Scouts or Boy Scouts, organization of boys and girls 11 to 17 years old, founded (1907) in Great Britain by Sir Robert (later Lord) Baden-Powell and originally for boys only; since the late 20th cent., many national organizations have moved to admit girls also. The Scout movement has spread throughout most of the world, with the organization and program basically the same in every country. Worldwide membership is more than 50 million. The group's first international gathering, called a jamboree, was held in London in 1920, and the World Organization of the Scout Movement gradually evolved from the international Scout meetings.

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) 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 early years of the BSA (1911–43). The Supreme Court affirmed the BSA's right to limit membership to those who believe in God in 1993 and its right to exclude homosexuals in 2000. The BSA subsequently voted to admit openly gay youths (2013), permit gay adult leaders (2015; Scout units sponsored by religious groups were exempted), and admit girls (Cub Scouts in 2018, Scouts BSA in 2019). A growing number of sexual abuse claims against the BSA in the late 2010s led the national organization to file for bankruptcy protection in early 2020 and move to create a compensation fund.

The Scouts are intended to be nonmilitary and without racial, religious, political, or class distinctions. Activities of Scouts BSA (BSA's 11 to 17 program) 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, under the leadership of an adult scoutmaster. Cub Scouts and other adjunct programs of the BSA expand the range of included ages to from 7 to 21 years old.

See also Girl Scouts.

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

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