New Boy Scout Handbook, other Boy Scout program tweaks due in 2016

boy-scout-logoThe saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” could be used to describe some tweaks coming to the Boy Scouts program in 2016.

The merit badge program has been getting stronger with the release of each new merit badge, and the trail to Eagle Scout continues to produce terrific young men. Neither will change.

We are getting a new Boy Scout Handbook, but the 13th edition, due out in January 2016, will keep most of its content from the 12th edition (released in 2010). The design and images inside will be updated, but much of the text will be unchanged.

I already previewed changes to Cub Scouting coming in 2015 and Venturing coming this year. Compared to the makeovers for those two programs, what’s happening in Boy Scouting is more of a slight modification than a complete overhaul.

Find out what’s changing (and what isn’t) and when after the jump.

What isn’t changing
  • Current ranks and approach (Tenderfoot to First Class earned concurrently; Star to Eagle Scout earned sequentially)
  • Use of merit badge program
What is changing
  • Scout will become a rank
  • Additions:
    • Service at all ranks (conservation-related at Life)
    • Healthy eating/habits requirements
    • Some reordering in Tenderfoot to First Class
    • Physical fitness at each rank, Tenderfoot to First Class
    • Outdoor ethics — Leave No Trace and Tread Lightly
    • Weather safety, risk assessment and mitigation
    • Duty to God incorporated in requirement to show Scout Spirit.
Transition details

Boy Scout 2016 transition

Many more details to come as I get them. Thanks to Bob Scott for sharing the news with me (and you) as soon as he could.


        • You may have called it a rank, but BSA didn’t. It was confusing because it does have “requirements” per se, they just happen to be the exact things you nee to do to join a troop. You can’t be a member of a troop unless you do those things (would that all advancement coordinators understood that!!!!) The badge was simply a visual representation of being a Boy Scout, not of having done anything beyond that.
          I would be interested to know if the simply decided to start referring to it as a rank OR if they increased the requirements beyond merely joining a troop to get it.

        • Also, it isn’t counted when you calculate your troop’s Journey to Excellence score for advancement. The instructions state “number of Boy Scouts advancing at least one rank (Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, Life, Eagle)” are counted towards advancement.

        • According to everything I have read a board of review will not be required to earn the Scout rank when the requirements become effective 01/2016.

    • If you look through the requirements for each current rank – Tenderfoot through Eagle – you will see that the final step on each is to successfully complete your Board of Review. Currently “Scout” has no such requirement. I would imagine that that addition would be essential to earning the rank of “Scout.”

    • The scout badge is not considered a rank advancement. It is received by the scout when they fulfill the joining requirements. As a rank advancement, the scout will probably have to go through a board of review. At this time, the scout does not go through a board of review, just a scoutmasters conference.

  1. I want to see the changes now, the youth policy was never in question. The convention in Texas last year made a decision on a question they were never asked. This is evident by their failure to have open discussion on the new Youth enrollment policy. The question they were supposed to answer was “Do we want Homosexual Leaders?” not which boys to allow to join. In the case of youths joining you never know theiir sexual preference because by law you are not allowed to ask! So I am asking why did they release the statement they did? Essenitally they left handedly allowed Homosexual Leaders.So WHAT ARE THE NEW PROPOSED CHANGES? We have the right to know! NOW!

    • Not sure where you are getting that they, “…left handedly allowed Homosexual Leaders.” Come again? Are homosexual leaders allowed now? Ummm…no.

      • “Scout” is currently not a Rank no matter what your troop does or thinks. Look at your JTE Scorecard again.

      • Its a decision that has already be made. The passage of S.B. No. 1 in Hawaii makes it a HATE CRIME to discriminate based on sexual preference, and a FEDERAL Law is pending approval in Washington D.C. as we speak. The FBI has listed “Sexual Discrimination” as a hate crime for the past 5 years at least. The statement that the council made said that the BSA will allow Homopsexual and all boy into the organization. Which to me means that when the boy turns 18yo and wants to become and Adult leader you have to say yes. What else are you going to say thanks … no thanks get out? At this point I have not made up my mind about the virtures of Homosexual Leadership but I will tell you they have lots of money. The Homosexual Laws will demand that their life style be taught in all schools to all ages. The radical element of Homoseuality will bring law suits against everyone that opposes them and they have the money to bankrupt any organization. This issues is unlike any other and we are not allowed to discuss it. How are we supposed to handdle the problems that will arise? For my money all sexual education should be removed from all schools and we schould teach the kids to dance and leave the rest to the parents!. Like I said before I have questions about the changes that are affecting BSA now and I want a discussion to learn how to handle it and I am not getting it. I have been told to shut up, not refer to them as Homosexuals becuase it makes people uncomfortable and that tells me there is something wrong. If we donot antiscipate the change then I feel BSA is a doomed organization at this time. We have already lost the Girl Scouts and the American Heritage Girls because BSA is correctly staying with “Do my duty to GOD and Country”,.So what else is coming and what don’t I know that I should?

        • The gray area for this youth membership policy falls with in the BSA’s Venture Program and the Order of the Arrow Brotherhood of Honor Campers where the youth age is up to 21. When a boy ages out of the Boy Scout Program he may continue as a youth in the Venture Program if he wishes to continue his membership in the Order of the Arrow – this allows for the boy to attend BSA Programs and Training as a youth member, as well as hold OA and Venture Crew Youth Leadership Positions. Once the young man turns 21, he must register as an adult with one of the Scouting programs, because BSA still prohibits LGBT Leaders in its ranks, these men may be asked to leave. In the end, it will be up to the Chartering Organization and the Charter Representative to approve or deny the membership application as it always has. For the adult membership policy to change, it must start at he Unit level and work its way up to National. How will you tell an Eagle Scout who continues on through Venturing to stay active as long as he can that he can no longer be a leader because he is gay. Now if that Scout happens to have now gotten the chance to serve as a Youth Leader in the OA or Venture Crew Program on a Regional or National level are you going to still say he is unfit to lead and mentor youth in Scouting? The question lies with BSA on how it will handle these leaders who come out – will they try to silence them, or will they follow these boys through until they are 21 and see that they are no different than a heterosexual leader in the Boy Scouts? I have already had discussions with some elected leaders on the issue, and from what I here, this is going to be a rough transition. I suggest to Troops, Packs, Crews and Posts, follow your gut. If the adult volunteer or Scout displays the ability to live by the Scout Oath and Law in his everyday life and far exceeds the quality of leadership needed to help lead your unit, make the right decision and don’t deny this leader a chance to prove himself. The 16-20 year-old demographic will be the leading force to change the adult membership policy, they are the next generation of Scout Leaders and THEY GET IT!

          Change lies in the hands of those who wish to see growth of an organization, not it’s death.

          Michael R. Lobo
          National Board of Directors – Scouting For All
          Eagle 1995, Vigil Honor 1998

        • I would have liked to share this post with my unit but I feel your line of conversation, which has NOTHING to do with the original post, is inappropriate to share with scouts. Not every topic discussed needs to circle back to the joining policy. Please, please, please take your comments to those that can address them. Go to the National website and look up emails. Do not turn every public forum into a debate over homosexuality. Poor Bryan is just trying to share good, useful information. We are working and volunteering with CHILDREN and sexual orientation should NEVER EVER be a topic of conversation in a YOUTH based organization. Focus on leadership development, community service and love of the outdoors. If you do that, NOTHING is different. The program HAS NOT changed.

        • Wow, perhaps you should take a nice long walk, then do a little research about the current membership policy, how it came to be, and what it means, plus look into some actual sound science about homosexuality… then come back and make more rational statements that may make sense to others.

      • But what then happens when a boy ages out? This is a loose end that needs to be tied up. Either they are able to be leaders or they aren’t.

        • When a youth ages out, becomes 18, they must complete an adult application and follow the process for being accepted. It is not automatic that a scout becomes an adult leader. One of the Scoutmaster’s jobs is to identify and recruit good leaders. And in many ways identifying real good leaders, people with commitment and potential, is a tough call. I know from experience in the job.

        • When the youth turns 18, and he/she admits he/she is attracted to the same gender, he/she can no longer be a member of the BSA. That’s what the new membership policy states (not verbatim). Nowhere does it say that when a Scout (under 18 youth) turns 18, he/she is automatically allowed to be an adult leader just because he/she has been involved in Scouting as a youth. The now-adult “Scout” must fill out an adult application for a Scouter’s position and be approved by the Committee Chairman and a District Representative.

          I don’t know, however, where the burden of proof lies if the “Scout openly states the he is attracted to the same sex” as a youth and then wants to become an adult leader. I doubt any written records can be kept on youth members making such a statement (as such records would probably be illegal) so that it can be checked by the BSA if he/she wants to join in another unit, district, or council. I don’t see any way that National Council can enforce this policy for adult volunteers (outside of the “Black List”).

          A particular unit may or may not be able to deny his/her application based on this verbal admission, but for argument sake, let’s say the individual admitted being attracted to the same gender as a youth (17 years old), then moved across the country – or across the state – at 18 years old. What is stopping him/her for joining Scouting in his/her new home? A written policy may exist, but I haven’t seen anything from National Council on how this is supposed to be addressed. Perhaps it is going to follow the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for current and future adult volunteers as it has been for years?

    • I don’t know what you are trying to misinterpret to make this a discussion point.

      Besides that, I always feel there are adult things and youth things, and the two need to be discussed separately. Find an all adult forum someplace for this.

    • As a left handed person I find your comment offensive and not keeping with the Scout Oath or Law. As it implies that left handed persons or actions are disingenuous, sneaky and/or immoral or not above board.

      Please choose your words a little more careful in the future.

    • Wow, calm down and get educated. Your facts are skewed somehow. If you’re reading propaganda from Trail Life then stop, those people are not trustworthy.

      • There appeared a concern that I have followed some of the Scout community into Trail Life. I was invited to join them but I refused on the grounds that I had a commitment to the Troops that I already serve in the BSA programs. I send an inconsistent message if I leave the kids and run off into something else. I do not consider that requiring a kid to make a profession of faith is an honorable practice because a child does not know what he believes philosophically. About age 12 does the brain begin to perceive abstract learning; to make a kid sign a pledge that he does not understand is not honest. I have defended the child’s right to grow, learn, analyze, formulate, refine, and redefine his belief system. The young person is growing in body, mind, and spirit; we must be patient with all of these experiences. I sent a copy of a letter about A Scout is Reverent to Bryan; with this line of reasoning, Eagle candidates have satisfied the Eagle Boards. I am still a Unit Commissioner and I bring in ideas, observations, concerns, questions, food for the kids…and I have not been expelled from the program yet! I have always been an advocate for the sake of the kids and I have always believed in their worth as individuals.

  2. Glad to see these are “tweaks” to the program, and not a major overhaul!
    As one who lived through the massive changes that occurred in the 1972 timeframe (and had many friends caught on the wrong side of those changes – such as “skill awards”, and the ill fated change from 21 to 25 Merit Badges required for Eagle), it’s good to see the program have small changes to both keep up with the times, and address anything that is not working as intended. But major changes (unless truly justified) should be avoided when possible. Bravo BSA! P.S. Glad to see “Scout” become an official rank – sort of what was done with Tiger Cubs in the Cub Scout program several years ago.

  3. Oh, it’s broken all right. And quite frankly, I’m not all that impressed with the fix if the content is expected not to change very much. The 2010 Handbook was the most disjointed handbook that the BSA has put out, and it relies far too heavily on web links and the like. Even the 1972 Handbook, despite being written for eight year olds, was more coherent. I am very disappointed by this announcement.

  4. I am reminded of the new department head my work received. I then saw the truth of the discussion I had had back in college about a new boss remaking area in his own image, “just cause he can”. Sometimes the new boss just wants to make the change, “just cause he can”. If Scouting is about teaching Good Citizenship and Responsible Adulthood with Hands-On training and practice, I would not object to going back to the post WW2 handbook. We could jazz it up with computer stuff and email announcements instead of mimeograph, but , hey, we still learn teamwork and responsibility by camping and cooking and hiking together. That’s what we should be about. N That is what will attract biys to Scouting, not the froufrou of ipad add ons, and Games Merit Badge. Include them, but save the stuff that makes the difference. Philmont and Summit and AT Trail, those are what the boy wants to work toward….

  5. I would like to see some additional pages in the book to track the info needed for all ranks. I want to see a page for hiking miles. I want to see a page for the 5 troop activities needed for Second Class. I want to see another page for the 10 troop activities for First Class.

    • Robert, I agree. I would also like to see a tracking section that mirrors the National Outdoor Award. (swim/canoeing miles, cycling/equestrian miles, …)

      • Additional tracking pages would be a great tool for leaders and parents. Camping nights, miles hiked, miles cycled, service project hours, etc. would eliminate the extra Post-its with some of this information we get at boards of review. And a big thumbs up for tracking pages for the National Outdoor Award which our troop and Varsity team have begun working towards. Any requirement that has a multiple of things to do should have an after-page for tracking and listing.

    • We have the boys write down their activities on the top of the advancement page. Take up very little room if they write small.

  6. I like the rank requirements at the front of the book instead of looking for them somewhere in the back!! I also like the format size I had in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s where it fit easily into your back pocket of a side pocket on your pack. Today’s are too big to carry around so scouts don’t!!!!

  7. I am curious…what is meant by, “Duty to God incorporated in requirement to show Scout Spirit.” Can someone official clarify that a little for me?

    • Yeah, I’m not into the idea of forcing religion. The family/Scout/etc. either believes or doesn’t. What if the family is Buddhist or Hindu or even atheistic? Those three don’t/can’t have a duty to (specifically) God – especially the last one.

      But I’m with you, Jason. I’d love to get some clarification on that question. I hope I’m wrong on what it seems to imply.

      “My religion is simple. My religion is kindness.” — The Dalai Lama

      • Duty to God isn’t specific to any particular religion. There are Relgious Emblems available for both Hinduism and Buddhism, along with a variety of other religions.

        • To me religion is personal. I don’t wear my religion on my sleeve and don’t care what anyone else believes – so keep it to yourself.

          The problem I see here is that Scouts will be forced to complete requirements that while may be according to their church’s doctrines do not reflect their own personal interpretation of those doctrines. And then to be determined complete or incomplete by someone else’s standards.

        • Matt, you’ve pretty much hit it on the head and this is essentially the question/point I’m asking/making here. Religion is a highly personal thing and to have the BSA, in some way, enforce that religion is required to Eagle, strikes me as wrong.

          Way further down this thread, this comment was made, which was pretty spot on, in my book:

          “Their belief in God and their reverence is between them, their God and their family. We should not be requiring proof of their beliefs, after all religion is about faith. We are not enforcers, we are mentors and leaders.”

      • Unfortunately, atheism or agnosticism isn’t allowed. Heck, neither is the UUA.

        Leads to interesting faith requirement conversations with my agnostic son. “Still not sure if god exists?”
        “Still OK if others believe?”
        …OK that’s completed.

    • Just Like Scout Scout Spirit the scout lives by the Scout Law and Oath Duty to god is that he follows his religion I would think, so if it God, Budah or Fred Flintstone you know as a scout leader if that child is following his relgion in most cases by how he carries himself

  8. I personally disagree with the idea of making Scout a rank. My personal opinion is that it should be eliminated all along since it does not serve a real purpose. The Scout requirements were part of the Tenderfoot rank for years and that is the way it should have remained. Scouting is supposed to be fun, but with many of these nonsense changes in rank requirements that kids are not attracted to, or interested in, what the BSA is doing is discouraging them and, driving them out of the program.

    • It actually does serve a purpose if you have a boy who is entering the Boy Scouts without ever having been a Cub Scout. It serves Boy Scouts in the same way Bobcat serves Cub Scouts. It is the introductory pieces you need to know about about being a Boy Scout. The promise, law, motto, etc all serve a purpose in letting a scout know what they are expected to live up to in the same way.

      So Scout in Boy Scouts is no different than Bobcat for Cub Scouts.

    • YOu know, I don’t really understand the Scout badge other than it’s something that can be earned by the new scout rather quickly. Pin a patch on his shirt quickly and he’s bought in?

  9. Can we please put more basic outdoor info backin the book? When I used the 2010 edition for IOLS, I saw that so much basic info was missing, I ended up creating my own outdoow skills pamphlet to hand out using info from William “Green Bar Bill” Hillcourt’s various editions of the BSHB.

    B-P’s quote on advancement is as valid today: “Advancement should come as naturally as a suntan, it just happens in the outdoors.”

    Which reminds me, can we please correct the quote on Scouting and Outing in the current book? It should read “Outing is three-fourths of Scouting” Just do the math, i.e. 6/8 = 3/4. 😉

      • @Sherman- I have to politely disagree with your idea of scouting being 100% outing. I think this because while the majority (around 75%) of scouting (such as learning skills and what not) should be done in an outdoor setting, there is so much more to scouting than just camping trips, backpacking trips, summer camp, etcetera. The fact is, Scouting should not and is not something that only takes place at BSA sponsored events. In actuality, scouting should be seen as a lifestyle choice and not an “hour a week” deal. For example, the Scout Law asks a Scout to be “Clean.” But does that mean a Scout should only “freshen up” his physical and mental self when he is at a Scouting function? Absolutely not! He should strive to achieve the same lofty standards of the Scout Oath and Law in his personal life as well as in his Scouting career. Just my two cents.
        YIS, Adam

      • Sherman,

        I’m just quoting the late William “Green Bar Bill ” Hillcourt in his SM handbook, 3d edition, volume 1. Sorry don’t remember the page number.

        I have a lot of respect for the man since IMHO he saved the BSA from the 1970s fiasco by coming out of retirement to write the ALL OUT FOR SCOUTING program that brought back the “OUTING in ScOUTING,” (including my favorite part of the program Brownsea 22 Junior Leader Training, and the 1979 Handbook

  10. “Duty to God incorporated in requirement to show Scout Spirit.” There are Scouts that believe in God, but are not active in church. Will the BSA require Scouts to be active in church to achieve this? How would a Scout fulfill his duty-to-God requirement and not be active in church? It isn’t my place to tell a Scout he has to be active in church so he can make it to the next rank.

        • I thought it was that a Scout had to have a religious belief, Buddhists can be scouts, and Buddhism is a non-theistic religion. UUA members can be Scouts, there is just no Religious Award for them.

          The way I have always interpreted it was that Scouting wants you to believe in something other than yourself, to have some sort of guiding philosophy. There are so many religions on this planet, that no matter what you believe, no matter what you guiding philosophy is, there is probably of group of people that hold the same beliefs, and have probably written them down and called it a religion.

      • Well they are not allowed. I have explored every which way to get around this for years now. Went as far as to tell my son he would never actually be awarded Eagle, and when I asked if just knowing he fulfilled everything just didn’t pass the BOR. Would he still try. He said NO. A scout doesn’t lie. So we now call ourselves neo-pegans. I worked very hard in creating this loophole definition of religion and what the word “god” and “higher power” means within our belief system.

        • UUA members are certainly allowed in Scouting. Despite the phrase “Duty to God” National has quite clear that members of non-theistic belief systems are welcome in Scouting. I’ve been to a.banquet of a Troop sponsored by a Buddhist temple in Chicago.

    • Your family and religious leaders teach you about God and the ways you can serve. You do your duty to God by following the wisdom of those teachings every day and by respecting and defending the rights of others to practice their own beliefs.


      Your family and religious leaders teach you to know and serve
      God. By following these teachings, you do your duty to God.

      from: Webelos Handbook

      There are also Webelos requirements that are likely to be close to what would be required. Earning the religious emblem will probably be in there as a option somewhere. However the Webelos requirements are currently very biased towards organized religion using the term “church, temple,
      mosque, synagogue, or religious group” repeatedly.

      • I’m not sure what you mean by “biased.” It is an official BSA position that young people need faith and that children benefit from the moral compass provided by religious tradition. Religion is an ORGANIZED collection of beliefs, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to an order of existence. I know very few adults and no youth with the faculties to independently develop a substantial spiritual belief system about the cosmos and human nature such that they could then derive morality, ethics, or faith-based guidelines for life, much less “follow the wisdom of those teachings.” Show me someone who tries to convince you that a boy is capable of independently developing a collection of beliefs, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to an order of existence and I’ll show you someone who likely just wants to sleep in on Sunday morning.

        • “Show me someone who tries to convince you that a boy is capable of independently developing a collection of beliefs, cultural systems, and world views…” Well, Joseph Smith said that he personally spoke with God at only 14 years old.

        • A ScoUT does not have to articulate all the things you list to be reverent and to recognize and try to satisfy a duty to God. I ask Scouts to tell me what their duty to God is. I don’t care about the details. I just want to hear him say he’s got one

    • if we are our brothers keeper it is our responsibility to enforce a belive in GOD. This must include attending worship services. P.s STOP calling them gay…they are Homosexuals and in wost cases they are agnostic they certainly are not gay.It’s time for the moral straight to act and speak up. What does the BSA stand for?, Are we truely building better citizens or is the BSA scared and giving into American greed and the immoral minority!

      • I can recommend a Scout (and his family) become active in religion and can even go as far as inviting them to the church I attend or recommend a church (or mosque, synagogue, etc.) for him and/or his family to attend. I can’t make them go (“enforce” as it was stated). “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink”. Brother’s keeper or not, there’s only so much a person can do. The BSA and it’s leaders shouldn’t become a religious police force. If a Scout has divorced parents, one Jewish and one Christian but neither are actively religious, then the Scout is stuck in the middle to have to decide what he has to do to meet a BSA requirement.- become Jewish or Christian (or Baptist or Protestant or Catholic, etc.)? So, without reading the specific writing of the requirement, a Scout stays a Tenderfoot until he’s 18 yrs. old because he and his family won’t be active religiously or dropping out entirely? That isn’t right. If a Scout simply has to lead a brief, interdenominational service, say grace at a meal on a camp out. or simply state what God/religion means to him to satisfy the requirement(s), then that could easily be done without stepping on the freedom of religion as it is written in the U.S. Constitution.

        • I guess then BSA will do away with “a Scout is Reverent” too in addition to “GOD and Country”. Just to make it easier to live a good life.. Ask youself what does Scouting really mean. Then ask yourself has scouting withstood the test of time? Do the moral and relegious beliefs still hold true? How many organization are still around that have changed from their core values that worked? Take a good look at yourself and the country and the world, every time man has turned away from GOD or thought man coukld do without GOD civilizations died, the world went to war and people lost their freedoms, their homes and their life. Their should at least be a relegious merit badge requirement for Eagle! To believe in rioght will concur wrong, good will concur evil, GOD and the devil gives our life meaning.. These sayings may not be true but without them, without striving for or believing in something higher than man we are a lost race and doomed to hardship, disease and becoming immoral.

      • Joesph, Where do the 767 Cub Scout, 803 Boy Scout, and 46 Venturing Buddhists fit into your plan? They certainly don’t believe in the same God that I presume you do but it is still a recognized religion in the BSA and is the third largest religion in the United States behind Christianity and Judaism. How are Buddhists going to complete the “Duty to God” requirements for Tenderfoot – First Class, which is what this topic has been about. The topic was not about removing God or “Reverent” from Scouting or the condemnation of mankind. Are you saying that we, as leaders, or the BSA in general “enforce” them to abandon Buddhism and “enforce” them to become a religion other than Buddhism simply because it doesn’t conform with your definition of God and religion? And, NO, there should not be a required religious merit badge for Eagle. Stop judging other people’s morality. No one, including God, has given you that right!

        • #1 I am not judging anyones relegion, and I am appaled you are using that argement. You have no valid response accept to act as a child and accuse othes of the same thing you do. As a matter of fact there are over 150 relegious merit badges as part of the BSA and think it should be a requirement to become and Eagle. The USA was based on relegious freedom and beleif, It was a reguirement to become a state. Today everyone wants their own little piece of American and it has come to the point that the USA is a house divided against itself. We have special interest groups, Towns that have be taken over by gangs, and contract killings and more. It has come to a point that in parts of the USA the police do not enforce the civil laws because the foreign culture has taken over. The USA has given itself away to foreign authority, minority mob rule and terrorism. and American Greed.The BSA was standing up to this, it was standing up for values like being physically strong, moraly straight and mentally awake , charity and unity and patriotism and fellowship.Yes I beleive in GOD and I think to make ethical decisions you need the guidence of relegion. I beleive in relegious freedom. It is a part of the USA ans the BSA and it should be emphasised and kept alive just like the Pioneering Skills, Knot Tieing, Respect for the USA Flag and live style.

        • Um, Joe, there are no religious MBs. In fact there are no BSA religious awards programs. The awards are supported by their respective religious entities, and one need not be a scout to earn them.

          They should not be required for Eagle because some scouts may believe that God does not want them to earn any medal that brags about their religious achievement.

          If I am forced to ask a kid about duty to God under the Scout Spirit requirement, I’ll be more than happy with “I meditate in my room” or “I pray in my own way.” In fact, I think there was a messenger who insisted his follower’s put that kind of duty before any trumped-up “playing church” requirement. His name slips my memory …

          Oh, by the way, Merry Orthodox Christmas everyone! 🙂

    • Being in an active religion is not a requirement for being in Boy Scouts, but a belief in God is required. The oath says we will do our Duty to God. Taht does not mean being in an organized religion, in fact the scout can be in a “home” church that is just his family. Belief in God in any form is acceptable. We just did an Eagle Board of Review for such a scout, in that case one of the parent’s writes the reccomendation letter for the religious leader, and the other parent writes the parent letter.

  11. Thanks Bryan for keeping all of us appraised in a timely fashion. You are the first resource I go to for the ‘straight dope’ on any changes in our wonderful programs. Change is a constant, and I’m glad the BSA embraces well structured changes for the good of the whole program, and the edification of the Scout.

  12. I’m curious, what group suggests and approves changes to the Scout manual? ……were should suggested changes be sent, and is there a forum to discuss proposed changes before they are finalized and implemented?

  13. Okay, rehashing membership controversies is all well and good, but my main concern is that we continue to drift further away from the original intent of the program. This is reflected in the current handbook, where traditional Scouting is forgotten to the extent that the date of B-P’s Brownsea encampment is listed differently in two places. Not only are we keeping the Boy Scout “badge,” but now we’re making it a rank? Have we gotten so far from B-P’s vision of “a school of citizenship through woodcraft that we accept the notion that values can be learned at a keyboard with a responsible adult and that somehow passes as “Scouting?!” Unbelievable!

  14. Bryan, do you know what is meant by “Service at all ranks (conservation-related at Life)”?
    Does this mean that, in order to reach the rank of Life a Star Scout will need to perform conservation-related service project? Or does it mean that once they are at Life, in addition to doing an Eagle project a Life Scout will need to participate in a conservation-related service project? If a Life Scout is expected to do additional service besides executing an Eagle project that, to me, would constitute a big change. Granted an active scout is most likely helping with other projects anyway, However, once you declare they must be of a particular nature, that might make it more difficult for so many busy boys. Of course, if their Eagle project is conservation-related, they might kill two birds with one stone.

    I’m just curious if you, or if anyone else knows what that statement actually means, or is it just too early to say.

  15. Bryan, do you know what is meant by “Service at all ranks (conservation-related at Life)”? I am particularly interested in your use of the word “at”.

    Does this mean that, in order to earn Life, a Star Scout will need to perform conservation-related service? Or, does it mean that once a Scout is “at” Life, he will now be required to perform a conservation-related service project? If it is the latter, then, in my opinion, that would constitute a big change, because presently Life Scouts are not required to perform service outside of executing an Eagle project. Granted, an active Life Scout is probably already doing service with his troop anyway, but having to do a specific type of service may be more difficult for those who are already busy with school and other extra-curriculars.

    Also, if it does mean that boys who are Life Scouts effective 1/ 2016 will need to do a specific type of service (conservation-related), isn’t likely this will make many push to Eagle, just like the Cooking MB change did?

    Of course, if a Life Scout’s Eagle project is conservation related, problem solved. But not all projects are conservation related. Now I’m wondering, if the National BSA is moving toward someday requiring all Eagle projects to be conservation related.

  16. Not Bryan but I think it means the Star rank service project FOR Life will be conservation related. i don’t think there is any movement to required EPs to be conservation ones.

    Back in the day a scout had to do 2 service projects for Star and Life… a community service one and a conservation one. They were separate rank requirements.

    Adding a Service project for TF, and 1st where there is none now is a good thing. I guess if Scout is going to be a rank as well, they should have a service project for that rank as well.

    • Matt, there is no such thing as a “Star rank service project” for the Life rank.

      The language for the Life rank requires a Star Scout to “take part in service project(s) totaling at least six hours of work. These projects must be approved by your Scoutmaster.”

      This is the same language as is found in the requirements for Star rank (i.e., for a First Class scout who wants to be a Star Scout).

      The scout has to do six hours of service work (could be one or several different events).

      Some people think that a Star Scout must undertake some form of “mini Eagle” project in order to become a Life Scout. Instead, all he has to do is participate in some approved service work (such as Scouting for Food, working on someone else’s Eagle project, etc.).

      • Sorry for the poor wording..I was trying to answer Deb.

        It’s the SP requirement for Star while a 1st class and the SP req for Life while a Star. The SP req for Life is the one referred to by Bryan as being conservation related

    • Thanks Matt. I hate being the semantics police, but wording is everything. Just like in that book Eats, Shoots and Leaves.

  17. Please find a better book binder. The current book is split in almost all my scouts, even the ones who haven’t read the book.

  18. Having been a ScoutmSter for 15 years and an Eagle Scout, I have seen many different versions of the scout handbook, and I have to agree, the current one is far and away from the earlier versions that stressed the outdoor merit badges and outdoor training. And I would prefer the older type, cause I am an older scout. With all the movement we are doing to try to include or keep today’s youth, maybe that is what they had in mind with this current version. We use the book, we use the field book, we use the merit badge books and we use eperience. We are able to maintain most of our scouts to 18 and see many of them achieve their Eagle ranks.

    I hate to get Joe going again, but I get the opportunity to sit on a lot of Eagle boards. I will tell you that many of them would not have gone for their Eagle if they were being required to earn a religious merit badge. Their belief in God and their reverence is between them, their God and their family. We should not be requiring proof of their beliefs, after all religion is about faith. We are not enforcers, we are mentors and leaders.

    • “Their belief in God and their reverence is between them, their God and their family. We should not be requiring proof of their beliefs, after all religion is about faith. We are not enforcers, we are mentors and leaders.”

      Hear, hear.

  19. So instead of “T-1C can all be done in whatever order you want, but you can’t actually earn them unless you finish T, then 2C then 1C” it’ll be “they can all be done in whatever order you want, but you can’t actually earn them until you’re done with everything”? Why not simply make T-1C one big rank? If it’s all earned together, why bother making it separate ranks?

  20. Seems public relations and political correctness is driving all this. Are these changes addressing needed improvements in the program and the interests of the Scouts or are these just the hot buttons you get from watching CNN?

    They lost me in the second paragraph with no changes to the merit badge program. As long as half the Eagle required MBs can be earned sitting down there is a serious problem with that part of the program. I’ve yet to have a Scout complain to me they really want to learn more about the food guide pyramid or Leave Not Trace. I constantly hear complaints about three different social studies badges and the silliness of family life. Fix that.

    I’ll will also carefully watch the religious changes. One of my stock SM conferences questions is to open-endedly ask “how do you demonstrate Reverence or do you Duty to God?” There is no wrong answer. Anything much more invasive than that will be an issue. Maybe this is a just a bone being thrown to those offended by the membership policy.

    • The reason the MB program is broken isn’t because of the content of the MBs. There have always been “sit-down” badges, like Coin Collecting MB (1938), Computers MB (1967!), Law MB (1974), Reading MB (1924), etc. The problem is that rather than send scouts out to meet with merit badge counselors, we are “teaching” merit badges in a classroom-like setting. The program exists to encourage boys to discover career opportunities or develop hobbies, and to learn how to take initative and interact with people they don’t know very well. We’ve failed them in that regard.

  21. While were at it … can we be thrifty and produce the BSHB in black-and-white?
    Our boys need something to offset the faster-than-inflation rising costs of membership.

  22. Reblogged this on BSA Troop 45 and commented:
    I like some of the changes they’re adding to the rank progression. We’ve seen some of this building over the years, so I’m really glad to see it incorporated into the handbooks.

    • I’m really disappointed in the QUALITY of the BSA Handbooks. The bound copies shed pages rather quickly, while the coil books have a multitude of problems including poor quality coils that break easily (can’t we find a plastic that won’t break?), ad the pages come out easily (either because poor quality paper or the areas between the coil and the bound edge of the book is too small. My scouts have handbooks that are 1 or 2 years old and are FALLING APART! It’s not just 1 or 2, but rather all of our 20 newest scouts have issues. My handbook from 1978 is going strong. The cover has torn off, but the really thin pages don’t look like they would ever fall out. They are bound really strongly!

      • I agree. I know many scouts that have had pages in their handbooks fall simply from regular use. I hope the new handbooks will improve on the quality.

  23. Looks like some considerable tweaks. I like the change of Scout becoming an official rank. I wonder if it’ll require a BOR now? Service being required at each rank and Duty to God are probably the two changes I am most excited about.

  24. I’m glad to see this discussion getting back on-topic again. From the pictures I’ve seen of the new handbook, it’s cover is a real improvement over the last few editions that look as if they were designed by some Madison Ave art director. I just hope it’s put together better. I’ve a 5th ed that’s still in perfect shape, but it was made to be a working handbook living in pockets or packs rather than sitting on a book shelf 6 days/wk. Now as to it’s content…well, I’d like to see the emphisis on the outdoors too, but untill I actually SEE what they plan to put inside, there’s no point in just speculating.

  25. I think the BSA uses these revisions and updates as a profit center. They figured out that every time they change a book, everybody has to go out and buy new ones. It is the same as with the merit badge books. They make an “update” that is, most of the time, a slight change in wording. Then the book you already paid for is obsolete and you have to buy a new one. Previously, books remained unchanged for 10 years or more. Why are they squeezing this one out after just six? As far as the MB books go, isn’t it about time they make these into PDF files that you can just download from the web? Especially if they are going to change them so frequently. If they did that, maybe they would only cost $1 or $2 instead of $5.

    • Actually I think the current BSHB leaves out too much information, and a new handbook, with a lot of the information that was left out back in the book, is needed.

      Kinda sad when you teach Intro to Outdoor Leader Skills, and you have to create your own pamphlet using info from older handbooks and other sources becasue the new handbook doesn’t have it.

      • This has been the case for a long time. Back when I was a Scout, the “New” Handbook (6th Edition) was believed inferior to the “Old” book (5th Edition) which we believed had more “good stuff” in it, as well as sized to fit in a boy’s pocket. Big fancy pictures don’t make up for a lack of solid “how-to-do-it” information!

    • Sadly you’re probably right. The salaries paid to the top pros is crazy. 7 figures for some. Why do you think the registration fees doubled the same time the membership standards changed? DOUBLED.

  26. Can they PLEASE make it so that the BSA Handbook, Venturing Handbook and BSA Fieldbook all match in terms of info that is in all 3 publication? Currently they do not in terms of the order of the pots in the “3 Pot Method” of dish washing. hot Wash-Hot Rinse-Cold Sanitize vs Hot Wash-Hot Sanitize-Cold Rinse.

  27. Looks like some good changes. Makes me nervous though as my son will be working toward his Eagle at that time the new changes take affect. Do I push him to hurry up and finish before the changes? Or do I let him go at his own pace and roll with the changes when they come? He has time, just getting his Life now and he is 13 years old. Anyone have advice?

    • Life at age 13! Why are you in such a hurry? What leadership has he provided for the Troop and for the growth of other kids? He is barely a teenager. I refuse to certify anyone as Eagle before age 16…I object, because they have ‘taken’ from others and have not given back to the others. If you goal is to accelerate a kid through the program, the employer who asks at what age the kid received the Eagle, will invalidate the glory, honor, and fame that you have sought be pushing him through the program. I have seen this mistake occur with the quest for maximum number of Merit Badges, in which the Scout spends all of his time ‘stroking his own growth’ and not giving back to the Troop. In Chief Seattle Council, the average age for completion of Eagle is 17.4 years of age. Then there is time to learn skills, lead others, develop projects of worth, and build one’s character. Please do not cheat the kid by having him forced to advance too quickly. Thank you.

        • I did not make myself clear. I did not add anything for the Life rank, but I am concerned about the concept of rushing on to ‘ Eagle out’ at an early age and still leave a kid with a distinguished Scout achievement but without the lifetime skills and the ability to do outreach for others in the Troop. So many who attain Eagle at a very young age, will leave the program altogether as soon as they have won the prize. We need to retain depth and commitment as long as possible for the sake of other Scouts and for the depth needed to retain vigor in the Troop. Of course, I have seen this happen many times, hence my concern. Thank you for clarification.

      • I couldn’t agree more, Howard. It would be great if, instead of a time requirement for ranks, that we had age requirements. 15 year old Eagles and younger typically don’t stick around (at least in my area) for true youth leadership to develop. “Eagling Out” is a common term here and grates on my nerves to no end. These boys that have earned Eagles are the ones we, as leaders, want to have around. The current requirements have them finished at the halfway point in their BSA youth experience.

      • I’m discovering that most boys in our troop Eagle out at a young age not because they’ve “won the prize” but because of BSA and all their rules and policies. Boys aren’t even allowed to have a water gun fight anymore or do anything fun without a gazillion hoops to jump through. The adult leaders and the boys are “over it”. Besides that once they get to high school the sports really gets more intense. They are required to not miss a meeting or a practice and their participation in scouts suffers. And really they’d rather be at their sport than at scouts. I’m all for keeping our boys safe but really something’s gotta change.

        I’m feeling like I want my son to hurry up and get through his Eagle, no putting it off. Especially with these changes in 2016. Then he can start a Venture crew and maybe renew his enthusiasm for scouting.

  28. The new requirements were presented at the national meeting last week, correct? Have the new requirements been published online yet?

  29. I saw somewhere that the number of nights of camping for 1st Class is going up, but I can’t verify that anywhere. True? Not?

  30. Finally, the new requirements are available:

    To answer the question about new scouts, they should probably get the current handbook, because they can use it until they start on Star rank, as long as they reach FC by 12/31/16. They will use the new requirements for Star/Life/Eagle, or in 2017, whichever comes first, so they would just need a printout stapled in their handbooks at that point. See:

    Remember, if they get caught part of the way to FC, many of the requirements are similar enough that they can be signed off immediately, so the transition still wouldn’t be too difficult.

  31. So . . . besides not allowing to use water balloons and squirt guns (much too aggressive).
    for 2016 BSA has done away with the requirement to “Repeat the Pledge of Allegiance” as part of the Scout badge/rank requirements . . .

  32. I am not part of the conversation but need help in finding a scout handbook we think is from the late 1970s for our son in Australia. He has been looking everywhere and believes it has a picture of a scout and a canoe on the front cover. Can anyone help or point us in the right direction?

    • I have them all, but none with a canoe on the front cover. Your best bet is to go to ebay and look for boy scout handbooks

    • That’s the standard handbook from the early 1980s I believe. Norman Rockwell painting and there’s scouts with a canoe in the background.

  33. Scout Rank will become a official rank in January – Scout Rank Requirements—Comparable to the required Arrow of Light adventure, “Scouting Adventure”

    NOTE: Scout is not currently a rank, but will become a rank effective Jan. 1, 2016. Upon joining, a Scout must still meet the age requirements. He must be a boy

    who is 11 years old, or one who has completed the fifth grade or earned the Arrow of Light Award and is at least 10 years old, but is not yet 18 years old.

    Requirement #7 – Since joining the troop and while working on Scout rank, participate in a

    Scoutmaster conference.

  34. The salute in incorect on you poster boy. The British use the palm up but Americans salute is palm slitly slanted downward. Looking at the scout as he salutes you should see the tops of the nuckles.

  35. I have spent at least a hour reading the various comments and find many quite interesting – naturally I agree with some and not with others – I was a Cubmaster, Scoutmaster, and Explorer Advisor for more than 40 years (1950 – 1990) in units outside of Washington, D.C.– my boys came from all over the world — sexual orientation was never a problem — as as far as religion — I always met with the parents of the boy and discussed religion — if they believed in a god — that was good enough for me — they could have been native American, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, or Hindu — it didn’t matter to me — they believed in their god and followed their doctrines — they were invited to join — it sure worked for me — !

    • (Sorry for the off-topic reply, though I concur 100% with your comments, but if this is William Ferkler once upon a long time ago of Troop 1450 in Rockville, I would dearly love to hear from you. Dave -at- Heston -dot- pro.)

  36. The little tweaks in the program are OK. But, Have they not heard of issuing an addenda sheet? Oh! Right: Tweaks sell more books. And about the handbooks: Just because we can do something with Photoshop-Publishing now; that does NOT mean they should do it. It’s a messy “handbook” now. National Council, a ~100% top-down organization, might also consider this data:
    At the peak in ~1960: 5.3+ million Scouts in US population of 180 million; ~3%
    Now: Maybe(?) 2.6 million and dropping, in US population of 320 million: 0.8 %
    BSA has lost ~75% of their US population share within the span of my Scouting career.
    And National Council just keeps growing, reorganizing, & tweaking the program.
    It would seem they should be focusing on other things.

  37. Just bought three new Scout books. First thing I noticed was no page references in the requirements section. It is really nice to be able to have the boys reference back into the book to review their requirements! THEY NEED TO ADD THIS BACK IN!!!

    • I second your request. The missing page references is going to make it very difficult for teaching these skills. Additionally, there are new requirements and it would be helpful to reference the section where there is ambiguity. The page references are necessary for the scouts to quickly find the relevant section not only instruction, but also for “homework” for the new scout. BSA needs to get a fix out ASAP.

    • I third that request! Last night a new scout wanted to go over the 4 steps of advancement and I could not find it anywhere in the book to have him review it. I had to look it up on my phone (though we have a “no screens” rule in our meetings) but couldn’t really have him study it. Very frustrating.

  38. I think removing swimming as Eagle required is a mistake. I can buy lifesaving which I was required to have as it was hard but swimming should not be an option. Keep standards high not easier. But I hate to say it but we emphasis Eagle too much over what we are suppose to doing—teaching the Scout Oath and Law !!!!

  39. Thanks BSA for removing the page numbers listed in the rank requirement summaries. As a leader I really appreciate it when the BSA makeS my life harder for no good reason. I don’t have enough to do to keep me busy as it is.

    • I’ve started making my own page number guide, but there are things that I literally can not find in the book! I hope BSA e-publishes something.

  40. The page numbers taken out deal is my only complaint so far with the new book, it makes me want to go back to the old one. I could look them all up, but why should I have to? Who made that call?

  41. Recently received my 65th (actually 67) year Scouting membership certificate, I have a copy of every Scout Handbook (sadly only a copy of the first), and up until around 1960 they were very good, well written, constructive, and useful. After that, downhill each new copy. It was indeed sad, the day that the Merit Badge Requirements were removed. Being able, to sit as a kid, and look through requirements, led me into many new subjects and information. Eventually, one of them led me to a lifetime of employment. Today, a boy has to really dig, and then not have all the info just right there at hand, all at one time. Computers are OK but one has to know the name of badges to even do that. Seems like we had around 116 or so badges back then (im not gonna go count them), and there are a few new ones now, and several old ones gone, but please, please, please, add them back in next time. Also over the years they have gone to excellent drawings for some things like knots, and eventaully photos took over – not always the best solution.

  42. A Scout in our troop had just earned his Tenderfoot when the new program requirements and handbooks came out. He was also partially through both his Second and First Class at the time. He is now almost finished with both of those ranks…according to the old handbook. Now our Scout Master is telling this Scout that he can finish Second Class in the old book, but must convert to the new book for First Class. In my view, the language in the program changes seems to state that he can finish First Class in the old book (and then must use the new book for Star/Life/Eagle, of course). Can I get an official clarification on it? Is this, perhaps, a decision that is left to the troop, and the troop has decided to do it this way? Or is the decision meant to be left to the Scout, to decide whether he chooses to use the new book through First Class or not?

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