Boy Scouting was the original program founded in
1910. In the early days a boy could be a Scout from12 years old to 18.
Age adjustments have been made over the years allowing a boy to join if
he has completed the fifth grade or has earned the Arrow of Light and is
at least 10 years old. The earliest Scouts could earn only three ranks:
Tenderfoot, Second Class and First Class. Three additional ranks were
added: Life, Star and Eagle. The advancement program remained relatively
stable for many years with only slight adjustments. In 1972, the list of
basic skills for the primary ranks was reorganized into 12 “skill
awards”. This system did not work well and in 1989 the BSA dropped the
skill awards and returned to the system used before 1972.
Before 1959, the BSA restricted Scouts from earning
merit badges while working on the basic ranks. They could earn only a few
badges until they completed First Class. In comparison, in 1972, a certain
number of merit badges had to be earned while working on Tenderfoot, Second
Class and First Class. This also did not work out well and in 1989 the merit
badge requirements for these ranks were eliminated. The Eagle rank was
established in 1911 as Scouting’s highest award. At first, the Eagle badge
only recognized the earning of 21 merit badges. Today the badge recognizes
earning merit badges along with leadership and service.
The BSA has provided special older-boy programs in an attempt to keep the older boy within the troop structure. Prior to 1950, this was the Explorer or Sea Scout Crew. From 1972 to 1989, it was the Leadership Corps. Presently Venture Crews can be organized within the troop to serve the needs of the older boys.