Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Thoughts on the uniform

I recently came across an old article on the Bryan on Scouting blog about a troop that "allows its Scouts to wear any kind of pants or shorts they want with their uniform shirt." The reason for this is that they serve low income youth who often feel like they can't afford the pants. "These Scouts are only required to wear the official field uniform shirt and troop neckerchief."

Many of the Scouts in this troop also wear campaign hats. "How do they afford them? The Stratton hat company gave them “quite a deal” to buy the hats" the article states. 

This article, and the accompanying comments, got me thinking about Scout uniforms and I decided to post my thoughts here.

First, let's take a look at BSA policy on the uniforms. The Guide to Awards and Insignia is the place to go for questions about the uniform. On Page 5, the section titled "official policy" says: "While wearing the uniform is not mandatory, it is highly encouraged. The leaders of Scouting— both volunteer and professional—promote the wearing of the correct complete uniform on all suitable occasions."

So, it's the responsibility of Scout leaders to encourage Scouts to wear the complete uniform. 

Page 7 of the Guide to Awards and Insignia has this paragraph: "No alteration of, or additions to, the official uniforms, as described in the official guidelines or the Rules and Regulations covering the wearing of the uniform and the proper combinations thereof on official occasions, may be authorized by any Scouting official or local council."

In other words, no Scout leader has the authority to tell his or her Scouts that anything other than the full uniform is a correct uniform. This is explained further in the Cub Scout Leader Book under the section on uniforms: "The entire uniform should be worn or not at all. The pack does not have the authority to make changes to the uniform."

I have heard many people say that, because the want to relieve a financial burden from their families, they made a decision to have their pack's uniform be just the shirt. I know one Scout leader who actually asked his Cub Scouts not to wear the uniform pants because not everyone has them and, in an effort to be "uniform" would rather have everyone in jeans. 

These well meaning leaders are wrong. Sorry. 

I understand the desire to reduce the financial burden for youth who want to be in Scouting. I have five people in my family to try to outfit with uniforms and it can get pricey. But those are the rules and a Scout is Obedient. 

The other issue in the article that really caught my attention was the bit about the campaign hats, and the line that "the Stratton hat company gave them "quite a deal" to buy the hats."

The problem I see is that the Stratton hat company doesn't make official BSA uniform hats. The official hats come through the official Scout Shop and are manufactured by Stetson.

Early on in my Scouting experience I decided I wanted a campaign hat, but thought the official one was too expensive. I did some looking online and found one that looked the same but cost less than half as much. I ordered it and then bought an official BSA hat band and hat pin to make it look official. "Nobody will know the difference," I thought. 

A few years later I heard someone explaining how they saved money on a Scout shirt by buying a similar looking shirt from Wal-mart and putting all the right patches on. It's a lot cheaper that way, they reasoned. I felt like that approach was not honest because they were trying to pass off an imitation as the real thing. Then I realized I was doing the same thing with my campaign hat. So, I stopped wearing it, saved my pennies, and bought the real thing. 

When I taught Cub Scout leader training a few years ago I came up with what I called:
A Plan to Implement Proper Uniforming.

Step 1 - Cheerfully model the correct uniform.
Adults must set the example they want their Scouts to follow, and they have to do it cheerfully. 

Step 2 - Teach Scouts and parents what the correct uniform is and when to wear it. 
There could be lots of ways of doing this. In our new pack, the information packet we give to new families covers this topic. We also have a science fair-type display describing the correct uniform we put up at every pack meeting. Uniform inspections could be another tool to help teach the correct uniform.

Step 3 -  Teach Scouts and parents to follow the Cub Scout motto in wearing the uniform: "Do your best."
There are always going to be concerns about how expensive the uniform is. Teach them to "do your best." Their best might include having the Scout do extra work to earn the uniform. This also helps teach the value of being Thrifty.

Step 4 - Accept Scout's and parents' best efforts to wear the uniform. 
If a Scout comes without a uniform, what do you do? Be glad they are there at all. Official policy is clear: wearing the uniform is not mandatory.
If a Scout comes with just a BSA shirt, what do you do? Compliment them on how good they look in that shirt. Maybe that contradicts the "all or nothing" rule, but I'm not comfortable telling a Scout to change his shirt because he doesn't have the right pants, socks, and belt to go with it. And I think it would do more harm than good.

One final thought on uniforms.

My biggest pet peeve is when people referring to the official uniform as a "Class A" uniform and something else as a "Class B" uniform. Sorry, but those designations don't appear anywhere in the Guide to Awards and Insignia, or any official handbook or leader book. There is no such thing as a Class A or Class B uniform. There is the official uniform and everything else that is not the official uniform. What most people refer to as a Class B uniform is more properly described as an "activity shirt."

Monday, October 28, 2019

A New Beginning

I haven't actively posted on this blog in a long time. There are lots of reasons for that, but I'm not going to go into those.

I'm now a Cubmaster. My wife and I started a new family pack in our area, serving both boys and girls. So far, our daughters are the only girls, and we need a lot more families to get involved, but we're official.

I hope to post more as we get going.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

A change of attitude

Last weekend my wife and I attended our council's University of Scouting event. We were there to take classes to learn what we need to know to start a new family pack in our area. It was mostly a good day.

I say mostly because there was one major frustration. Over and over again we heard complaints and gripes about how members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints do Scouting all wrong: We don't get trained and do stupid stuff, resulting in excessive insurance claims. We don't get parents involved in the committees, so important stuff doesn't happen. We don't tell Scout leaders what their job is when they are called so they don't even know what they're supposed to do. And on, and on, and on.

It was exhausting.

Look, I get it. I've been involved in Scouting in the Church for over 10 years. I've been a young men's president, and a bishop. I've taught basic training for nearly every program. I've helped with roundtable. I've been on stake Scouting committees. I've been there. And if you look at past posts on this blog you'll see I've contributed my fair share of gripes and complaints about Scouters in the Church not doing it "right."

That's when it hit me. The thing that I found so exhausting that day was something I have done myself for a decade.

Well, I'm tired of it and I'm going to make a change. And I'm going to start by saying I'm sorry to those who have been worn out hearing my complaints.

I'm going to try to approach things differently. When I look back on the 100+ year history of the Church and the BSA I am filled with gratitude for that partnership. It would be impossible to say what either organization would look like today had that partnership not happened. The fact is that both organizations are what they are today, at least in part, because of that relationship.

Just look at how many millions of members of the Church have been influenced by Scouting, either as a youth or because they were asked to help as a leader. Or think of the contributions the Church has made to the BSA, among them:

  • The chartered organization structure (read more about that, here.)
  • The push for women to be leaders for Cub Scouts (read about Lavern Watts Parmley, here.)
  • The involvement in creating both Varsity Scouting and Venturing
So, to the Church as a whole, I want to say thank you, for using the programs of the Boy Scouts of America for over 100 years to help millions of boys. To the BSA, I want to say thank you, for allowing such a close relationship to flourish.

Most importantly, to all the Scouters in the Church (past and present) I want to say, thank you for giving your time, talents, energy, and resources to help boys and young men. Thank you for doing what you have. For those currently serving, thank you for doing all that you can. And if there is anything I can offer to help you improve your service, I want to help.