More thoughts on the beginnings of hazing
Sage Backstrom (SageofAges@AOL.COM)
Mon, 15 Sep 1997 14:15:35 -0400
In a message dated 9/15/1997 11:12:54 PM, Claff@api.org wrote:
>As of this year, I am now the Cubmaster of Cub Scout Pack 1570, having
>been ACM, DL, etc. over the past 3 years. Since I've been in the pack,
>we've always turned our Bobcats. It never really bothered me much, but
>also, I never really gave it much thought.
>I know you're receiving a lot of flak, but I think your comments are
>absolutely right. We take a risk when we turn the scouts. And those
>who don't like being turned are compelled to enter into an activity of
>which they want no part - in order to recognize them for achievement.
>That seems misguided.
>So Pack 1570 will create an imaginative and safe alternative to Bobcat
>turning, and will put it in place this year. It should be simple enough
Thank you for this letter. I feel like I did something good for boys today.
There is everything RIGHT with starting a new tradition for all the right
reasons...just as there is everything WRONG with continuing a tradition that
is wrong. Notice in the Ceremonies book there are marvelous ideas and
starting points for awarding recognitions and not one involves inverting a
>That having been said, some not-so-simple questions still come to mind,
>and I'd like your thoughts on them. If the den goes bicycle riding, for
>example, and a boy who's never ridden a bike feels it's unsafe, should
>not the parents and scout leaders make an attempt to include him, and
>teach him to ride in spite of his objections?
>If a boy has a part in a den skit, but is afraid to play his part in
>front of the pack, should not parents and den leaders make an attempt to
>help him overcome his fears, and anxieties about possible humiliation,
>by urging him to do his best to play the part? Should they not point
>out that the activity is for the good of the pack, and that others in
>his den are relying on him?
For the bike riding...this is a individually determined and *ACCOMPLISHED*
activity. It is not something that must be DONE TO HIM in order for him to
receive a hard earned recognition. I would encourage him to do this, but I
would never compell him to do it. I have a son who is a amusement park ride
maniac...he is 4 and can't get enough of roller coasters (yes!), but I also
have a son who is petrified in fear of them. He will not even go on
something as tame as a carousel in our local mall. To compell him to
participate in the activity would be counter productive to his emotional
development *because* his life does NOT depend upon it. I will show him how
much fun the rest of the family has doing these activities, and when (and if)
he is ready to participate, he will.
I liken the inversion of a boy to receive the Bobcat to the military wings
hammered into a bare chest in later years (bringing to mind the appalling
image on the news). IT IS DONE TO THE RECIPIENT, it is not something the
recipient accomplish through individual effort. Achieving the requirements
of the recognition are worthy of more fitting accolade than to be hung in the
air. What we teach the boys lays the foundation for their behavior later in
life with other organizations.
By the same token, a boy who does not wish to take part in a den skit because
he is scared of public humiliation should be encouraged to try his best, but
NOT COMPELLED to do it if he really truly is scared. I am a MASTER LEVEL
trainer in my Girl Scout Council. I have been training leaders how to be
leaders for 10 years, I desparately HATE role playing activities. I am
uncomfortable participating in them and my fellow trainers respect that. As
a consquence, I do not compell leaders with the same type of discomfort to
participate in those activities. If they can attain the necessary knowledge
or skill in another fashion, then I will help them do it.
What enjoyment is there for that youth who is truly afraid? The potential
for harm, in the case of a skit-emotional, is too great. I feel the
particpant must be encouraged, but the ultimate decision for the risk taking
must be his. How else will he attain decision making skills he is
comfortable with for later years? Yes, he may even see the rest of the den
shine brightly and realize "It was not so bad. I could have been part of
that." He will remember that for the next time...and perhaps his decision
making will mature as will his willingness to participate in "personal risk
>It's a risk-filled world. Certain risks must be accepted to lead a
>rewarding life. I feel we cannot, and should not, try to create a
>risk-free scouting experience for our boys. Otherwise, our scouts will
>be taught to be afraid of any and all activity - mental, social, or
It is the matter of "acceptable" risk. I have a close friend of my husband
who "was" a avid and expertly accomplished rock climber. Was is operative
word. He died in a climbing accident...a risk he chose as acceptable based
on his previously matured decision making processes. It was his choice to do
this. We offer in scouting high adventure marked with a degree of acceptable
risk. Each boy chooses for himself the level of risk he is comfortable with,
and then only AFTER appropriate training.
>It's BALANCE that's needed, and though achieving that balance is hard to
>do in practice, it's our job and our responsibility as leaders. We must
>encourage boys to find out what they can do, and what they like to do,
>but must stop short of forcing their participation.
very well put. This discussion started out with the concern of older boy
scouts "hazing" younger members of their troop. I simple offered the
"inverting" Cub Scouts to receive their Bobcat rank as a place where it
starts. In that case, the older *adults* of the organization haze the boys.
By default and omission, it is an endorsement of hazing. (remember how boys
think...actions speak LOUDER than words)
>For the record, we've never had a complaint - from a scout or a parent -
>about Bobcat turning. Most love the activity, and laugh about it
>before, during, and after. But should we be doing it? That may be a
I have received responses from other Pack leaders who *have* dropped boys
during the "ceremony" (fortunately with no injury). In our pack, the first
time we saw this "ceremony" done, the father sitting next to me (who is a
lawyer) said "oh my...*not* with my son". To have a different ceremony,
which is what we did with the 3 boys, in the group of 14 Tigers who were
receiving the award, singled them out even more. They were taunted for
FOLLOWING THE RULES. My son was rather upset, but fortunately we (my Eagle
husband and I) were able to help him see the larger picture. My son was
damned if he did, damned if he didn't and ridiculed cause he didn't.
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City