What are Values?

Values are those things that really matter to each of us … the ideas and beliefs we hold as special. Caring for others, for example, is a value; so is the freedom to express our opinions.

Most of us learned our values – or morals, if you prefer – at home, at church or synagogue, at school. But, where are our children learning their values? Maybe from parents, teachers and religious leaders, but society has changed. Too often young people today are most influenced by what they see and hear on television or on the street.

For this reason, the Boy Scouts of America – the nation’s largest youth development organization – introduced new tools to help young people – from Cub Scouts through Exploring – develop positive values while learning to make ethical decisions.

The Scout Oath and Law express a well-defined code of ethical and moral conduct. If you think about it, you’ll see that these abstract ideas – trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, reverent – can become very concrete goals for young people.

No, these ideas aren’t "new and improved." They’ve been around since the very beginning of Scouting. These new tools provide a means for teaching today’s young people how to apply these abstract ideas in everyday situations.

Scouting is designed to keep young people busy and involved in all sorts of projects. Scouts learn by doing, and learning values is as action-oriented as other Scouting programs. And all are designed to help young people acquire the values that they will strive toward well beyond their Scouting years.

After years of talk about the "moral decay" in just about every area of American life, our society seems to be turning back to the traditional values that guided this nation to greatness. To pass these values on to our children through Scouting relies upon three components: caring adults, age-appropriate and purposeful activities, and meaningful roles in the community

Leadership training and the literature of Scouting have been revised to help caring adults become better, more effective Scout leaders … to recognize that young people develop physically, mentally, socially – and, yes, ethically – at different rates … to identify community service projects that drive home the message that young people, by interacting with people in their community, can have a positive impact on the world around them.

Building upon Scouting’s long history of youth development, makes this heritage even more relevant in meeting the needs of contemporary youth.

The Mission of the Boy Scouts of America

It is the mission of the Boy Scouts of America to serve others by helping to instill values in young people and in other ways prepare them to make ethical choices over their lifetime in achieving their full potential.

This mission statement has emerged from over 80 years of work with the youth of America. Leaders respond to it directly by helping young people define their personal values and ethics as they act and then reflect upon their actions. This "action learning" is an unmatched way to enhance value development.

This material was adapted from a pamphlet entitled "Ethics in Action" developed to familiarize leaders in the former North Central Region with the basic purposes of the program. The original material is copyright by the Boy Scouts of America, 1990

Scouting is a Game with a Purpose: Links

  By a Quiet Campfire
  What are Values?
  Bringing Scouting’s Values through to Youth
  Problem Solving
  Why You Should Read Chapter 10
of the Scoutmaster Handbook
  Some Thoughts on Reflection
Under development
  Community Service: An Extra Dimension
Under development

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Lewis P. Orans

Copyright © Lewis P. Orans, 1996
Last Modified: 1:118 PM 11-24-96