BSA to use Scout Oath and Scout Law for all programs

Update, Jan. 27, 2014: Sea Scouts, see how this applies to you here.

It’s official: The resolution to move to one Oath and Law for Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Varsity, Sea Scouts, and Venturing was approved this morning by the Boy Scouts of America’s executive board.

I first told you about the volunteer-led proposal in a blog post in August.

Essentially, this means every Scout of any age will use the Scout Oath and Law instead of reciting separate, program-specific sayings. Cub Scouts will recite the Scout Oath and Law instead of the Cub Scout Promise and Law of the Pack. Similarly, Venturers will no longer use the Venturing Oath and Venturing Code.

Because it will take time to transition into this new approach, the changes are not immediate.

The Venturing change will not happen until late 2013 or early 2014; the Cub Scout change will take effect in mid-2015. Stay tuned to my blog for exact dates as I get them.

Additionally, the newly adopted resolution replaces the full-hand Venturing sign and salute with the three-finger Boy Scout sign and salute.

UPDATE (10/18/12): I confirmed the above sentence today. Venturing will begin to use the Scout sign and Scout salute. This wasn’t mentioned in the resolution because the sign and salute are not specified in the rules and regulations.

For the full resolution and answers to some frequently asked questions, follow the jump: 

Frequently asked questions

Here are the BSA’s answers to some questions already received…

Q: What, specifically, is being changing?

A: Cub Scouts:

• Adopt the Scout Oath and Law for use in the Cub Scout program, retiring the Cub Scout Promise.

• Revise the Core Values of Cub Scouts to align exactly with the 12 points of the Scout Law.

• Retire the Law of the Pack, while maintaining the concept of “Akela” as leader.

• Maintain the current Cub Scout motto, sign, salute, and handshake.

A: Venturing:

• Retire the Venturing Oath, Code, sign and salute

• Adopt the Scout Oath, Scout Law, Scout sign, and Scout salute

• Engage the task force and National Youth Cabinet to determine whether Venturing should have a differentiating motto/slogan or adopt “Be Prepared”

Q: Why are these changes happening?

A: Each of our programs is designed to help instill the goals of the BSA mission in its members’ daily lives. As the BSA strives to operate as one organization, build continuity of membership over a person’s life, and deliver its mission, considering one Oath and Law as a tool to unify our membership is appropriate. Additionally, the earlier and longer a member is exposed to the values of the Scout Oath and Law, the better the opportunity is that they will be able to live those values in their lives.

Q: How did these recommendations come to be?

A: Two separate task forces have worked on the deliberations leading to the recommendations – the Strategic Plan Goal 411 Task Force and the Venturing Task Force. Each of these is volunteer-led and staffed (approximately 50 and 25 volunteers, respectively).

These task forces made the initial deliberations and recommendations beginning in 2011 and early 2012 respectively.

In the case of the Cub Scout, the 411 task force consulted with cognitive and child development specialists and educational practitioners involved in Scouting. Specifically, these professional and scouters were asked to consider age & developmental appropriateness of the current Cub Scout Promise and Law of the Pack versus the Scout Oath and Law. The outcome of this study suggested that comprehension difficulty is high for both but not materially higher for the Scout Oath. Further the study group concluded that Cub Scouts could understand the Scout Law just as well as the Cub Scout Promise with appropriate support and guidance. Additionally, research among parents (62% favorable) and Cub Scout leaders (59% favorable) was also supportive. Cub Scouts would not be asked to memorize or recite the Scout Law at early ages.

With respect to Venturing, the primary discussion points centered around the length and lack of use of the current Venturing Code, the desire to support a seamless set of value statements between Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and Venturing (one program) and a desire to align Venturing’s value statements with those used for similar age programs worldwide.

Q: Isn’t the Scout Oath and Law much more difficult for Cub Scout age boys to memorize and understand?

A: This was an initial concern of the task force. To address this concern, the task force recruited a group of individuals with experience in child development and linguistics and a group of educational practitioners. All of these individuals are Scouters.

After study, the group’s conclusions were:

• Both sets of value statements contain complex concepts requiring support and guidance for the user to fully understand and learn to live buy.

• Both sets of values statements are written at a relatively high reading level, but the Scout Oath is not significantly more difficult to read and comprehend than the Cub Scout Promise.

• The Law of the Pack is significantly more difficult for Cub Scout age boys to understand than either the Cub Scout Promise or the Scout Oath and contains concepts for which younger Cub Scouts are not developmentally prepared.

• Cub Scout age boys will be able to learn and comprehend the Scout Oath with support and guidance similar to that currently provided when learning the Cub Scout Promise (cards as prompts, guided discussion on meaning, etc.).

• Cub Scouts in early ranks should not be expected to memorize the Scout Law but are developmentally ready to begin exposure to the words of the Law and are ready to begin building understanding of the concepts with help.

Q: Cub Scouts is not Boy Scouts. If Cub Scouts use the Scout Oath and Law, what will separate the programs, what will the boys look forward to?

A: Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts are separate programs. Cub Scouts preparing to move to Boy Scouts will continue to anticipate the new uniform, the increase in independence and leadership growth of the patrol method, the enhanced opportunities for fun and adventure thru age appropriate troop activities they could not do as Cub Scouts and the Boy Scout advancement program and other opportunities. Use of the same Oath and Law will unify them with their older “brothers” but will not make them Boy Scouts.

Full resolution

Click here to download (PDF).

What do you think?

Comments are open for your reaction to this move. How will it affect your Scouting life?

Photo: Some rights reserved by PruittAllen

330 thoughts on “BSA to use Scout Oath and Scout Law for all programs

  1. At the risk of beating a dead horse, the article says, “In the case of the Cub Scout, the 411 task force consulted with cognitive and child development specialists and educational practitioners involved in Scouting. ”

    Honestly, these are really the last people I would ask anything. Why? These are the same people who have screwed up our education system. High school students who can’t do simple arithmetic or construct simple sentences are the end product of our education system. They no longer teach handwriting so most young people’s writing looks like a kindergartner’s. At my son’s highly rated elementary school, they spent days working on “mousing skills” because that is much more valuable than handwriting. I taught a 90 year old man how to use a mouse in two minutes but “educators” need days?

    • With all the corporate donation money they are losing from Intel, UPS, Merck,… they better start looking at actual problems to solve and not this stuff. The need to revise discriminatory policies, embrace technology, and move the BSA forward. They need to cut National and District Council expenses and paid headcount. Or this organization is going to be on the fringes and obscure before we know it. Shame for the kids.

      • So you are advocating abandoning core values to get additional funds? Now there is the real shame.

        The BSA does need to embrace more technology on the National and Council level, but this is nothing that the average Scout parent or Scout will ever see. Many Councils operate on a shoe string budget with little room for error, so I have no idea where you are at on that one. I have no idea on National.

        Scouting is about experiences. Mainly outdoor experiences. If we get our kids outside in camps and other activities they will stay in longer (higher retention) and parents will support the program.

        • No, I dont think core values need to change. But the approaches need to keep up with modern times to continue to be relevant and valuable to communities and families. The BSA has a history of holding out and excluding diverse communities for years, like excluding membership of blacks and other minorities. They finally made changes through the late 70’s to do the right thing and treat visually diverse boys the same as the white ones. Its embarassing then and still is now. Of course now, the BSA claims to embrace diversity by trying to focus on hispanic families and urban youth.

        • The 70’s? Talk about ancient history.

          Let’s talk reality. The BSA goes way way out of the way to provide program (free of charge I might add) to disadvantaged areas all over the country. The problem is much deeper in those communities with a lack of parental involvement and qualified leaders. The BSA can’t fix the family dynamic – or lack of family dynamic. It would actually be easier for them to just give up on those areas and concentrate on the low hanging fruit, but there are tremendous resources expended in areas like this. My council is doing this. If yours is not, sounds like you need to affect change.

          Do I think the BSA is perfect? Hardly. But, I do believe they are the best organization for youth hands down regardless of the color of the skin.

        • “Shoestring” Budget?!?!

          Sorry, Rob, I didn’t catch where you got your financial information from…

          According to the IRS (As a 501c3 Non-Profit Organization, the BSA and subordinate councils must file annual financial statements with the Internal Revenue Service on Form 990), Mr Mazzuca, our most recent Past Chief Scout Executive made nearly $1,577,600 (yes, that’s 1.6 _MILLION_) in 2009 (According to Charity Navigator), the fifth largest Non-Profit CEO compensation package IN THE NATION! The Greater Saint Louis Area Council recently hired a new Scout Executive, Ron Green, who moved from New Jersey for an annual compensation package over $500,000, as confirmed by a member of the selection committee (the 2009 Form 990 data confirms that the former Executive, John Primrose took home $480,000 his last full year in office (2009) – salaries don’t go down. Sure the Greater Saint Louis Area Council is the third largest council in the country, but according to IRS data, the mean salary for the typical Scout Executive in the average council is in excess of $120,000, per annum. Bet you don’t feel like doing so much “dumpster diving” for program support materials, now, do you?!

          Remember, the Boy Scouts of America is Chartered by Congress as an organization Run by Volunteers, For Volunteers, with support from paid professionals.

          So, when we start talking about the Boy Scout Law, and Oath, let’s remember that the First Point of the Law should apply equally to each Scout, Scouter, and Professional, and there should be full disclosure and truth in the compensation of paid Scout Professionals.

          I wish I had a “shoestring” budget, to run my household, too!

        • I know how my council operates and it is much different than GSLAC. Salaries are dependent on fundraising, so I have no idea why you are so upset. I believe the chief is paid too much, but that is my opinion.

          The biggest problem the BSA has had is the way they promote – from within. This is why they are behind, or have been behind on technology nationally. Crappy personnel are shipped elsewhere perpetuating the Peter Principle.

          That being said This discussion had nothing to do with executive salaries.

        • As an outsider looking in, I find those salaries to be extortionate and quite unbelievable, I agree the BSA needs to look at other issues before changing Cub and Venture laws and promises.

          Basically what I see here is the minions, you and your local members out fund raising to keep afloat and impact the Children with Scouting; but also raising money to Subsidise very Lucrative pay structures for the elite.

          Many parents struggle just to pay for their children to attend, for uniform for activities but yet they are raising funds to pay these people?

          Why change what isn’t broken but hide behind extortionate salaries when the real issues are in the limelight?

          . .

  2. The cub scouts and boy scouts have a similar promise, but the moto and laws are very different. The cub scout motto fits their program and should stay, and I am in favor of letting them keep the shorter promise. As a tigger den leader they have trouble learning everything at the start now, it doesn’t need to be longer. The cub law is currently the hardest one for them to learn, as I would be in favor of changing it a little, but I am not sure replacing 4 points with the 12 from the boy scouts is the correct way to go. When the boys become boy scouts they are older and can learn the longer ones then.

  3. Pingback: Cub Scout Pack 883 » Blog Archive » An Interesting Update on the Cub Scout Promise & The Law of the Pack

  4. I’m not sure what to think of this change, the part of me that loves tradition is screaming “no way”. However, this appeals to the logical part of me, as it will unify our purpose. The different divisions are not linked closely enough, especially CSA & BSA. I don’t know that I’m sold on this, but I don’t think we’re talking utter folly here.

  5. I’ve got my hands in every program except Varsity. My issue is Sea Scouts. Not only did they summarily wipe out our oath and salute, but they wiped out our only unique knot – our Sea Badge trident. Sea Scouts are a unique and storied program that’s only second to the Troops in tenure. That uniqueness is being erased piece by piece. Granted – I’m not a fan of the Sea Scout promise – the part about “women and children first” is a bit antiquated in a day and age when my sister is a Coast Guard officer and a better sailor than me. But let us keep our promise (but maybe adjust it slightly), our trident and our identity.

    And by the way – it’s going to be hard to enforce this when we’re 3 miles off shore. ARGH ME HEARTIES! BSA Pirate Scouts!

    • Hey Todd, Skipper of Ship 510 Charleston here. I read the entire resolution, and only see that we must know the Scout law and oath (consistent with the change in the Sea Scout manual-venturing stuff deleted) and no mention of removing/deleting the Sea Scout Promise…Where did you source the information?(written from 3 miles off shore in support!) Fair winds, TH

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  7. I disagree with the change to make 7-9 year olds memorize the Scout Oath and Law. As a 10 year old, it’s required for the AOL, different circumstances and stature for the boys position in the Pack. Many already have trouble with the simple Cub Scout Promise and are very proud when they do accomplish the task. The Committee of 75….who are they? where did they come from? Business? Exeuctive Positions? Did the committee memebers come from current Packs? Inner city packs where education is tough and learning the Oath and Law can be just another memorization burden to youngesters. When’s the last time your 75 got down and dirty in Den meeting with an 8 yr old stumbling and trying to learn the short Cub Scout Promise? Probably not recently and out of touch. You caught my Distirct completely by surprise. I have been a Commisioner and on Disctrict Committee for the last 3 years and we knew NOTHING of the change until after it was approved. We were never allowed our input to an organization we proudly supported. I have been talking with my children (Son Eagle Scout, Daughters Gold and Silver Awards), my peers, and other Scout Leaders about this change and we do not support the change. Personally, the year 2013 makes 50 years I have been involved in Scouting and with the ill sighted changes described by National, it probably will be the last. I have lived with and acccepted many of the changes National has made over the years to improved the program and I this is one I cannot accept. I need to take a stand and I hope thousands of other take a stand. This change is unacceptable.

    • I have to agree. You are taking away the identity of the Cub Scout and making him a mini scout. The Cub Scout Promise & Law of the Pack is very specific to Cubs and on a level that they can understand. You are going to have them memorize, say and promise to obey an Oath and Law that they do not fully understand? As a mother of three who has volunteered in schools and led in the Pack for 16 years, I think you are adding in too much stuff above these guys heads. The current steps are geared more for the natural Stages of Development that the boys go thru. I think this is a BIG mistake!

  8. With my Cub Scout/Boy Scout experience I am going to favor with the decision. However, the problem is change is hard. Ideally they all should have been the same from the start but they weren’t. You want to talk about confusion the boys. I started as a leader with my son when he was a Tiger cub. Right away you teach them a Motto (Search, Discover, Share) then they meet with the pack and the Motto is different (Do your best). What’s with that. A few years later when they finally know the Promise like the back of their hand, they enter Webelos where they start teaching the Oath which is sort of like the Cub Scout Promise but just confusingly different. You work on this with your den then go to the pack meeting to be confused by having to know the Promise.

    Now to the Law. The Cub Scout Law was kind of cute but at the same time a nightmare of a poem to memorize. I think very few of the boys actually mastered it by memorization. The 12 elements of the Boy Scout Law are much easier to learn.

    Changing the Oath and Law alone would make the Webelos Program finally fit in. I often felt the program would be much better to separate from Cub Scout and stand on it own. But switching to a common Oath/Law would solve most of the issues that make Webelos such an odd program.

    While programs still need to keep their identify. I think they can still do this with unique salutes, mottos, hand shakes, uniforms, and various other signatures.

  9. I must say i cannot understand this reasoning. Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts are very different programs with very different aims. There are too many that see the CSA as a “feeder system” or a “Junior Boy Scouts”. According to the leader books, CSA is all about “Do Your Best” meaning it is a learning experience. The “Jungle Book” imagery evoked by the Law of the Pack and the Promise are an essential part of getting kids motivated and involved. The BSA’s purpose is to accomplish, thus the motto “Be Prepared”.

    I don’t remember this being on the Scouting survey sent out earlier this year. National is keeping the lines burning with the Membership Policy issue and seems to think they can just slide this one by without input from us, the “Troops on the ground”.

    Survey your Scouts and Scouters, I guarantee the majority will shoot this down.

  10. With all this conversation about how hard it will be for the cubs to memorize the Scout Oath and Law I decided to give it a try and presented the Scout Law to my Bears last week.

    We grabbed a pair of dice and depending on what number the dice landed on we would repeat the the Scout Law from the beginning to the point of the dice roll. The scouts not only had the whole thing memorized in about 15 minutes but half of them could tell me exactly what part of the law was 6, 9 or 11. It went so smoothly that we tried the Scout Oath and since it’s close to the Cub Scout Promise once again…no sweat. The scouts were very proud to recite the Boy Scout Oath and Law. It made them feel like they were getting that much closer to becoming Boy Scouts.

    I know none of us like to have more things to do on our plate but please give these boys a little more credit, especially when they can recite every minute detail of their favorite video games with absolute ease.

    • That is the way to teach it. Make it a game and they will eat it up. Do every thing that way and watch their suprise when they pass the requirement and they had fun doing it to boot. Our Crew is doing that and none of them want to do rank advancement. They are having fun and that is what it is all about.

  11. I have to disagree with this decision You are taking away the identity of the Cub Scout and making him a mini scout. The Cub Scout Promise & Law of the Pack is very specific to Cubs and on a level that they can understand. You are going to have them memorize, say and promise to obey an Oath and Law that they do not fully understand? As a mother of three who has volunteered in schools and led in the Pack for 16 years, I think you are adding in too much stuff above these guys heads. The current steps are geared more for the natural Stages of Development that the boys go thru. The Oath and Law are learned as a Webelo during that transition period to go into Boy Scouts. It is right for that stage in their life. If the little guys grow up hearing the Webelo Scouts recite it after the Cubs do their Promise & Law of the Pack, they look forward to advancement. The Cubs look up to the Webelos and the changes in the program just like the Webelos look up to the Boy Scouts. If you keep taking away things for them to look forward to…there goes your retention in the Scouting program. I think this is a BIG mistake!

  12. My thought is in the Golden Anniversary Book of Scouting published in 1959. Baden-Powell first thought of Junior Scouts. Then he found Rudyard Kipling Jungle book and
    in that first nine chapters he found a tale to hold younger children interest. Read our history. In a time when young boys don’t have transition into manhood unless for other reason. This provided a bridge in manhood when you left the pack to run with older boys, Learn new skills and to show you are ready to learn new ways. In America it was to be not together and not follow the same path as in scouting as in Britain. I’m Eagle Scout and my son who is six. Learned and memorized the Cub Scout promise and the Law of the Pack. He still trying to understand what those words mean to him. To memorize is easy and spit back the information is easy it what the do in school. Learn the test to pass but understand is something different. Look in scout hand book to become a scout current one understand and agree to live by scout oath or promise, law motto and slogan and the outdoor code. In 1960 hand book you had recite it to get your badge not just understand it. It seem to me we have to think of the future of this country and what part will the BSA play in that part. Think of all cub scout books in print that are now out of date. Think of tiger scouts who now will never understand the history of cub scout program and why we use the wolf ears to listen to aklea. As a leader of tigers slip in the 12 points of the Law here and there so they get slowly. Like a scout is clean while the wash hands. Why mess with something that has stood the test of time.

    • VERY well stated. While I applaud the 12 points of the scout law replacing the core values, the loss of the cub promise, law of pack, and B-P’s younger scout plan is a huge mistake. I suppose National sees no need for us to continue to teach and plan by “ages and stages…”

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  15. As a leader I have been trying to apply the new scout law/promiss to the cubs, so far it has been a little difficult. We see how the new scout law/promiss has stronger values, but it is not as easy to recite.

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  17. As a Boy Scout Leader, I have no particular opinion about the Oath and Law should becoming universal for Venturers and Cubs; however, as a Boy Scout Leader, a youth mentor, and a parent, I take great issue with a theme that seems to pervade this discussion. Do people actually believe that the Scout Oath and Scout Law are too difficult for Cubs to memorize because Cub Scouts are so young?


    Cubs are at the upper end of the prime age for memorization! The only reason they have “difficulty” is because the professional educators and child psychologists tell us they will have difficulty — and we, as parents and Scout Leaders, lower our expectations of our youth because we believe these “experts”! We adults are the ones with real memory problems — else how could we have forgotten all the trivial stuff WE memorized as young kids? Oh, wait, we did not forget the ditties and doggerel we absorbed; we just forgot (or never realized) that we had actually memorized anything!

    I was born 56 years ago; my Dad was born 115 years ago. For the those who had trouble memorizing their addition and subtraction tables, that means my Dad came along before Scouting existed. Because of our two-generation time-span, I have something of a unique perspective on how our education has deteriorated in this past century. I can tell you the expectations for children today are much lower than when I was a kid; I can tell you my Dad made the same observation about “lowered expectations” relative to my educational experience.

    Let me focus that perspective on the one recurring objection I read in this thread. I paraphrase it thus, “Young Cub Scouts cannot memorize the ‘twelve points of the Scout Law’ because twelve points are too many!” Huh? Really? Here’s a question, “How do kids that age memorize the ‘twenty-six points’ of the alphabet?”

    Ever read an “ABC Book” to your kid? (Ever read to your kid, period?) If you have done that, you know a three-year-old will often be able to “read” that book right back to you in short order. Sorry, Proud Parent, most who do so are not really reading; they have memorized the book. That is, they committed to memory all twenty-six letters AND the unique vignette that goes with each! Learning the Scout Oath and the Scout Law pales by comparison!

    Here’s a personal anecdote. My third grade class was given the Gettysburg Address to read and learn. The teacher offered a reward to the first person who could stand and recite it perfectly from memory. I won… barely… It took me nearly 10 minutes to commit the entire speech to memory and I was far from the first to stand and recite; just the first who did not transmute “consecrate” into “concentrate.” I still remember the Gettysburg Address; but, funny thing, I do not remember what prize I won.

    Not convinced? Okay, let’s go back and consider the “ABC Song” instead of a book. At least in my day, every kindergartener learned this song — usually in the first couple weeks of school. Guess what? The twelve points of the Scout Law have twenty-six syllables, fewer than twenty-six Letters of the Alphabet contain. Factor in the intro to the Law, “A scout is…” then compare the result to the “ABC Song” with its tag-line attached (“…Now I know my ABCs. Next time won’t you sing with me?”). Guess what? The “ABC Song” is longer, it contains many more syllables, and it contains more “nonsense sounds” too!

    Research has repeatedly shown nonsense syllables more difficult to memorize than actual words. Okay, I can hear the objection, “Oh, but those are ‘letters,’ not ‘nonsense’ sounds!” No, the whole point of the song is to get children familiar with the alphabet; until they attain that familiarity, the letters ARE nonsense sounds — and for some, they apparently remain so… but I digress…

    At least the Scout Law contains actual words that the Cub might have previously encountered. (I would say “has previously encountered” but, sadly, I suspect many have never heard, much less understood, words such as “obedient” before joining Scouting!)

    Still have trouble with the idea that Tigers can memorize the Scout Oath? Set it to music, have them sing it, and see what happens!


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