Scouts-L Mail Archive for February of 1999: Uniforms and Stuff
Uniforms and Stuff
Mon, 15 Feb 1999 13:42:25 -0500
Rick's comments call to mind a conversation I had recently with a group of
Scouts about how other kids react to them, if the others know they are
Scouts. Some of the candid comments shed an interesting light and not
necessarily the same one that some adults would think about.
-- Only nerds wear uniforms - you know like all the kids in the band must be
nerds or something. Everyone knows that uniforms are for nerds.
- What about atheletic uniforms, like the football team or soccer team?
-- Well, if you're smart you don't say anything about their uniforms, cause
you might get beat up after school or fall down a stairway kinda not by
-- Yeah, those guys are touchy about things like that and most of them are
bigger than us.
- So why do you think uniforms are for nerds?
-- Cause the dabom things to wear aren't uniforms, like 'didas jackets and
stuff (more references to various items of designer apparel)
-- Other kids dis you, if you don't wear the right things, like somethings
wrong with you. Most of the stuff my mom wants to buy for me could get me
beat up cause its so bad.
- You guys come to Scouts regularly - what makes you want to come back?
-- It's fun!
-- I like getting out the house away from my parents - they're a pain.
-- Camping and going places is fun.
-- Just like hanging with these guys
-- Dad makes me come - he thinks its good for me
- Besides the uniform why do you think that other kids get on you about
-- Cause we're supposed to be some kind of goodie goodies and that ain't
-- They think we sit around making baskets wearing pop bottle glasses or
-- They think you can't have fun if adults are around cause they tell you
not do stuff that you'd like to do
-- I think they're jealous cause they know they couldn't cut it and wouldn't
be able to survive a weekend, so they just bully us so they feel better
- If you could change the uniform to something else, how would you redesign
it to be better?
-- You don't get it - uniforms don't get it
-- Maybe something like in Star Wars or something like that
-- I'd want something where I could wear badges
-- Any uniform ****s, don't want to wear the same thing as everyone else -
that's the point
- If you didn't wear a uniform, would you tell friends that you were a
-- You're kidding, right?
-- Look, the other kids think any kind of Scouts is for dweebs, it just
- Do the other kids know what kinds of things that you do that are fun?
-- Probably not.
-- They wouldn't be interested, they'd rather cruise the mall and drop a
roll of quarters in an arcade game
-- They are really the geeks, most of them live in front of TV or computer
and couldn't find their *** with both hands if they had to go camping
-- They're really into computer games and not real stuff
-- If we went to movies and arcades, they'd probably come along, but only if
we didn't have adults hanging around
- What do you think about your rank badges?
-- Lots of smiles and sidewise glances to see what everyone else is doing
-- Its pretty cool to get an award in front of your friends
- What about the other kids at school, what if you got your rank badge in
front of them at an assembly?
Based on conversations with kids like the above, I think that bickering over
the merits of the current uniform, flinging epithets at Irving, or
name-calling; e.g., "autocratic Eight Method Idiot Savants" entirely misses
the mark when it comes to understanding or listening to what kids want,
think, and like.
It seems to me that there is a lot of peer pressure at work and that any
uniform and sometimes just association with Scouting can be a hurdle for
young people as a result. Just as clear it seems to me that these young
folks know what's fun for them and a lot of that stems from Scouting methods
like advancement (public recognition) and outdoors experiences where the
Scouts learn self-confidence and get a sense of their own worth. These same
Scouts proudly wore newly sewn patrol leader and assistant patrol leader
patches, some sewn by the Scouts themselves and in one case on a uniform the
Scout had laundered himself.
No these boys are nobody's fool, they have opinions, differing thoughts, and
not surprisingly sometimes disagreement. Just the same they put up with
taunts because they were doing something the liked enough to overcome the
peer pressure just a tad. And they are proud of their accomplishments as
they should be. What they did do was give a little insight into the normal
tension between kids wanting to start asserting some independence while
needing some feeling of peer acceptance and wanting to do things that they
as individuals enjoy espeically when it gets recognition or is fun.
We can be disgruntled or discontented with any number of issues, get caught
up in the small things, or even get bitter about how things are as compared
with our own perception of how they ought to be. This latter approach
usually isn't very persuasive or effective in doing much of anything. Time
might be better spent listening to the boys and hearing/understanding how
things are, what they like, what they want to do, what is exciting to them,
and what would work to entice a friend to give it a try. When it comes to a
board of review, this is a perfect time for the adults to relax the
situation and encourage Scouts to tell them how it is, what works, what
needs to happen. If the adults are listening and use this as an opportunity
for self-evaluation, they will probably work closer with the older boys/PLC
to coach the boys into doing things that are more fun, more exciting, and
that may be the sort of thing that a boy would invite a friend to try out.
In my way of thinking this would go a lot further towards easing the peer
pressure problem than trying to find an easy target like uniform style or
some great devil in Irving and blaming it for any number of evils.
Instead of vilifying from frustration, it might do well to understand the
process of how uniforming changes are made.
There are thousands of opinions on what a uniform should or should not be.
And surprisingly the folks in Irving, who in reality act as advisors to
volunteer run uniform and insignia committees at the National level, listen
and do care. And they share what they hear with the volunteers that try to
struggle with what changes ought to be made. These volunteers also seek out
opinion and in the past have sampled online discussions to get a better feel
for what other volunteers were saying. And surprisingly many of these
adults do not think of uniforming in the context of an air conditioned
office in Texas, cause they are wearing the uniform in the field and know
both plus and minuses. What they are doing is trying to figure out
something that can work in the differing climates and conditions around the
country. They are concerned about cost, quality, and more. Will we see
changes? Yes. Will they please everyone - probably not.
For a time I was on a National uniforming and insignia task force for Cub
Scouting and some of the uniform changes that are to be announced soon are a
direct result of folks writing in or sharing constructive thoughts.
Mike Bowman a/k/a Professor Beaver (email@example.com)
Webmastering in the Scouting Spirit from Alexandria, VA