For many people, one of the interesting and at times confusing BSA program is Learning for Life (LFL). Confusing, because BSA seems to have intentionally gone out of it's way to make it so. To compare BSA's shell game it plays with LFL to the accounting frauds perpetrated by the likes of Arthur Anderson, Enron, MCI Worldcom, and other corporations, is not unfair. The similarities are there and very un-Scout-like.
The genesis of LFL can be found in BSA's In-School Scouting program, which began in 1982. In-School Scouting developed from the Inner-city/Rural program of the 1960's and found itself in the Urban/Rural Field Service. The purpose of In-School Scouting was to bring the Scouting program to "inner-cities and other areas where transient populations,
lack of resources, and a dearth of parent volunteers make traditional Scouting difficult." BSA partnered with school districts and public school teachers conducted "scout meetings," during the regular school day.
During the 1980's a study was conducted on In-School Scouting, in those selected councils using the program. In October of 1990, the BSA National Executive Board approved formation of a new
"subsidiary corporation" - Learning for Life. LFL was introduced to the public in September 1991. At the time, LFL's purpose was to separate the traditional programs of the Boy Scouts of America from its non-traditional In-School Scouting programs.
The one major aspect of LFL that remained the same, as traditional BSA programs, is that adult (and youth membership) leadership in LFL were subjected to BSA's discriminatory policies with
regard to religious belief and sexual orientation. (BSA's own Education Relationships Committee did not approve of the extension of the BSA's discriminatory policy to LFL.)
The new LFL program provided a "supplemental curricula" to school districts, which would focus on ethical decision making and character development. LFL would provide lesson plans for use by teachers in kindergarten through high school. LFL was not intended
to compete with traditional BSA programs. As such, it was designed to be conducted on public school grounds, during normal class time, and using school personnel.
As with the previous In-School Scouting program, LFL was not a mandatory program for local councils. It was left to the local council executive board to determine the scope of any potential involvement with the program.
In February 1998, a major reorganization within BSA occurred. The BSA National Executive Board basically divided the current Exploring program into two groupings: 1) Career-awareness Exploring and 2) traditional high-adventure Exploring. BSA moved those participating in Career-awareness Exploring units to LFL and those in high-adventure (or traditional) Exploring units into a new BSA program called Venturing.
The Venturing program includes girls and boys ages 14 through 20 who have completed the eighth grade and are members of the current high-adventure, religious, and outdoor Exploring units.
The Learning for Life program would include girls and boys who participate in elementary school, middle/junior high, high school, special needs, and current Career-awareness Exploring units.
Another major change in this reorganization for LFL was the adoption of a non-discrimination policy for all participants and leaders in LFL. As mentioned previously, the reason for this change was money.
While LFL is a separate "corporation" from BSA, it is a subsidiary of BSA. Thus, any and all revenues from LFL flows into the coffers of BSA, Inc.
In defending their discrimination policy before the Supreme Court, BSA relied on the same arguments the Klu Klux Klan has made. So it is an appropriate analogy to ask United Way chapters if they
would consider giving money to a "subsidiary corporation" of the KKK, if that "subsidiary corporation" had a non-discrimination policy?
As of the end of 2011, the BSA reported that there 624,124 participants in about 7,900 schools and organizations participating in LFL programs. In addition to public schools (now that parts of
Exploring are in LFL), LFL programs are operated in conjunction with law enforcement agencies, fire departments and other governmental organizations across the country. As such, LFL is funded substantially by governmental organizations - our tax money.
At a cost of approximately $10/participant and $250/classroom, LFL is a money-making machine for BSA. In 2002, the State of Florida passed an appropriations bill in the amount of $1.5 million,
from the General Revenue Fund, to contract with BSA for Learning for Life. BSA is already partnered with the US Department of Education.