Neither the cost nor the value of Scouting should be ignored. For that reason, we offer the following to help you understand both. If you are a parent considering whether to sign your son or daughter up to be a Scout, we encourage you to discuss any concerns or questions with Scout leaders. If you still have questions, please contact the WD Boyce Council Service Center.
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The mission of the Boy Scouts of America is to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes. Scouting’s mission is a long-term proposition, an investment in the future.
The goal of the study by Dr. Richard M. Lerner and his team at Tufts University was to better understand the character development of Scouts while it was happening, rather than relying on former Scouts to recount their memories, or only measuring current Scouts at one point in time.
Positive Character in Scouting
When conducting research, it’s important to account for factors like age, race, socioeconomic status, and other demographic characteristics, because we want to know any change present can be attributed to Scouting.
To begin with, there were no significant differences between Scouts and non-Scouts. Were Scouts already higher in character, it would have shown that Scouting merely attracts good kids. Instead, the Scouts and non-Scouts were similar enough “to compare apples to apples” moving forward.
Two and a half years into the study, the boys in Cub Scouts reported significant increases in cheerfulness, helpfulness, kindness, obedience, trustworthiness and hopeful future expectations. There were no significant increases reported among non-Scouts.
Further, when asked what was most important to them, Scouts were significantly more likely than non-Scouts to choose helping others or doing the right thing as compared to being smart, being the best, or playing sports. This showed that boys in Scouts are more likely to embrace prosocial values than non-Scouts. Youth who participated in both sports and Scouting were also more likely to choose these same prosocial values than those who only played sports.
More Time in Scouting, Better Character Development
A 2012 independent research study of Scouts conducted by Baylor University found that Eagle Scouts are more likely to volunteer, donate money to charity, vote, and work with others to improve their neighborhood than men who have never been in Scouting. They were also found to be more goal-oriented, have higher levels of planning and preparation skills, and be more likely to take a leadership position at work or in their local communities.
Most of us would not be surprised to associate those types of behaviors with Eagle Scouts. But what about Scouting in general? Research has shown that more time spent in Scouting results in better character development. In fact, the Tufts study showed:
- Scouts who attend meetings regularly reported higher trustworthiness, helpfulness, kindness, and thriftiness, higher levels of hopeful future expectation and goal-setting, better grades, and a greater connection to nature as compared to Scouts who sometimes or rarely attend.
- As Scouts’ time in the program increases, they report higher levels of trustworthiness, intentional self-regulation, hopeful future expectations and better grades. (A separate 2018 survey showed that kids quit most sports by age 11.)
- Scouts who are engaged in Scouting programs – those who enjoy camping, have fun at meetings, wear the uniform, have friends in Scouting, have advancement goals and have family members participating – are more cheerful, helpful, kind, hopeful about the future and have higher intentional self-regulation.
In under 3 years, Cub Scouts already showed increases in 6 out of 10 character attributes compared to non-Scout peers.
Just imagine the results after more time in the program and Scouts BSA!
Adapted from “How Scouting Promotes Positive Character Development“
ScoutingWire, August 2015
Just as is true for most youth programs, there is a cost to Scouting.
But when compared to the financial cost of sports and many other activities, there is no doubt that Scouting delivers great value to its youth! Costs include BSA membership fees, uniform costs, and nominal activity fees that may be charged locally. Of course, these costs may be offset by fundraising and other available scholarship funds.
Your local unit* leadership can provide specific details, but the following presents a general summary:
BSA MEMBERSHIP (2023-23 Program Year)
Annual membership fee: $75
One-time joining fee: $25.
Scout Life magazine: $15/year
UNIFORM (Why Uniforms?)
Boys and girls uniform tops begin around $20-25
To cover the costs of awards and recognition, crafts, and special events many units have dues. Scout units may offer opportunities to conduct fundraisers to offset these costs. Dues are established by the families in the unit through the unit committee.
Additional activities such as overnight campouts, field trips, day camps and resident camps have additional costs associated with them. These costs differ based on several factors. Detailed information can be provided by the local unit leadership.
While Scouting is supported by a core of dedicated professionals, local units and programs are mostly organized and run by volunteers. Many of these volunteers are parents of current and former Scouts.
While there is not a fixed time requirement for parental involvement, Scouting cannot exist without adult volunteers. When your son or daughter joins Scouting, please recognize this need – and opportunity – for you to become engaged in the program as well. The benefits will be there for you, too.
* Each BSA program organizes youth into different groups, commonly referred to as “units.” For instance, Cub Scouts have packs, Scouts BSA has troops, Venturers have crews, Explorers have posts, etc.
How does Scouting compare to other activities, such as youth athletic programs? Here’s an August 2019 article from Money magazine, taking a look at the costs of popular youth sports:
Is Financial Assistance Available?
Yes! Financial assistance is available for Cub Scouts, Scouts BSA, Venturers, and Explorers who wish to attend W. D. Boyce Council summer programs. While funds are limited, the Council Program Committee makes every effort to honor requests. Click here for more information: https://www.wdboyce.org/resources/financial-assistance/68129
If you have additional questions or concerns about the costs of Scouting, please talk with your unit leader or contact the WD Boyce Council office.
Can Scouting and Sports Coexist?
Parents have some influence over which activities are appropriate for their children. And with a wide variety of choices available, Scouting is just one possibility when adding to any young person’s after-school or evening schedule. Sports are also an excellent and common choice.
With busy schedules, the demands of school and the very real need for family time, parents may feel it has to be a decision of one or the other – Scouting or sports. But youth who participate in Scouting and youth sports are more likely to embrace prosocial values such as ‘helping others’ or ‘doing the right thing’ than youth who only play sports. Many of the same characteristics championed in sports are reinforced by Scouting, and vice versa.
To read more about how Scouts and sports can coexist in a young person’s busy life, visit https://scoutingwire.org/ask-expert-can-scouting-sports-coexist/.