Scouts-L Mail Archive for February of 1999: The Myth of Peer Pressure
The Myth of Peer Pressure
Fri, 19 Feb 1999 13:15:40 -0500
Note: The term "BDU" used so often in the following discussion
means "Battle Dress Uniform". To most adults, Olive Drab BDU
pants are outwardly identical to BSA Scout Pants when viewed
from even a short distance away. Child size BDUs are made by
the same factories that make the Adult sizes. Neither the child
nor adult BDUs reference the US Military in any way. The adult
sizes do have a NATO universal identifying number on an inside
tag. To see close up photos and a comparison of the features of
$20 BDUs vs. $30 Scout Pants visit the following temporary page:
Mike Bowman writes:
> 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.
Hmmm, then you would definitely NOT enjoy one of my rants on "Four
Bead Syndrome" :-/
"Eight Method Idiot Savants" (in its original dark humor context),
is precisely on target. Understanding or listening to what kids
want, think, and like, entirely misses the mark if you don't act on
what they tell you.
The only problem with building an honest relationship with your
Scouts is that sooner or later they will come to you with trusting
eyes and ask if Official Scout Pants are a good deal.
Autocratic Scoutmasters (including the four bead variety) brandish
their Eight Methods as if they were handed down on stone tablets.
Coupled with "snappy" misquotations of Baden-Powell, the Uniform
Method in particular allows mean-spirited adults a free end-run
around the whole notion of a boy-led organization. It negates any
pretense of having respect for what Boy Scouts tell you.
These Eight Methods are not written in stone. The Uniform was
demoted from its status as a Method to that of a mere "Program
Element" for most of the 1970s. This is when the notion of the
"equal importance" of all SEVEN of the Methods of Scouting
appeared in print for a while as Official Policy.
> 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.
I hear this logic all too often, especially in Wood Badge circles.
The fact that ANY Uniform is a source of painful embarrassment
due to "peer pressure" is no reason to add insult to this injury
by forcing them into Uniform Pants that are beneath their dignity.
What Scout in his right mind would not prefer a good Snipe
Hunt to wearing his Uniform in public? Anyone who thinks
that forcing the Uniform is not hazing hath smelt entirely too
much wood smoke at twilight :-/
> 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.
The new edition of the Boy Scout Handbook is the first to do away
with Bill Hillcourt's "Put on your uniform and you feel ready for
hiking, camping, and other Scout activities." Now it says, "For
outdoor activities, Scouts may wear troop or camp T-shirts with the
Scout pants or shorts." As usual, Irving has it exactly wrong.
If you believe in the importance of Advancement and peer
recognition, then you must regret that the lack of a practical
Uniform means that a Scout's rank is *never* visible in the
environment where the experience it represents actually
means something: the great Outdoors.
Despite the well-meaning belief of liberals that the principles
of Scouting can be applied to indoor activities, those of us who
look to Bill Hillcourt and Baden-Powell for guidance maintain
that Scouting takes place OUTSIDE. Weekly meetings are
ONLY a means to the next month's campout.
If Scouting were a game, we would respect the wishes of the boys.
Why not turn this whole game upside down and make the Uniform
a *secret* thing that the general public *never* sees? A good
Uniform can be worn deep in the woods where it is a practical
tool, not a source of shame.
Outdoors is where all the Methods of Scouting come together in
a perfect, practical, natural whole. Our 2nd rate, hot house
Uniform prevents the Methods of Scouting from working the way they
> 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.
At a certain point you have to stop listening and start acting
on what they tell you. I listened to my Scouts. After years of
hearing new Scouts make precisely the same observations as
previous tenderfeet, I finally realized that they were exactly
> 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.
The great devil in Irving is the lack of worthy competition in the
marketplace of ideas. I blame it for all of Irving's shortcomings.
Mike, the thing about peer pressure is that it is not *always*
wrong! My Scouts love their BDUs and wear them everywhere.
How many of your Scouts wear their Scout Pants to the mall?
Why should they buy inferior Scout Pants just to please some
"understanding" adult? If they do, their peers will set them
No matter how old you are, you too can learn from your peers.
Wear a pair of Scout Pants to an informal non-Scout gathering
where other people will be wearing cargo pants (they are in
style this year). If your friends care about you, they will gently
and tactfully ask why you are wearing those awful pants.
Life is not so nice in Junior High.
I hear a lot about how kids are so subject to peer pressure. The
Big Lie here is the smug assumption that we Scouters are not
forcing them into 2nd rate Uniforms because we anticipate the
reaction of *our* peers if we don't.
How often in life are we presented with a choice in which the
merits of two alternative products are so very plain to see? Scout
Pants vs. BDUs, is there anywhere in the world a more clear cut
example of customers being taken for granted? The truth is so
simple but oh, what a tangled web we weave to deny it. Our
tortured logic is the pressure of our peers.
If every Volunteer (who cares about the pain felt by Scouts),
were to wear BDUs the next time he volunteers his time to the
training of adults at Universities of Scouting, at Roundtables, at
Scoutmastership Fundamentals, at Wood Badge meetings, Train
the Trainer, Show and Do, National Camping School, or even a
simple Fast Start, things would change. Call it working within the
system, call it Loyalty to the Spirit of Scouting, call it being a
good Role Model, call it anything other than overcoming peer
pressure, but dare to be the hero that your Scouts deserve.
Are the knots on our chests and the boot lace at our necks a
measure of our commitment to youth, or evidence of the little
ropes of peer pressure that bind us to the small minds of Lilliput?
> 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.
Just who ARE these "volunteers"?
All Uniform committee wannabes should be elected by a poll of all
the SPLs in America. Have these adults line up in front of
Internet video cameras with their gaudy golf pants and their
Official Boy Scout shorty-Shorts. Make them answer questions
put to them by a panel of Eagle Scouts. Do you think our
"process of how uniforming changes are made" would stand up
to the sharp eyes of Boy Scouts in the honest light of day?
There is an elephant in the room that no one is talking about. BSA
is a Big Government monopoly, and most Big Government creations
just don't care. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts
absolutely. It is the Boy Scouts who have to wear the Uniforms
that the Boy Scouts hate so much. Beyond the Wood Badge
platitudes, we all know that if our Junior Leaders were given the
chance to judge the people who decide what they wear, they would
suffer no fools.
Train 'em, Trust 'em, Let Them Lead!
I always make a special point of NEVER wearing Official Scout pants
when I meet Irving administrators or anyone with gold shoulder
loops (just in case the conversation lags, you understand). After
three days of enthusiastically answering my endless questions over
meals at a National Training event, one highly-placed administrator
at Irving (you either know him or you know his name) sat down next
to me just before he had to leave for the airport.
I was wearing a pair of rip-stop nylon BDUs that are popular with
the boys in our Troop. He reached over, took some of the material
between his forefinger and thumb, and looked me in the eye.
In a low voice he said, "You have NO idea how many of us (at
Irving) want to make the Uniforms out of this kind of material."
As I dimly remember his explanation, the people at Supply (of
all places) are always able to successfully fend off any change
from any direction and nobody dares intrude on their little
> 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.
Mike, ANY person who actually wears the Official Boy Scout Uniform
in the field and still maintains that there are "pluses" is a
danger to himself and others. He needs to be rushed out of the sun
at once, and into the safety of an air conditioned office :-/
Is there anywhere a High Adventure Author, Web Master, or National
Instructor responsible for the lives of other people who would
allow the Uniform to be worn in a High Adventure situation? I hope
> What they are doing is trying to figure out
> something that can work in the differing
> climates and conditions around the country.
What is there to figure out? This work has already been done by
the most expensive experts in the world, the US Military.
> They are concerned about cost, quality, and
> more. Will we see changes? Yes. Will they
> please everyone - probably not.
Mike, it is simply not true that they are concerned about the cost
and quality of Scout Pants.
See for yourself. Visit that temporary page at:
Tell me where my photos stray from the truth.
This is not rocket science. National could solve the Scout
Pants problem tomorrow morning by picking up the phone
and ordering NATO Stock # 8415-01-084-1713. Most
adults would never notice the difference but Scouts would
be treated to the vastly superior USA product they deserve,
at a savings of 33%!
And National would still make a standard retail profit.
Mike, on so many subjects you are the welcome voice of reason.
Don't be so concerned with my lack of social graces. Do your
Buy a pair of these BDUs. They will last you the rest of your
life. Wash them a couple times and wear them around home or
in the woods for a week to experience how practical and comfortable
a uniform can be. After seven days put on a pair of Official Scout
Pants and give yourself a long, hard look in the mirror.
You will see the same simple truth that my Scouts showed me.
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