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What to do with semi-uniformed ASM

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Exactly, kids are kids. And as KC9DDI's post pointed out, they have an innate and often unswerving sense of fairness.


Yah, yah.


Many decades ago when I was a young fellah, I sort of fell into that trap of thinking that fairness depended on treating everyone the same. It was a dear friend who made me realize that isn't fairness at all. True fairness recognizes the strengths and needs of each individual, and responds to those individually.


There will always be adults who are more into Uniform Method than others. There will always be adults who have better Outdoor Skills than others. There are inevitably adults who are better at Adult Relationships Method and mentoring boys of different age groups than others. There are adults who are better at encouraging and supporting Youth Leadership than others.


If yeh are goin' to insist that every adult in your program be absolutely perfect in their own performance of each of the 8 methods, then I certainly wouldn't start with da Uniform Method, eh? I'd start with making sure everyone is a perfect mentor 100% of the time. In fact, uniforming would be a fair ways down my list, just because I think stuff like outdoorsmanship and youth leadership and lived values all have a bigger net effect on the quality of the program.


I think we all recognize, though, that if perfection is da criteria, none of us are worthy of being leaders at all.


Personally, I wouldn't recommend that as adult leaders we insist on Perfection in any of the 8 methods individually, either for fellow adults or for boys. I think yeh look at the whole boy, and yeh take the lad as a package. Start with supporting the good things about the lad. Build on the positives. Along the way, if there's a chance to get him to shore up some weaknesses, do that too, but be gentle. Far better that a lad become deeply invested in Scouting because we feed his desire to be a great outdoorsman and friend than he be pushed away because he thinks olive drab is ugly and we insist on sartorial perfection. Even more true with adults.


I've never known a boy who wasn't able to understand the version of fairness that involves responding with understanding and compassion to each person's strengths and needs. I think it's that fairness that they grasp innately. The times when boys complain about our hypocrisy are only when we stray from that true measure, and spend too much time harping about the particular trappings. What they're really sayin' is not that they want everyone treated the same, it's that they want us to focus on what's more important.


And yeh know, they're right.




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In my last unit I had an ASM who was never in full uniform.


I set the standard and expected the boys to be in full uniform. Earned a reputation in the council as the only full-uniformed troop.


I was removed and the ASM took over.


The first thing the boys wanted to do was drop the full uniform requirement. Former ASM, now SM, said no.


That really opened up a hornet's nest.



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Hmmm... One last post to try to clarify and defend my position.


I think there's an underlying issue here beyond uniforming.


Like I said before, we encourage and empower our youth leaders to make decisions, set goals, and develop standards and guidelines for their troop. We also (should) set some standards of accountability and responsibility for the youth when it comes to carrying out the concrete plans to achieve these goals.


We all know that many adults don't fully buy in to the "boy led" approach. (In fact, that may be the understatement of the month.) I feel that part of the responsibility of a good SM is to help ensure that ASMs and other adults not only "obey" the rules set by the PLC, but also to UNDERSTAND why it's important to do so. It's difficult for the PLC to be motivated to follow through with their goals if the adult leadership, their role models, indicate that they don't care.


Sure, it's easy to write it off with "the boys don't actually care about that, they just want program..." Well, maybe that's true. But regardless of what the boys WANT, we give them the RESPONSIBILITY of leading the troop. Therefore, adult leaders have an obligation to support them. And who are we to say what is or isn't important to the boys? If the boys themselves set a goal for uniforming, clearly that IS important to them, and should be supported.


Look at this independently of ex-Marines and uniforms. Say the PLC implements a plan for checking troop gear in and out on camping trips. Clear guidelines are developed, Scouts are held accountable for keeping to the guidelines, and the PLC is held accountable for following through with their plan. Everything is going reasonably well, except for one adult who ignores the system and helps himself to whatever gear he wants. Wouldn't you, as an SM, have a quiet, friendly chat with this adult? In my opinion, not doing so would tell the PLC that their plans and goals are unimportant. You'd have a difficult time motivating the PLC to be accountable for their plan, or to take their responsibilities seriously in the future.


So now back to uniforming. The PLC has correctly developed a goal for the troop's use of the uniform method. The SM is obligated to either support the PLC in reaching this goal, or to work with the PLC to revise their goal if it is unreasonable. That probably involves having a friendly, non-confrontational conversation with this ASM, and at least presenting the position of the youth on their behalf.


It's all true that the adults and youth have different standards, and that might be part of the lesson for the PLC in this particular case. But it's also true that the SM has an obligation to advocate for the PLC to the other adult leadership.

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Are yeh readin' a different thread than I am, KC9DDI?


I haven't seen a lick about the PLC doin' a thing in this case. Buffalo just describes that he, as scoutmaster, has "worked hard to return the idea of a uniform culture to the troop". And that his CC has supported him with a letter.


That doesn't sound to me like a major youth initiative. The PLC is in fact never mentioned at all.


Personally, though, I'm not at all opposed to the PLC learnin' some important lessons about the difference between methods and goals, and about how to treat people with dignity and respect. Why should that lesson be limited to adults? I might sit down with 'em and ask whether bugging Mr. Jones about his uniform is worth risking all of the gear that Mr. Jones has donated, or canceling next month's outing where Mr. Jones is needed as a required adult. Is it important enough even to risk harming your friendship with Mr. Jones'? When is it OK to criticize an adult's clothing, and when do yeh let it go even if yeh think it's inappropriate?


I reckon those are good lessons for boys who are just learning how to lead people. It will make 'em more thoughtful leaders and better Scoutmasters someday.


As Eagledad has said, the true measure of Uniform Method is not whether you've required them to wear it, it's whether you have inspired them to put it on of their own free will.



(This message has been edited by Beavah)

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KC, that's well said. But I must respectfully differ over the scope of what is considered of "boy led."


I don't think boy-led means the adults are subordinates of the PLC. Adults should support the PLC, but adults do not salute and obey the PLC as if it issues lawful orders. Scouts do not dictate what adults do.


I guess I'm saying there is a line where things go from "boy led" to "boy directed." I'm in favor of the former but not the latter.


If I read your post wrong, apologies in advance...heaven knows I've had plenty of high ankle sprains from jumping to conclusions!

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If it was a boy-led issue and a boy approached the ASM over his stand I suspect he probably would go ahead and uniform up. I had a boy do that to me the ONE time I didn't travel in my class A. He was a nice boy and I felt a tad shamed--I shouldn't be asking them to do things I wouldn't be willing to try myself.


Now if another adult brought it up--I may just dig in my heals and be contrary.

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At summer camp last year, I went to evening flags without my neckerchief, arriving a few steps behind the rest of the troop. One of our patrol leaders called me out in front of the troop on where my neckerchief was. I replied (loud enough for everyone to hear) that I had loaned my neckerchief to Frank (the most senior scout on the campout) because he had lost his in his tent, and didn't want him to be late to flags. A quiet "Oh," was all that was heard in reply. After dinner, Frank (who I have know since he was a Webelos) returned the neckerchief to me (with his in his other hand), and thanked me.


I never had to remind a scout to put on their neckerchief the rest of the week.

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I'm not arguing the specifics of this case. I'm simply saying that I've known more than a few boys who would raise their eyebrows and ask some "impertinent" questions if they were members of this troop. The expectation - presumably set by the PLC or CO - is being ignored by a man the boys presumably respect and admire. They are smart enough to recognize the clear double standard. It may not matter to them in the bigger context, but at least one of them has thought about it.


As for this stuff about how he should be left alone because he's a retired military officer - sorry, but that does not make someone exempt from a unit's expectations and standards. I've known many veterans in Scouting, and none of them would have even thought to make that argument. If you join an organization, you agree to follow the organization's standards.


Going back to the OP - all this fuss over pants? Please let us know what this fellow says if you do a 1-on-1 sit-down.

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Beav - Well, I re-read the thread, and while we did start talking about the PLC's goals, it's true that the original poster didn't specifically mention that. Of course, without any reason to believe otherwise, I'd assume that the troop was functioning correctly, in that the PLC is involved in setting goals and guidelines with the guidance of the SM. But maybe that's not an accurate assumption in this case.


But maybe we're not reading the same thread. I'm not sure why you think I'd encourage anyone to take any course of action that would be considered rude or confrontational. All that I've ever advocated is a friendly, quiet conversation between the two adults to make sure everyone is on the same page. Perhaps the end result is that everyone will need to learn a lesson about accommodating others, etc - but I still think it's important to have that conversation first.


Desert - I agree completely, and I wasn't trying to suggest that the adults are "subordinate" to the Scouts. However, I would say that when the youth leadership sets appropriate goals and reasonable guidelines, the polite thing to do is for the adults to set the example and go along with them. Of course there are exceptions, boundaries, etc.

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Ah, presuming facts not in evidence. ;). I've been around the block a few times, and I don't reckon I've ever honestly seen a PLC pushing 100% uniforming without an adult standin' over 'em pushing ten times as hard. The smart-alecky comment about da neckerchief above is the typical sort of character that gets developed by that kind of adult-driven approach, so I've never been convinced it really helps us achieve our Aims.


In this case, between the comments and having a special leaders meeting where the ASM was presented with a letter from the CC in front of all the other leaders, I think it's already gone way past the friendly conversation between adult colleagues. Don't you? Had I been present as a UC I'd have been actively tryin' to save the CC from his own folly.


As a result, at this point if there's a quiet conversation to be had, it should be an unconditional apology from the CC.


B(This message has been edited by Beavah)

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Just to clarify, I would take the same position on this issue if the ASM was a plumber or an insurance agent. If they want to wear blue jeans, let them.


Granted, it would be minus all my military takes, which in this case, I offer up because we're taking about a military retiree doing the same thing I'd do as a soon-to-be military retiree. Though I personally wear the official pants, if I was in the ASM's shoes and was a blue jean guy, I'd throw that flyer in the trash too.


If the ASM was a teacher who insisted on wearing blue jeans, or purple socks, or both, more power to him. Or her.


For an organization that has many paid pros and volunteers that are ultra sensitive to avoid anything perceived as military (marching, etc.), is interesting to me how alot of these same well-meaning folks love to embrace a very parade ground/training evironment style of uniform mania.


I'd say the BSA has alot bigger fish to fry.(This message has been edited by desertrat77)

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The "letter" was a flyer handed out to everyone, not just this particular ASM. According to Buffalo Skipper, he wasn't singled out. Sounds to me like an attempt at a gentle reminder. Nothing needs to be apologized for.


I agree that this isn't a hill to die on, unless the PLC or CO want it to be. But this fellow should get a friendly, low-key sit-down chat. There's clearly something else here that we're not seeing (and Buffalo Skipper may not even be seeing).

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For 3+ years I've been working to revive a Cub Pack that was down to one boy.


I've had a reasonable amount of success, but it's still a struggling pack.


As a Den Leader and Cubmaster, I always was fully uniformed. Interestingly enough, ALL the den leaders in the pack have been men. I suspect that since when they saw male leaders, men new to the pack could see themselves as Den Leaders too.


The ladies are Committee members and such.


I would very much have liked to have seen more den leaders be uniformed. I consider that a gift to the boys, and it makes it easier for boys to take uniforming more seriously.


This year my Wolf Den Leader has a uniform blouse. Yeah! --- He's the new Cubmaster as of the first of the year.


In my opinion, leading by example is a satisfactory method of providing leadership on the uniforming issue. I'm not very good with "quiet chats," and I might annoy leaders if I tried that method.


Any new boy or adult who becomes a Scout or Scouter gets awarded a pack neckerchief I cut from attractive yard goods, and they get a slide too. That's my way of encouraging boys and adults to start thinking about uniforming.


Some boys get full uniforms right away. Others wear only the neckerchief they are given. Few of the adults wear the neckerchief they are awarded, although I do!


There are lots of ways to provide leadership on this issue. My methods haven't been especially effective, but in the Cub Scouts we are expected to do our best. That's pretty much my best so far.



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Your ASM is a retired Marine Corps officer of 20 years. For 20 years, he's been told what to wear, how to wear it and when to wear it. He's been uniformed from inside out. Now that he's out of the military, he has decided he prefers to wear jeans, and now a bunch of civilians in an organization that used uniforms as a method while not requiring anyone to actually wear a uniform is presuming to tell him how to dress? And you wonder why he's being passive-aggressively defiant?


You've not yet answered the question about how he is as an ASM otherwise. You've already indicated that he has been supportive enough to raise or donate over $1,000 in a year and a half to ensure others get a chance to go to camp, etc. So what's the real issue?


I'd be looking back over the last 18 months and reflecting on how much he's positively affected the lives of the Scouts already - either directly by helping them afford to attend camp or indirectly, by helping their friends afford to attend camp with them, then I'd be wondering how different things would have been if he wasn't there.


Given a choice between buying a pair of uniform pants for myself, or buying a uniform for a Scout in need, I'm wearing jeans and buying the uniform for the Scout. If he's telling you he can't afford it, I'd believe him at face value and be thinking it's because he's giving what he would spend on himself to others.


I'd be asking myself at this point why it's so important to me to have my ASM wearing scout pants and then doing an ego check.


There's a lot of talk about "setting the example". Ask yourself this - what's the bigger role modeling here - wearing a full uniform, or being generous in charity?


Honestly, don't you folks have more important things to worry about than what kind of pants an ASM is wearing?

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Before you confront him, watch this:

And recall Sgt Hulka's advice to "Psycho" in the movie "Stripes:" "Lighten up, Francis."


Anyway, he's probably concerned that the uniform pants make his butt look fat.


Let him be.


Scout to you: "I don't like the pants, and anyway Mr. USMC doesn't wear them either." You to scout: "Boy leadership. Lead. And consider thanking Mr. USMC for all he does for this troop... you don't even need to mention that you forgive the fact that he isn't perfect."


In Cub Scouts, the Pack was "shirts only." The leader specifically asked me just to get shirts for mine; some boys were from poor families, so standard was uniform shirt with whatever pants. When I became a DL, I hewed to the unit's custom of wearing uniform shirt and non-uniform pants, although my instinct tells me uniform is uniform and half uniform is not.


These days, when I wear uniform, it's full uniform. But the SM, and others mostly wear just the shirt. I think full uniform is better, but I think no less of them for not wearing it.


What I still find awkward is saluting the flag with a scout salute vice the salute I used for a couple decades plus. A few years ago legislation authorized veterans in civilian clothing to render the military hand salute during the National Anthem; later it was amended to include the Pledge of Allegiance (I think - not entirely sure and not going to look it up since I won't be doing it anyway). I thought about that and decided that it wasn't for me. I saluted in uniform, and when I was regularly uniformed, I put my hand over my heart when I was out of uniform. That seems right. What still feels funny is rendering a Boy Scout salute rather than a "normal" one, when in BSA uniform. Have to consciously override longstanding habit.


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