Jerry Williams (jerry_williams@JUNO.COM)
Mon, 27 Oct 1997 21:00:13 -0500
I'm new to both Scouting and the list and have been reading with
great interest the great debate on uniforms. Off the bat, two analogies
To the best of my knowledge, Scouting is not a paramilitary
organization. If I'm right about this, any comparison to the military,
regardless of which branch, are totally misplaced and only used to make a
The other issue is the comparison with sporting teams. The main
reason a sports team (and soccer seems to come up the most) requires a
top-down uniform is because of the need for quick identification. In
sports, one is not always looking straight ahead to see the name or logo
on a teammate's uniform. If your son is running downfield kicking a
soccer ball, the color of the socks or shorts may be the only way he has
to know if his teammate or an opponent is close at hand. In other words,
it is a necessity for safety and to insure the ability to move the
ball---neither of which are applicable to a Scout's uniform.
We live in a world where our children are too tuned into symbols.
While symbols do have an important role, it is what lies behind the
symbols that is of real importance. The Scout uniform is a symbol of
Scouting---it is not Scouting. A real Boy Scout is just as much a Scout
when he is in school, in church, at home watching TV, or in bed. In none
of these situations is he in his uniform.
We've all read of school violence related to expensive Starter
jackets or Nike sneakers (pardon the age slip----athletic shoes). These
items are considered symbols, yes, even uniforms of youth. Yet, when the
oppressor dons the just acquired coat, he does not become a different
person. He is still the same person he was before.
Perhaps these analogies are a bit off the mark but, my point is
that, IMHO, we as a total society often place too much emphasis on
symbols, regardless of how important they may be to all or some of us.
Our history is peppered by such euphemisms as "you can't tell a book by
its cover" and we and the teachers try to instill these values in our
children. Yet here we are as leaders of impressionable youth are doing
just the opposite--we are saying, in effect, that the book is empty
without the cover.
For my part, I do believe that full uniforms are important in
some situations such as color guards, COH, etc. The need for a full
uniform at a Troop meeting or even on a campout really escapes me.
If we were taking a vote, I would vote for a uniform shirt with
the proper insignia displayed in the proper manner. I would also require
that it be tucked into whatever clean and neat pants the boy wanted to
I believe that our focus should be on what's inside the boy
rather than what's on him. A certain degree of uniformity (sorry for the
pun) is desirable and, yes perhaps, required. Requiring full dress
uniform for every event is, again IMHO, transforming the Boy Scouts into
a paramilitary organization which is far from where it should be.
My thoughts, for what they're worth.
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City