Scouts-L Mail Archive for June of 1999: Re: Order of the Arrow Ordeal (or initiation/hazing?)
Re: Order of the Arrow Ordeal (or initiation/hazing?)
Fri, 18 Jun 1999 16:45:50 -0600
At 02:54 PM 6/18/99 -0500, Mick Cole wrote:
>For the first three years, I have allowed OA elections, but have become
>increasingly uncomfortable about the shroud of secrecy, and wall of silence
>around the "Ordeal," which prevents me from properly advising OA
>candidates and their parents about what to expect.
>For example, I have been told, but have no way to verify that, during a day
>of hard physical labor (service project?), meals consist of: one boiled egg
>(breakfast); two slices of bread (dry), 1 slice of cheese (lunch); and one
apple (dinner). I
>have also heard that candidates are required to spend a night with no
>from elements or insects. I am hard pressed to see how either practice
>camping, or can be considered anything other than a form of hazing, that
would seem to
>be in violation of both child protection laws and BSA policy.
Perhaps I can shed a bit of light, having just gone through my OA ordeal
last month. Old timer OA members may jump on me for "breaking the secrecy",
but you have some legitimate reasons to be concerned. I promise not to
reveal anything too exciting.
I had many of the same concerns when I first got involved as an adult, and I
strongly suspect you will find, as I did, that the leaders of your lodge
(each BSA council has an OA lodge) have thought things through. In the case
of my "initiation" along with about 40 youth and a dozen other adults:
1) We had to go without speaking for one day. Some of the kids had a bit of
trouble with this, but as an adult I found it a legitimate exercise in
self-discipline. No "punishment" was used against a Scout who spoke - just
a blustery "silence!"
2) We were told that we would spend a day at "hard labor": this consisted of
clearing debris from our council's cub camp, mowing its grass, building
campsites - the same work our scouts have voluntarily been doing all along.
Water breaks were enforced, so no dehydration.
3) We were told that we must get by on "little food", and while the
selection was not necessarily to my liking they certainly made sure there
was plenty of it. Breakfast consisted of apples, dry cereal, pancakes, and
milk. Lunch was peanut butter sandwiches (yes, they did check for allergies
to peanuts), fruit, and milk. Dinner was a full meal (only a month, and
I've already forgotten what it was!)
4) We did have to sleep outside for one night. Staff made sure we all had
proper sleeping bags and ground cloths, checked on us regularly all night
(in my old age -48 - I was up a number of times for the usual reason, and
they were there), and had made alternate arrangements in case it rained. I
still love to sleep under the stars on Scout campouts, and I am often joined
by half the troop when I do, so this was certainly not out of line.
5) There was, indeed, a "secret ceremony". Without all the secret details:
the worst we had to do was walk silently for about a half mile (one end of
camp to the other) a few times, stand silently for 20 or 30 minutes a few
times, and endure the hard stare of a 16-year old young man in Indian garb
trying his best to look stern. One scout's parents, who had some concerns,
were allowed to watch.
Bottom line: Everything followed both common sense and BSA guidelines on
youth protection, camping safety, and nutrition. Where there was anything
which might make a young man uncomfortable (for some it was indeed their
first time sleeping under the stars - the mosquitos are fierce in
Minnesota), both youth and adult staff were keeping a close eye on things.
I was impressed with their dedication. The use of Indian ceremonies (I'm
told they have spent hours researching to make them authentic) and
discipline added to the experience for the young men - they came out of it
feeling like they had accomplished something.
Troop 6 / Pack 6
(Gamehaven Council, Blue Ox Lodge)