Push-ups and Hazing, etc.
James H. Brown (jbrown@BURGOYNE.COM)
Wed, 22 Jul 1998 12:18:28 -0600
I know this is a hot button for many, but here goes ...
Please note that throughout this post I refer to 'push-ups' but you could
easily substitute any appropriate physical activity (pull-ups,
walking/running, sit-ups, etc.) Explicitly EXCLUDED from the list of
appropriate activities are true corporal punishments such as flogging,
spanking, running the gauntlet, belt lines, etc. Also, there is an
assumption throughout that the punishment is being administered by an adult,
not another boy.
First, I would like someone to give me a canonical reference for the "no
push-ups as a punishment" BSA rule. So far all I have found is the "no
hazing" and "safe environment" references, neither of which prohibit
push-ups as a disciplinary action.
Also, if push-ups are actually outlawed, I would like someone to explain the
rational behind this to me. In order to save time, let me refute the only
arguments I've heard to date.
1. Doing push-ups is demeaning to the individual
If that is true, then why is it not demeaning to do them as a requirement
for Tenderfoot? Ah, you say it is because it is a punishment, not a
requirement. Well if that is the case then why isn't having a timeout at
least as demeaning? Answer: it is more demeaning to have a timeout. I've
asked several Scouts which they find more demeaning, doing 10 pushups or
having a 10 minute timeout (as suggested in the SM handbook). The unanimous
response is that a timeout is much more demeaning than doing pushups.
The fact of the matter is that ANY punishment CAN be demeaning if it is
administered incorrectly. If I stand at the front of the group and say, in
a loud, gruff voice, "Johnny, you have to stay after troop meeting for a SM
conference" it is demeaning. On the other hand, if I take a boy aside and
tell him to do 10 pushups, at the back of the troop meeting, it is not
demeaning to the boy.
2. Some kids can't do push-ups
Then they will never pass the rank of tenderfoot. Also, for any punishment
you care to name I can show you boys who can't do it. Again, taking the
suggested punishment from the SM handbook, timeouts, we have Scouts in our
troop who would be physically and psychologically incapable of sitting in a
timeout for 10 minutes.
Once again, it comes down to how the punishment is handled by the adult.
The punishment must be within the capabilities of the boy and it must be
appropriate. Having a 30 minute timeout for not saying "please" or "thank
you" is just as inappropriate as assigning 500 pushups to a boy that forgot
to bring his book.
3. The punishment should, itself, retrain the individual
Contrived example: Offense: you forgot how to tie a square knot. Punishment:
tie a square knot 10 times.
I think that you can easily see where you would loose using this argument,
right? Well, just in case, here's the reader's digest. Explain to me how a
timeout, again, the suggested SM handbook punishment, teaches or retrains
the individual in any way. Answer: it doesn't. At least physical activity
redirects extra energy and has a health benefit.
4. It is hazing and hazing is not permitted
I agree that hazing should not be permitted. However, discipline and hazing
are not the same. I looked up hazing in my dictionary at home, here's what
Haze -- 1. In nautical usage, to oppress, punish, or harass by forcing to do
hard & unnecessary work. 2. To initiate or discipline (fellow students) by
means of horseplay, practical jokes, and tricks, often in the nature of
humiliating or painful ordeals.
Let's look at these definitions individually. If you argue that pushups are
within the meaning of definition 1 then I think we need to revise the
Tenderfoot requirements because they (pushups, sit-ups, pull-ups, etc.),
too, are clearly within the scope of this definition. If you argue that it
is definition 2 then we better cancel all OA activities because the OA
ordeal is clearly within the scope of this definition.
Actually I've wondered how long it would be before someone successfully
argued that the tap out ceremony and the OA ordeal are clearly within the
reasonable definition of hazing and initiation. We require the boys to
endure the ordeal to become a member of the group, that's both "hazing" and
"initiation" which are supposedly against the rules. If you think I'm
wrong, try to make a rational distinction between the OA ordeal and a snipe
hunt (we take these kids out at night, leave them all alone, they have no
idea what's going on, they can't talk, etc.).
Once again, anything can be hazing if taken to extremes. Asking a
Tenderfoot Scout to stand in front of the troop, as part of a court of honor
ceremony, and recite the Scout Oath and Law can be considered hazing of some
boys because it is "harassing by forcing to do hard & unnecessary work."
5. Just 'cause we said so
Sorry, but that's not an answer. I asked for an explanation of the rational
behind this supposed rule. "Because" is not an answer.
-- Summary --
The long and the short of it is that there is no reason not to use
appropriate physical activity, such as pushups, as a disciplinary action for
reasonable offenses. Any disciplinary action (timeouts, keeping a boy
after, etc.) can be taken to extremes and be detrimental. In fact, many
psychological studies have shown that timeouts are about the worst form of
punishment. Appropriate physical activity is a good substitute because it
releases energy (which may well have been the cause of the problem in the
first place; isn't that also why we use wide games?), it promotes physical
fitness (which is an aim of Scouting), and it clearly puts to boy back on
[Asbestos suit=ON] Flame away!
I used to be a beaver ...
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City