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. I like this idea for a lot of reasons with the main reason that youth can internalize the Scout Oath and Law from the beginning to the end of their Scout career.

    • I don’t particularly like this suggestion for two basic reasons: First, we have three different programs for a reason, the cognitive abilities for a seven year old Tiger are vastly different than a 20 year old Venturer. This change seems to come from a need to explain ourselves to the general public rather than program needs.

      As I have read the comments below, many cite the differences in Cub scouts but neglect the Venturing program. This of course leads to my next issue, this decision looks to have been made without input from our National Cabinet of Venturing officers. We have a group of really outstanding young men and women who are capable of having very nuanced conversations, and making very informed decisions regarding their program.

      How can we prepare youth to be informed citizens and leaders ( from the BSA vision statement) if we don’t even include them in running the program that is for them?

      I believe the Venturing oath is a better tool for reflecting the program of Venturing. It needs to be discussed before the National Venturing Cabinet. It’s their program.

  2. Bryant — actually, the story was “broke” during the “Key 5″ session at PTC on the Sunday night of “Commissioners’ Week” (July 15th), and there have been extremely “active” discussion on this change on the Venturing YahooGroup and a number of others.

    Personally, I support the change, and believe this is the right move … however, there are many who are not so supportive.

    • From the article: to “reinforce the connection between all of our BSA programs and the mission of the Boy Scouts of America.”

      • The Cub Scout Promise has very similar wording to the Scout Oath, only at a level that First Graders can understand. This similarity is a strong connection to Boy Scouts. I have be a Cubmaster for five years (not consecutively). First-Graders have enough trouble learning the Promise. They generally cannot even read it when they start First Grade. (It worked well when they obtained Bobcat at the end of First Grade years ago.) I do not think this proposal takes age-appropriateness into consideration as it should. Fourth- and Fifth-Graders have enough trouble learning and understanding the Scout Oath and Law. I think it should be left as it is now.

        • I was thinking the same thing. My first grader would have a hard time remembering all of those characteristics. I can’t even remember them all.

  3. Why not update the Character Connections of Cub Scouting to introduce the Scout Law and Oath? This sounds like we’re moving towards the global Scouting movement goal of dissolving BSA/GSA into one single group.

    • The plan is to replace the Character Connections of Cub Scouting with the 12 points of the Scout Law.

    • I doubt the GSA would merge with the BSA. The GSA accepts atheists while the BSA does not, and they are open to gay and lesbian leaders.I’d think we’d have a better shot at merging with Heritage Girls than the GSA.

      Slightly off topic from the original post, but back in 2009 I heard that the BSA was considering a parallel program for girls (Cubs and Scouts) with the ability of girls to earn Eagle. Earlier this year I got an on-line survey from either Harris Polls or Knowledge Networks asking me if I would support the BSA doing a parallel program for girls. As an Eagle, a Scoutmaster and a dad of an Eagle and the dad of a former Girl Scout I’d love to see a program for girls that mirrors the BSA. The GSA sadly does not one of my daughters “outings” was an overnight stay at the Embassy Suites, another was a night in a cabin at a local State Park, it started after school on Friday and ended before lunch on Saturday.

      With respect to the original blog post by Bryan, I think it is an excellent idea.

      • American Heritage Girls is a program that mirrors BSA, quite nicely. And no hotel camping or mall sleep overs! Check out the Outdoor Skills, Outdoor Cooking, Fire Building and Fire Safety, Camping, and any of our other “outdoor” badges. The skills all build on each other from a young age. The older girls learn the same skills as BSA. Take a look at the requirements for Stars and Stripes and you will find that it is as involved and difficult (if not more) as the BSA Eagle. AHG is also using BSA training both online and “in person”. Before reinventing the wheel, take a look at AHG.

  4. Saw this on Facebook yesterday and it’s very intriguing. My first reaction is it would do away with the “cross-over” concept from Cubs to Boy Scouts. I believe it is this “transition” where we lose a good number of Scouts. If there is no transition and the program is seen as one continuous unit, Tiger to Eagle, then a unified system might help in retention.

    On the other hand, these are heavy concepts for a first to third graders. Not that starting concepts this young is a bad thing. But it also does away with my 3 favorite 3 words in Scouting: “Do Your Best.” I even like it over “Be Prepared” in many ways because it contains so many values and principles of the Scouting system.

    The main Venturing article mentions further studies with child psychologists and other young-child related issues that need to be fleshed out first. I look forward to seeing these studies.

    There might be other ways to integrate it into the Cub Program without doing a complete change. For example, the Cub Promise is already a simpler version of the Boy Scout Promise so maybe the Laws and Mottoes could be modified accordingly.

    This will be a fun discussion and I’m glad to see that BSA continually reevaluates itself.

    For Venturing, I see no issue and think it’s a great idea for that program.

    • The proposed changes would maintain the Cub Scout motto, sign, salute, and handshake. It would only affect the Oath and revise the Core Values of Cub Scouting to align with the 12 points of the Scout Law.

    • Mike, I too, like the idea of consistent statements of values across the entire Scouting experience. As an educator, I truly believe that we can have developmentally appropriate discussions with everyone from Tiger Cubs, to Eagle Scouts, to Venturing Silver awardees about the values espoused in the Scout Oath and Law. They are sophisticated concepts worthy of years of study, and just like we teach children about value with pennies and quarters, and then progress to savings accounts and credit cards over time, we can teach Scouting values in an incremental process.

      “Do Your Best” and “Be Prepared,” as the respective Cub and Scout mottoes, are apparently recommended to remain intact. And you’re right, together these two simple mottoes do encompass a lot of what we need to think about as Scouts.

      I hope that ultimately there will be a full Tiger to Eagle to Venturing Silver program, but there’s a long way to go on that. The BSA will likely need to align Venturing with the Rover program used in the rest of the world, and stop it from competing with Boy Scouts. Venturers should be helping lead Cub Scout dens and packs, in addition to their own program of adventure, creating a full circle of effect. (Believe it: 18-25 year olds LOVE working with elementary students!) There’s a lot of opportunity here, but it will require engaging some pedagogy experts and people knowledgeable in student learning theory.

      • Thanks for your vote of confidence, Daniel. This is exactly what our panel of educators and child development experts (all Scouters) concluded – just as we have tools to help younger Scouts build familiarity with the current statements of the ideals in Cub Scouts (or the Pledge of Alligence for an other example), we can do the same for the Scout Oath and Law. This will give them a longer window during which to build familiarity, understanding and behavior.

  5. While they’re at it, will the official definition for the points of the Scout Oath and Law be updated and clarified too? What is the point in having a single Oath and Law if Scouts can’t agree on what they mean?

  6. I have brought this up at our district committee meeting and both cub and venturing folks were VERY displeased with this development. My crew members exhibited a negative response to the oath change. I personally think the change is the wrong move for Scouting in general. I feel certain the national ‘experts’, consultants, etc. will discount this type of feedback. We are in the field working with the youth. Thank you for allowing me to comment.

    • The comments here are actually the first positive responses I’ve seen to the proposal. And a majority of the responses are positive, which I was not expecting. I am personally undecided, leaning against the change, but back home, that puts me being one of the few people to bring up any pro-change reasons…

  7. I think this is a great idea for Venturers, but as a Cub Scout leader I am wondering whether the verbiage used in the Scout Oath and Law is a little abstract for younger boys. I’m sure there was a reason why a separate Promise and Law were developed in the first place–perhaps that rationale would be helpful determining whether the Oath and Law should be uniform across the board.

    • I agree, Dawn. I recall that an important factor in Cub Scouting was to keep things age-appropriate. The Scout Oath and Law may be a bit too big of a bite to expect Cubs to take in terms of memorizing, and more importantly, internalizing.

  8. Do you think that would do away with the Sea Promise of Sea Scouting too? I’m ok with it for cubbies, and maybe even the Venturers, but not the Sea Scouts.

    • I had forgotten about the Sea Promise (I don’t go to many Sea Scouting events). I think the plan is to change everything to the Boy Scout Oath and Law. I think a partial change would be the worst outcome – because some groups would have the change while others get to stay different.

    • No plans to eliminate the Sea Scout Promise, which supplements the Scout Oath and Law in the Sea Scout program.

  9. Can we get a post with the Cub Scout Promise, Law of the Pack, Venturing Oath, and Venturing Code alongside the Scout Oath and Law? That way we can see all six things at once, and the fact that I’m blanking on the Cub Scout Promise…

    • I ________ promise to do my best
      To do my duty to God and my country,
      To help other people, and
      To obey the Law of the Pack.

      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.

      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.

      The Cub Scout follows Akela.
      The Cub Scout helps the pack go.
      The pack helps the Cub Scout grow.
      The Cub Scout gives goodwill.

      A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.

      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.

  10. I, Fred Flintsone, promise On my honor
    to do my best, to do my duty I will do my best to do my duty
    to God and my country, to God and my country,
    to help other people, and to obey the Scout Law;
    and to obey the Law of the Pack to help other people at all times,
    and to keep myself physically strong,
    mentally awake, and morally straight.

    Now that the two of them are side by side, which would be easier for a 6 year old Cub Scout to remember?

  11. Cub Scout Promise

    I, ____ promise to do my best
    to do my duty to God and my country,
    to help other people and to obey the Law of the Pack.

  12. The Law of the Pack

    The Cub Scout follows Akela.
    The Cub Scout helps the Pack go.
    The Pack helps the Cub Scout grow.
    The Cub Scout gives good will.

  13. Although I’m in favor of the concept, Especially for Venture Scouts, I think it goes a bit overboard for Cubs. Let’s face it, 6 and 7 year olds have trouble remembering to tie their shoes, let alone memorizing the Scout Oath and Law. (and just think, we’re considering 5 year olds in the future). Internationally, Beavers, Cubs and Wolf Cubs have their own special promise. It should remain so in the BSA. The Scout Oath and Law should be learned as the Cub progresses to Webelos.

    • Well, first off your terminology is incorrect, Venture Scouts are like an older a scout patrol, members of a Venturing Crew are called Venturers, I believe that the Scout Oath and Law are easier to remember, but I personally like having the different levels of oath and law.

  14. Interesting, I *think* I’m for this. I believe the Cub Scout Oath and Boy Scout Oath could easily converge. However, the Law of the Pack and the Boy Scout Law are rather different in scope. The LoP defines the boys’ role (follow, help, give) but most importantly that the Pack is “to help the boy grow”. BSL are character traits that we all model our lives around (which is applicable to the CS also). I am not against this at all. Just curious what do you do with the emphasis on “the Pack helps the Cub Scout grow”? I have no experience with Venturing, so I’ll stay out of that…

  15. I, Fred Flintsone, promise
    to do my best, to do my duty
    to God and my country,
    to help other people,
    and to obey the Law of the Pack

    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,
    and to keep myself physically strong,
    mentally awake, and morally straight.

    Now that they’re both easier to read (sorry about last)…same question. Which would be easier for a 7 year old Tiger Cub to remember? Or an 8 year old Wolf?

    The Cub Scout follows Akela
    The Cub Scout helps the Pack go
    The Pack helps the Cub Scout grow
    The Cub Scout gives goodwill

    A Scout is…
    Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, Reverent

    Same question…

    • All of our Tigers were 6 years old at the beginning of last program year… You might be able to get Cub Scout-age boys to memorize the Oath and Law, but I don’t know if they will really understand them. I do like the idea of changing the Character Connections to the points of the Scout Law, however…

  16. I’m nearly 40 and can still recite both the oath & the law almost without thinking about nearly 20 years after my last interaction with any scouts. They are pretty powerful things and still dictate who I am in a HUGE way. I’ll always be a supporter of both.

  17. I don’t really agree with this as although the programs ARE indeed linked, they are also distinctively different.
    Cub Scouts are run by Adults, Boy Scouts are led by the youth.
    I’m a HUGE proponent of the BS interacting on a regular basis with the CS, primarily through Den Chiefs, but they are vastly different.
    After all, Aren’t the CSs taught the Scout Oath and Law in Webelos II???
    IF everything works correctly, the BSs will make a very good and strong presence simply by their role as Den Chiefs.
    DCs should always talk with the CSs about what the BSs do to keep the “spark” alive in the CSs.
    I have looked into the eyes of CSs at a Cross-Over as they take the Scout Oath for the first time as a Boy Scout…and it is a good thing to see; it is a definate step forward for the Youth and it’s an opportunity to celebrate their decision to move forward.
    It’s just my opinion, but I’d keep them seperate…

  18. Very, very bad idea. So many other concepts to tackle why here. As a field leader, I work very hard to speak to my audience. I know my audience and have had the same audience for several years. I have had times when I was able to speak with more sophistication to my audience, but the changes presented are not what my Scouts would have learned at 6 and 7 years old. My 8 year olds started with bits and pieces of Scout Oath and began jumbling everything into a scouting mash. Why not concentrate on working to create more fun in Cub Scouting so that we can retain more instead of making it more difficult in a time when we compete with so many other programs. I think some committees might have too much time on their hands and need to go dig earthworms with my den. That might reinforce that Cub Scouting isn’t about one unified program, it’s about making better kids who want to stay scouting and not memorizing.

  19. While I’m sure someone thought it would be a good idea, I sure as heck hope they’re paying attention to the wider world.

    This is wrong – just plain and simple wrong. One program doesn’t work for the BSA – that’s why we’ve got Cubs, Boy Scouts, and Venturing. Why give them the same promise?
    Little kids understand the Cub Scout Oath – the Boy Scout Oath is too much for most of them. 6 or 7 year olds aren’t going to understand concepts like Honor and Duty and many of the Scout Law.

    What we need is a continuum – start simple to keep them engaged, then introduce these concepts – age 8-10 is a good place for them.

    As a Den Leader, we said the Cub Scout Oath – and when they became Webelos, I started having them say the Boy Scout Oath and Laws. When they sat down with the Scoutmasters they talked to prior to their transition into troop life, I was told that they had a more complete understanding of the concepts than most boys the Scoutmasters had spoken with – including some in their troops!

    If we introduce the Boy Scout Oath at the age of 6 or 7, these kids are going to memorize it and repeat it – and NOT live it – and THAT is the PURPOSE of the Oath and Laws – to provide them tools to live by, not words to regurgitate.

    As an Eagle Scout, a former Den Leader, and a Troop Committee member, this is just plain wrong. PLEASE don’t do it.

  20. Seems people are split on the concept, as they should be, it is not easy to bring about change and some will fight it no matter what. The Cub Scout Oath has changed before, and everything did not go down hill. I can understand what some people claim that 7 and 8 year-old youth could have a difficult time with this, however I believe you do not give them enough credit. Ask them some of the specifications on a video game they love, they memorize those easily enough.

    By the way in 1943 the Cub Scout Oath was:

    I___Promise to do my best,
    to be square,
    and to obey the law of the cub pack.

  21. The idea of having separate oaths (like the idea of having separate uniforms…) is to distinguish the programs.

    We accuse some in our programs of “burning them out” before they reach Boy Scouting; or “burning them out” before reaching Venturing.
    This, to ME, is an excellent “exhibit A” of such movement toward burnout.

    We ask a 7 or 8 year old to read the words out aloud to the Scout Oath and Law. Then perhaps at 10 or so, we have him to “repeat it from memory”. Then again during his entire Boy Scouting experience, we ask him to say it over and over. Then when he becomes a Venturer, we ask him to repeat it. That’s like what — 14 years (between 7 and 21) — worth of saying the same oath — as a youth member?

    I’m telling all of you: the BSA is going to end up with ONE UNIFORM and ONE OATH AND LAW for everyone, and eventually one cannot distinguish right away the Cub Scouts from the Venturers (some may say that we’re already at that point…*smiling*). The only folks who might escape this are the Sea Scouts.

    I think that this was based on some good intentions — the idea that all of our programs are guided by the Scout Oath and Law; and that unless one knows what it is our programs are based upon, one cannot carry through implementing the Scouting ideals.

    Having everyone to use ONE Oath or Promise and one set of laws — no. I say “leave it alone.”


      • I feel that there is a difference between the Pledge of Allegience and the repeating of the various Scouting oaths. No, I don’t tire of repeating the Pledge but I can count on the number of times I have done so in the past month. I have a little bit of a higher average than most because of what I do for a living — go to a lot of meetings which start with those great words.

        The difference to me, comes in why we are abandoning all of a sudden the Cub Scout Promise and the Venturing Oath for the Boy Scout Oath. I can understand “getting everyone on the same sheet of music” but this basically applies to the adults and not the youth of the programs. Each program is (supposed) to be distinctive and different from one another.

        We are ALL Americans, but we are NOT all “Boy Scouts” or Boy Scouting leaders. Some of us are Cub Scouts and Cub Scouters; others of us are Venturers and Venturing leaders (and for the record, please note that NOWHERE in the description of Venturers nor their adult advisors and mentors is the word “Scout” mentioned except for the fact that Venturing is a program for older youth — male and female — administered by the Boy Scouts of America). For that reason alone — unless the 411 Task Force wants to refer to ALL youth members as “Scouts” regardless of program — we should keep the three separate oaths as they are and leave the interpretation of why we use the Scout Oath and Law as our overriding foundation for everything we do!

    • Mike W, why is one uniform bad? What principle are you appealing to as if it’s wrong to have one uniform. I personally wouldn’t want to see one uniform. I like the variety. But you make no reason why one uniform is a bad thing.

      Learning one law/oath isn’t necessarily a bad thing either. If a kid burns out of Scouting because he doesn’t like saying a phrase over and over again, then I’d say whoever is leading that program isn’t doing a good job. Repetition of a good thing is a good thing to have, IMHO.

      • Mike: The entire Scouting program is based on “symbolic progression”. You crawl, walk, run. Having one uniform to be used for the entire program makes it easy on the Supply Group — one basic color, one basic style. It does nothing for the people wearing it — even if for adults, all we really change are shoulder loops and neckerchiefs with slides.

        I would not want 100 years of Scouting history overall and 75 to 80 years of Cub Scouting history to go away simply because our national board of directors can’t find a better way to have the public and all members understand the principles under which the program is based upon – than to have all of us say or be aware of the Scout Oath.

        And why not the Venturing Oath — it is a bit more encompassing?

        No, having separate promises and oaths — age appropriate (never mind that in doing their research, the task force found that Cub Scouts stating or memorizing the Scout Oath and Law is not “under their mental or physical skill sets”) — is the better way to go.

        I have been saying the Scout Oath and Law since 10. That’s 43 years’ worth of raising my hand in the Sign of the Scout and repeating those words — together or by myself. I don’t feel that my brain’s gone to mush (or maybe it has *smiling* and I don’t know it yet…). But I had three years of learning and understanding the Cub Scout Promise and the Law of the Pack, simple principles of fair play, loyality and unity.

        And if you pushed me, I could recall the Explorer Code also (which much of it is used by the Venturing program today).

        If our National Executive Board wants the public and all of our members to understand what kind of a program we are running — they should authorize local Councils to make each volunteer, professional and family to sign something stating that they understand that Scouting is based upon, and will be guided by, the principles found in the Scout Oath and Law.

        Ooops…we already have this. It’s on the application to become a volunteer, on the professional agreement, and on the applications for Cub Scout, Boy Scout/Varsity Scout, and Venturer/Sea Scout.

        • It became mush (at least mine) when we raised our right hands and said
          I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies; foreign and domestic; and I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same. I will also follow the orders of the President of the United States and the officers appointed over me according to law and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

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