Re: Push-ups and Hazing, etc.
James H. Brown (jbrown@BURGOYNE.COM)
Wed, 22 Jul 1998 21:36:51 -0600
> Let me broaden the question ... should we be talking about " punishment "
> - especially physical punishment - in Scouting ?
Yes, there must be some disciplinary action taken for anyone (adults or
scouts) who act outside the bounds of appropriate behavior.
> What behaviours are likely to result in push-ups ? As this is not a
> training method that I use I can't imagine.
Any behavior that you consider inappropriate that also doesn't have an
immediate natural consequence. Examples: Uncontrolled talking out, flagrant
> I try to use the CONSEQUENCES principle.
Consequences, punishment, discipline, whatever. Semantics, "A rose by any
other name ..."
> 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.
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 a knife.
> 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.
All equally true of doing pushups, plus the added benefits of working off
some energy and gaining physical fitness.
> When Jimmy is doing his push-ups he is the focus of attention, because
> the other kids stop and look, start counting, shouting or whatever ...
> and <rewarding> him in a perverse way. When Jimmy is sitting in his tent
> or in a corner of the room nobody is interested.
Our kids don't pay any attention to Jimmy when he does his pushups. He is
sent away from the group, just like your timeout example, to do them. They
would pay no more attention to him doing pushups than your boys would taunt
Jimmy in his tent during his timeout.
> It [time out] may be less popular. Also older Scouts may associate it
> used for younger children, and they can't " act macho " like they can
> doing press-ups.
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
> 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.
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.
> > 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.
> So forgetting something is an " offense "? That is an abuse of language.
Funny, you just punished Jimmy a bit earlier for forgetting to do the
dishes. BTW, I said "CONTRIVED example." Pick a different example if you
want, repeatedly interrupting the meeting, whatever.
> I would not lose the argument because it is based on a false premise, that
> punishment is an effective way of learning.
Actually you made my point. I was arguing that a punishment is a poor way
to teach. I was simply responding to the arguments I had heard against
pushups, that the punishment should retrain the bad behavior.
> Go and find some books on
> learning theory and behavioural psychology. Start with Skinner on
> classical conditioning, Maslow on motivation, maybe Kolb on
> learning theory.
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).
> > At least physical activity redirects extra energy and has a health
> It pointlessly uses up energy ... what health benefits do you have in
> mind ?
The "point" is the same as a wide game, let the scout release pent up
energy. The health benefits are the same ones BSA has in mind when they
require a scout to show improvement in physical skills, specifically
pushups, after practicing for a month.
> > Haze -- 1. In nautical usage, to oppress, punish, or harass by
> forcing to do
> > hard & unnecessary work.
> What is " necessary " about push-ups ?
Physical fitness. Ask this question of BSA national, they're the ones that
made doing them a requirement for Tenderfoot.
> Wrong ... the tenderfoot requirement is geared to improvement over time
> as part of a fitness programme. The difference is between jogging for
> exercise and your boss telling you to run up and down the office for some
> " offense " like mislaying your stapler.
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).
> This one has been round the houses so many times it is not worth
> If you have undergone the OA Ordeal then hopefully you would have been
> prepared for it and will understand the significance of it.
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
> Wrong - " asking " is not forcing, if he is allowed to decline.
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
[ snip rude comments ]
> > In fact, many psychological studies have shown that timeouts are about
> > worst form of punishment.
> Please quote them ... I don't want many, just two from reputable authors
> or peer-refereed journals.
I've already asked our SM to get these for me (he's the expert and mentioned
he had several). I'll post them when I have them.
> > 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;
> Really ? Please do explain ... What sort of problem does " physical
> energy " cause ?
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.
[ snip more rude comments ]
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. ;)
I used to be a beaver ...
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City