a large majority who do not. From the BSA website the core mission of the BSA is ” to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes” and then it adds “by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law”. It doesn’t say “by making them say the Scout Oath and Law”. If the values are contained by the Venturing Oath, how is forcing Venturers to change what they say going to advance the mission? Does the Venturing Oath NOT help instill values in young people to make ethical and moral choices?? I think perhaps the Task Force got caught up in a drive towards standardization, and lost sight of the objective– and the audience– that says these Oaths.
      Yours in Venturing, John Hearing

      • John,
        From your comment, I think I should clarify one thing. Our group was asked only to look at the Oath & Law question related to Cub Scouts. There is a separate Venturing Task Force which made the recommendation related to Venturing. I do not have input to or from that Task Force, but I understand it is made up of Venturing leaders. Hope this helps.
        John Savage

        • In my experience, the Venturers and leaders involved in the Venturing program at Council, Area, and National levels have a much different view of the program compared to Venturers and leaders who only get involved on the unit level. My unit-venturers are generally less than interested in the activities and outings run by council-venturers.

      • As I’ve mentioned before, you can provide comments and suggestions to the task force by sending a message to 411@scouting.org and Venturing specific questions/comments will go to the Venturing Task Force. I wish the 411 people joining the discussion here would mention that fact.

  3. Between Boy Scouts and Cub scouts I think it would be a good idea. My younger son was not even a tiger when we had to bring him back to our Council’s camp area several times (maybe about 8 times). His older brother would read the scout law on signs as we went up the driveway. He also taged along to a couple of Wood Badge Beading ceremonies (about 4). That fall out of all the boys in my tiger den the one I had the hardest time with learning the cub scout promise and law was my son. He kept saying the boy scout one. To this day he will periodically glitch it up (and say the boy scout one). At least now he is a Webelos Scout and we now encourage the boys to learn the Boy Scout ones.

    As a Webelos leader, it really frusterating when I get a new boy in the den and I have to get him to learn the Cub Scout promise and law (for bobcat) and them immediately tell him to put that one off to the side you need to start learning the boy scout one.

    Like it was pointed out earlier, most of our boys have not read the Jungle Book.

    • I imagine if leaders are having trouble with unfamiliarity with the Jungle Book, they can do something about that – summarize the book, read the book out loud, ask the kids to read the book, do a dramatic presentation, etc. It almost seems that the problem is that adult leaders don’t want to teach kids about the Jungle Book even though it is ingrained in Cub Scouting.

  4. For sentimental reasons, I find the thought of changing the Cub Scout motto and oath saddening. But, are sentimental reasons enough?  So, I asked my Tenderfoot Scout. After all, he just made the transition. He said the oath/promise could be changed without compromising any understanding by the younger cubs (obviously my translation), because it is so close in wording.  In fact, he favored that.  

    He went on to say the whole “follows Akela” thing could be discarded. The only part he took any issue with was whether the Tiger Cubs would be able to memorize the big words and understand the 12 points of the law and would that be frustrating to them. The example I might offer up is how many of us (adult leaders) could memorize the first 12 elements of the Periodic Table of Elements and would that be frustrating?

    I don’t claim to have the answers, simply perspective and best wishes to everyone.

  5. As a Venturing Leader and a Scouter for over 30 years, I would like to take a couple moments and chime in on my opinions on the discussions to change the Venturing Code and Oath to align it with the Scout Law and Promise.

    Without beating around the bush too much, I am cautiously supportive, but I want to add a few thoughts to make sure that the change is looked at with the best interests of the program, and with that the volunteers who work tirelessly to make it a reality as well.

    As you may have seen, Venturing Leaders for the most part are very resistant to change, and it is for good reason. While most folks will tell you that Venturing is the “New Program” of the BSA being only 14 years old, it actually is the most current iteration of a program that was conceived by E. Urner Goodman in the 1930’s. While his concept of “Senior Scouting” worked a little differently than how modern day Venturing does, the changes are not much more significant or drastic as any of the changes that fell on Cub Scouting or Boy Scouting in the same period of time, except for one major difference. In the late 1950’s and early 1960’s William Spurgeon led the charge to create “Career Awareness Exploring” which was an offshoot of the “Explorer (Exploring)” program, and while certainly the High Adventure aspects of Exploring were vastly overshadowed, the relevance of the program to the individual Boy Scout Troops was all but eliminated. While it was perhaps a good idea in the 1960’s to radically change the program, the price was the relationship that up until that point fed the overall Exploring program.

    Fast forward to 1998, as the changes to Exploring loomed, it made sense to roll Sea Exploring and High Adventure Exploring back under one umbrella, and at the time it was toted as “something new” and so the history of Venturing “began” at that time, without any ties to its origins or heritage as a result, the relevancy of the program to the Boy Scout Troops has not really ever been repaired. In fact, national support for the most part is limited to some collateral calling Venturing “Scouting’s Next Step.” Today with 14 years under its belt, Venturing still is looked at by many as a “distraction” which hinders its overall growth and weakens its ability to flourish.

    So my suggestion is that if we are going to make changes to Venturing, let’s do it right. With that in mind, I’d like to make the following suggestions to consider.

    · We need to promote the fact that the origins of Venturing is nearly 80 years old, and not 14. There is a wealth of history there which we’ve forgotten about, and the lack of promoting that history has affected the credibility of an amazing program. The better we do at promoting where Venturing has been, will pay off in dividends when educating Troop leadership on the value of Venturing.
    · An effort should be made to install some kind of “crossover” from Troops to Crews. This will enable both units to collaborate more, much like the model we see in place now with Packs and Troops. This will encourage better advancement through all programs.
    · Encourage Venturers to work with Cub Scouting more by placing a greater emphasis on Den Chiefs. Often children begrudgingly follow leaders who are about the same age, and this is where Venturing can play a huge part in not only providing great leaders to Cubs, but to prepare those leaders to be stronger adults as well. This will offer the added benefit of generating excitement in the young Cubs to “go the distance” into Venturing.
    · Revert the “Venture Patrol” name back to the “Leadership Corps.” The biggest reason here is due to the confusion created by both programs having such similar names. The previous iteration of “Leadership Corps” makes more sense in the application of the program to Troops, and makes the transition between the current programs easier on all levels.
    · Better utilize Venturing to capture the 21-25 year old segment. Right now we don’t do very much to capitalize on the outgoing “youth” from Venturing, in that all we really can do is make them “Alumni.” This lets go of our well-trained members and frees them with the hopes they will come back some day. And admittedly sometimes they do. However if we had a more formalized vehicle to retain those leaders, similar to UK’s Scout Network where leadership was taught and encouraged, these young adults would have purpose and encouragement to stick with Scouting after they age out.
    · Seek to heal the rift between the OA and Venturing. In reality, the OA and Venturing both have the same founder. Back in the 30’s to 50’s, a “Senior Scout” was a “Scout” and once he achieved First Class could be considered for the OA. Modern day Venturers are often Scouts who moved over. However it is very common to see Scouts afraid of joining Venturing because they fear they will become ineligible for the OA. While I certainly can’t speak for Dr. Goodman, in my 25 years of being an Arrowman, I’d be hard pressed to believe that his intention was for it to work this way. I’d bet we could find a solution if an effort was made to find it, and we should be steadfast in that quest. It will help all of the programs harmonize, and will bring us back to what Dr. Goodman intended.

    Scouting teaches us that we need to do our best, and in so doing, change is an expectation. So my hope is that we do our best to make the right changes to make this program better in the years to come, and I suspect that that vision is within us all.

    Thank you for reading;

  6. Separate Oaths for separate programs! Just as we have different uniforms at each of the 3 levels (and I’d like to see Cub Scout Leaders in Cub Scout Leader uniforms, not Boy Scout Uniforms), we need to be age-appropriate.
    I was a Cub Scout nearly 60 years ago… no camping (well, back-yard camping only, although we never did it). Cub Scouts at age 8, Boy Scouts at age 11. I was an Explorer at 15, and an Assistant Scoutmaster at 18.
    Age 6 is too young to be a Cub Scout. Tigers were originally independent of Cub Scouts, attending 1 or 2 Pack meetings a year. (I helped organize the first Tiger Group in Indiana, when the uniform was an iron-on that camp 2 to a packet.) Webelos was a 1 year program for most of Cub Scouting, being 2 years only the last 20 years or so. The other writers who talked about blurring the lines was correct; the differences are less important, and many of the things boys want are pushed earlier and earlier. Keep Venturing separate, too. In our Crew (10 years as Advisor), most of our members were not former Boy Scouts, they were former Girl Scouts. Don’t force more on them than necessary. The Venturing Oath is terrific!

    • My resume is almost identical the Mike’s. Cub Scouts at 8 in 1954, Boys Scouts at 11 going all the way to Eagle, (sorry to say no Explorer or Venture experience), Assistant Scoutmaster, than on to Scoutmaster and currently a Unit Commissioner.

      My only correction to Mr. Homrighaus’ comments is that back than Webelos was only a 6 month progam, not 1 year. You started at 8 as a Bobcat and advanced to Wolf, than at 9 you became a Bear and than at 10 you became a Lion. The Lion rank lasted for 6 months and than you moved on to Webelos.

      I concur completely with everything else Mike says. Keep each of these programs unique. Less Boy Scout activities for Cubs, not more. As P.T. Barnum said “Always leave them wanting more”. Let the kids see what’s over the horizon in the Boy Scout program when they’re in Webelos, but don’t let our Cub Scouts become just a smaller version of Boy Scouts.

  7. Who comes up with this idiocy? You mean the word “Scout” isn’t enough to reinforce the linkage between Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts? Moving from the Cub Scout Promise and Law of the Pack to the Scout Oath and Law is a useful transition, one that shows new Scouts very quickly and definitively they have grown from Cubs to Boy Scouts. This is a transition most are proud to make and I have seen few (if any) that had a problem learning the new material.

    This proposed change looks like yet another solution looking for a problem.

  8. I say leave it alone, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. I remembered the CS promise even when I was in the Army it is a part of who I am, even if I don’t think about it all the time. The CS promise and law reinforce the scout learning, and that the family is a part of that learning. When they transition to Webelos, Boy Scouts they get the sense of accomplishment. It helps them realize they are growing up and makes them look forward to learning the new laws and oaths. My kid now, a Webelos 1 thinks it is great that he is learning what the big kids learn. My Wolf scout wants to learn it too, but I tell him he has to earn the priviledge by earning the ranks. As far as the comments about not letting CS camp, I teach my pack, that as Cub Scouts they can only go camping with their family, but as Boy Scouts they go camping with only a few Scout leaders and their patrol, no parents. They talk about the day they are big enough to camp alone ( with their patrol). I think unifying the oath and law would take away from the program and make it a little boring.

  9. I don’t really like the proposed change. Brian. Littrel posted the best words about this, “I say leave it alone, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. We are the powers that be messing with three programs that work very well and compliment each other. Each one has a separate and unique identity with the uniforms, traditions, Oaths, Codes, Laws and Promises. Don’t strip them of that to make it easier for some adults who don’t want to learn them.

  10. Pingback: BSA to use Scout Oath and Scout Law for all programs « Bryan on Scouting

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  12. I heard about this at Roundtable a in the last few months and am not in favor. I like the progression of scouting toward an ideal and feel the laws, mottos and promise are stepping stone in the journey. Rather than a series of adventures the program is begining to resemble one long moncromatic tunnel.

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