Boy Scouts

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Boy Scouts

Boy Scouts, organization of boys 11 to 17 years old, founded (1907) in Great Britain by Sir Robert (later Lord) Baden-Powell. It was incorporated in 1910 in the United States, where its appearance was connected with earlier organizations—the Sons of Daniel Boone, organized by Daniel Carter Beard, and the Woodcraft Indians, organized by Ernest Thompson Seton. In the United States, James E. West was chief scout during the organization's early years (1911–43). The movement spread throughout most of the world, with the organization and program basically the same in every country. Worldwide membership is estimated at 25 million. The first international gathering of Boy Scouts, called a jamboree, was held in London in 1920. The Scouts are intended to be nonmilitary and without racial, religious, political, or class distinctions. The Supreme Court affirmed the organization's right to limit membership to those who believe in God in 1993 and its right to exclude homosexuals in 2000, a policy that has been controversial in some areas. The Boy Scouts subsequently voted to admit openly gay youths (2013) and permit gay adult leaders (2015; Scout units sponsored by religious groups were exempted). Activities of the Boy Scouts aim at mental, moral, and physical development, stressing outdoor skills and training in citizenship and lifesaving. The basic scout unit is a troop of about 15 boys, under the leadership of an adult scoutmaster. Adjunct programs of the Boy Scouts include boys and young men 7 to 20 years old. See also Girl Scouts.

See E. Nicholson, Education and the Boy Scout Movement in America (1941, repr. 1973).

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