Re: Push-ups and Hazing, etc.
Ian N Ford FRSH (addvent@DIRCON.CO.UK)
Thu, 23 Jul 1998 02:17:32 +0100
On Wed, 22 Jul 1998, James H. Brown wrote:
> 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.
I will leave it for others to look for references to the rules.
Let me broaden the question ... should we be talking about " punishment "
- especially physical punishment - in Scouting ? Let us look beyond the
detailed rules to the basic reason why Scouting exists ... to promote
physical, mental emotional and spiritual fitness, and good citizenship.
That is a rough definition ... go look up the Charter and By-Laws if you
want the full canonical text.
Punishment is negative reinforcement ... in other words it is an
unpleasant activity that is associated with an " undesired " behaviour with
the intention of making it less likely that the behaviour will happen again.
What behaviours are likely to result in push-ups ? As this is not a
training method that I use I can't imagine.
I try to use the CONSEQUENCES principle. Let's say that Jimmy Snooks
doesn't do the dishes and he gets ten push-ups. If he doesn't also do the
dishes he may or may not feel that he has had a good deal. But the
negative reward is not linked to the behaviour. If you want to
concentrate on dish washing behaviour you have two options ... reward
Jimmy when he does it ( praise, recognition ) or related negative
reinforcement - consequences. " Jimmy, you didn't do your cleanup
when it was due, so you will need to do it during your free time " or
" Jimmy, John did your cleanup at lunch so you will need to clean up
after dinner instead. "
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.
I use a system loosely adapted from Phelan's " 1,2,3 Magic " ...
basically this involves a request. " John, put that stick down please. "
If that doesn't work " John ... put that STICK DOWN " Then " John ...
put that stick down NOW " . If no response John gets a time out - maybe
five or ten minutes. During that time he sits in his tent or away from
others. At the end of the time out he joins in the activity and there is
no discussion ... if he tries to argues the case he goes back for a
further time out. There is no nagging ... he just gets on with what he
would normally be doing. The actual " 1,2,3, Magic " involves stating
the behaviour then just counting " one " ( pause ) then " two " and
if it gets to three the time out gets invoked automaticaly. No
discussion or arguments.
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. Some kids don't get enough positive attention, so
they mis-behave because even negative attention is better than nothing.
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.
> 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.
I am not sure about " demeaning " in this context. The rationale for
time out is as given above. It does not make the kid the focus of attention.
It 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
> 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.
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
> 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.
If someone forgets he needs re-training ... but in a non-judgmental manner.
How many t8imes have you been " guilty " of forgetting something ? What
was your " punishment ? " Or are we talking about a one way street where
it is OK to apply sanction to youth for things that adults get away with ?
The square knot is a good example for reframing :
Problem : Jimmy needs to tie a sling but cannot tie a square knot
Solution: Jimmy gets someone to teach him the square knot. He is taught.
He practices. He continues until he is satisfied that he has
consolidated the skill - over-learning.
Outcome : Jimmy has developed a new competency that he can be proud of.
Q. So where does " punishment " come in to a learning situation ?
A. It doesn't
> I think that you can easily see where you would loose using this argument,
I would not lose the argument because it is based on a false premise, that
punishment is an effective way of learning. 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.
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.
Again, you start with the fallacious argument that punishment is related
to learning, defeat your false proposition and claim that you have won your
> At least physical activity redirects extra energy and has a health
It pointlessly uses up energy ... what health benefits do you have in
> 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
> I found:
> Haze -- 1. In nautical usage, to oppress, punish, or harass by forcing to do
> hard & unnecessary work.
What is " necessary " about push-ups ?
> 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.
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.
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.).
This one has been round the houses so many times it is not worth rehearsing.
If you have undergone the OA Ordeal then hopefully you would have been
prepared for it and will understand the significance of it.
> 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."
Wrong - " asking " is not forcing, if he is allowed to decline.
> 5. Just 'cause we said so
> Sorry, but that's not an answer.
But most of your arguments use just that ... you don't justify your views
in any rational way.
> 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.
Note the logical fallacy here ... (a) DEFINE pushups as appropriate
[called begging the question ] (b) argue on the basis of REDUCTIO AD ABSURDUM
and (c) bring in an unrelated argument ...
> In fact, many
> psychological studies have shown that timeouts are about the worst form of
Please quote them ... I don't want many, just two from reputable authors
or peer-refereed journals.
> 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 ?
> 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
Please try to come up with some rational and coherent arguments, and
quote the sources of your psychological theories. Otherwise it is like
having a battle of wits with an unarmed man.
Ian N Ford
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City