Re: Push-ups and Hazing, etc.
Ian N Ford FRSH (addvent@DIRCON.CO.UK)
Thu, 23 Jul 1998 06:18:50 +0100
First, let me apologize to James and the list for a barbed remark at the
end of my post. It was unkind and didn't add to the discussion.
I will not be able to keep track of all the double quotes so its I(an)
I> Let me broaden the question ... should we be talking about "
punishment " - especially physical punishment - in Scouting ?
J> Yes, there must be some disciplinary action taken for anyone (adults or
scouts) who act outside the bounds of appropriate behavior.
I> What behaviours are likely to result in push-ups ? As this is not a
> > training method that I use I can't imagine.
J> Any behavior that you consider inappropriate that also doesn't have an
> immediate natural consequence. Examples: Uncontrolled talking out,
flagrant disobedience, etc.
This assumes a certain way of looking at authority - e.g. if you have a
Committee Member or ASM talking at the back of the room, does s/he do
push-ups if the SM considers this inappropriate behaviour ? My point is
that what we appear to be looking at is adults imposing their power and
status on young people.
I> I try to use the CONSEQUENCES principle.
J> Consequences, punishment, discipline, whatever. Semantics, "A rose by any
> other name ..."
Semantics is the study of the use and meaning of language. In the absence of
non-verbal cues found in face-to-face communication the meaning of
language is all we have. Language is the way in which we represent our
perceptions and experiences to ourselves and to others. It is easier to
appreciate the other's viewpoint if we can approach it through shared
descriptors. Nuances matter, IMHBCO
I> The other way of dealing with negative behaviour is to use " time out "
> > ... this is useful in the case of aggressive or unco-operative behaviour.
J> Wait, I'm confused. Isn't a "time out" a punishment? It is certainly
not a "consequence" in the sense of "a natural outcome of the
behavior" such as getting a nasty cut because you were improperly using
I would say it is a consequence because it follows out of the behaviour.
It is, I agree, a contrived consequence rather than a natural consequence.
I> The point about time out is it gives the kid time to reflect on what he
> has done, it gets him away from attention of other kids, and it avoids
> giving him attention.
J> All equally true of doing pushups, plus the added benefits of working off
> some energy and gaining physical fitness.
Physical fitness might be a benefit, but if you insist on the word
" punishment " that implies an unpleasant or inconvenient negative reinforcer
.... so it could be argued that we are teaching that pushups are to be seen
as an undesirable imposition to be avoided, or at best a chore that is
" required " for " advancement ".
I> It [time out] may be less popular. Also older Scouts may associate it
> with methods
> used for younger children, and they can't " act macho " like they can
> doing press-ups.
J> So doesn't that very statement argue that it is less appropriate than a
> punishment (substitute favorite euphemism) that is less demeaning in the
> boy's eyes? Pushups are not inherently negative and a timeout is not
> inherently positive.
I will agree in the sense that behaviour is morally neutral. What is
significant is the intentions and perceptions of the parties. If you
could convince a kid that eating an ice cream was an undesirable activity,
and then use it as a negative reinforcer it would be punishment.
I> If you use a negative reinforcer that the Scout is incapable of, and you
> know that, then that is inappropriate. I am not sure what you mean by
> " physically and psychologically incapable " in this context, but if you
> believe that to be the case you set whatever period of time your
> experience and judgement tells you will work ... maybe two minutes or
> five minutes.
J> We have some kids that are hyperactive / ADD who would be unable to
sit in a timeout for 30 seconds, much less 5 minutes. I agree that
any punishment the scout is incapable of is inappropriate.
Obviously I don't know the individuals, but it is interesting that time
out is a method that is positively recommended by many specialists
working with AD/HD kids ... and it seems to work.
> Actually our SM is a trained and practicing behavioural psychologist. He's
> the one that has been arguing that timeouts are useless and detrimental and
> that pushups are a good behavior modifier (and I agree).
I would be interested in hearing his angle on this, as it is the direct
opposite to everything I have read or heard regarding the use of time out.
I> What is " necessary " about push-ups ?
J> Physical fitness. Ask this question of BSA national, they're the ones
that made doing them a requirement for Tenderfoot.
I am trying to follow the logic of this argument ... I can see that it
makes sense to have certain physical standards for <all> Scouts ( with
necessary allowances for genuine disability ) but I can't see applying
physical activity as a punishment for selected Scouts on random occasions
is the same thing.
> I used to be able to do zero pushups and now I can do zero pushups, is that
> improvement? No. The requirement forces you to do pushups (at least 1).
> You are oppressing or punishing the boy by not giving the reward (rank
> advancement) that you gave others. It is clearly within definition 1
> (depending on your point of view).
Now we are talking about the advamcement program and dealing with
individual differences. That is another subject. I would say that it is
unfair to have a " requirement " that is a barrier rather than a challenge.
> Gee I guess I missed it (I've looked through the archives). This is pretty
> cut and dried. The OA ordeal (yes I'm a Brotherhood member) is very clearly
> an initiation and is very clearly hazing. No question. You explain the
> process to anyone without telling them it is the OA ordeal and I'll bet
> better than 9 out of 10 would think you were describing a fraternity
I found the Ordeal an opportunity to take time out ( pun unintended) to
think about why I was in Scouting, my values and so on. That is the
object of it. I have no experience of fraternity initiations ... do they
entail quiet reflection and learning to anticipate the needs of others?
I had heard they were rather more antisocial than that.
Regardins Scout asked to " perform " in front of a group ...
J> He is allowed to decline, just as he is allowed to decline a timeout or
> pushups or an OA ordeal or a snipe hunt or doing dishes or earning a rank
> advancement or any other scout activity. However it is still potentially
> embarrassing to him and arguably much more so if he declines in front
of the group.
Again, it is a matter of building the " safe haven " ... We need to
provide an environment where it is OK to decline a polite request or
suggestion. As Leaders we need to be sensitive about who we ask and how
we ask them. Personally I would try to ask for volunteers, or " prime "
an individual who needed the experience. Being assertive enough to decline
a suggestion is a useful social skill.
> Have you ever tried to get a troop full of scouts to sit and listen to a
> boring lecture for three hours without moving or talking? By the end of the
> three hours (probably by the end of the first 30 minutes) these kids are
> going to be very hard to handle. That's why the troop program planning
> sheet has a game part way through the meeting, to allow the boys to get up
> and move around and release some of that pent up energy.
No, because it is bad training. Adult concentration span averages about
twenty minutes on a good day, with youngsters it is far less. I try to
break my training into short chunks, vary the pace of delivery and if it
is absolutely necessary to talk for any length of time to have " stretch
breaks " in the middle.
> The point of Scout-L is to have a lively discussion between friends. I'd
> appreciate it if you would keep the rude comments to yourself; otherwise
> I'll have to ask you to do some pushups. ;)
As I said before, my little sideswipe was unkind, and I apologise. I just
found some of your post rather difficult to follow in terms of what I
perceived as the lack of logical presentation of your arguments ... but
maybe that is my problem not yours.
Ian N. Ford DMS AIHE FRSH
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