New Boy Scout Requirements Unveiled

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First Class with Flag

In November 2010, I was honored to be part of a task force that gathered in Dallas to begin, in the words of the National Council’s 2010-2015 Strategic Plan, “a thorough program review and assessment that clearly identifies those elements that are appealing, exciting, and culturally relevant to today’s youth and families.” That review–and countless meetings in the ensuing years–led to a complete overhaul of the Cub Scout program, a new set of awards in Venturing, and important (but relatively minor) changes to Boy Scout advancement requirements.

Those changes, which will take effect on January 1, 2016, have now been published on the BSA’s handy Program Updates page. About two-thirds of the way down the page, you’ll find a link to a PDF document that shows the new requirements side by side with the current requirements. Another PDF document explains the transition process for current Scouts.

To me, these are some of the most important changes:

* Scout is now a rank, not a set of joining requirements (although a board of review is not required). This was always a distinction without a difference, so I’m glad the language has been changed.

* There’s a bigger emphasis on fitness. Second Class and First Class build on the Tenderfoot fitness requirements to help Scout make fitness a way of life, not a box to be checked off.

* Scouts will both do and think. For example, in addition to just demonstrating first aid techniques, they’ll also explain how to prevent accidents and injuries at camp and in the home.

* Duty to God becomes more than words. At each rank starting with Tenderfoot, Scouts will explain how they have done their duty to God (as part of the Scout spirit requirement). This requirement has caused some consternation in troops where Scouts and leaders may not come from the same faith tradition. The best approach, as I explained in a recent Scouting magazine article, may be to ask a Scout how his family or faith group defines duty to God and then ask how he is living up to that definition.

So what do you think is most significant about the new requirements? Post your thoughts in the comments section below.

Footnote: I’m actually back in Dallas this week reviewing the layouts for the 13th edition of the Boy Scout Handbook, which I’ve been honored to write. I can’t wait for Scouts across the country to crack open this book come January. I hope they like it as much as the 9th edition handbook that guided me to the Eagle Scout rank back in a previous century!

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7 thoughts on “New Boy Scout Requirements Unveiled

  1. Bill M

    I do not understand why they did not keep the Pledge of Allegiance from the Scout joining requirements to the Scout rank requirements?

    Many scouts have made the pledge for years during school or Cubs, but we also have many who have not. It’s a small, but very important requirement. I applaud some of the other changes that open the new scouts to scout spirit, patrol method and troop leadership. These are good things to introduce them to as they start, but so is the Pledge, particularly for the youth who may not have had much exposure to the Pledge.

    Bill M

  2. Donna Swagler

    I see more is put into faith, which I think is great. My question to you is, how does one handle a scout that is atheist?

    • The short answer is that every Scout and Scouter must subscribe to the Declaration of Religious Principle (which is excerpted on the youth and adult applications’ instruction pages). I would recommend consulting with your unit commissioner or Scout executive for guidance on specific cases.

      Note that a Scout does NOT have to be a member of a specific religious community or denomination.

  3. howie

    I am curious to hear what your approach is to the new hand book. it seems to be getting thicker and Thicker. I it is funny you mention the 9th edition… that was mine too… it just seems like there was more space to do your tracking. Like I have all my pushups and sit ups recorded in the book, and my menu I had to make is written in the book, I do home some of that comes back

    • The book will have somewhat more pages because we’re adding a couple of chapters and some other cool features. There will be places to log a lot of stuff, like the fitness test results. I think you’ll like it!

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