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Hazing has a specific purpose. The Ordeal has a specific purpose. Those purposes as mutually exclusive and distinct entities nor are the elements of an Ordeal ceremony abusive or humiliating. If we can't agree which purpose has a malevolent intent and which purpose has a benevolent intent, then there's not much point in continuing this conversation, is there?(This message has been edited by MarkS)

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Yah, I enjoy practical jokes, eh? I think they can be a fun part of Scoutin'. Nicknames too. There's merit to what GoldWinger says, eh?


Can a Snipe Hunt be a good practical joke? Yah, sure. But for some reason most of the time they seem to have too much of an "edge." Or maybe it's just that American 11-year-olds are too emotionally immature for 'em. Either way, I'm not particularly fond of Snipe Hunts. Just don't like the dynamic and results. Along with F, I wouldn't mind seein' 'em die out.


As for Ordeals and Hazin', sad to say in this modern day and age of over-regulatin' and over-protecting, I'd say the Ordeal should be re-thought. It's far too close to the legal definition of hazing in some states, and certainly far too close to what is becomin' the "common" definition. How would "we deprived children of food and shelter on an outdoor work weekend" play in your local media? I think it's a shame, but the ordeal is probably destined for the dust heap. And to be honest, I have seen a few times over da years when some over-enthusiastic sorts really did make it hazing in some ways.




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Only once did I see someone rip off their arrow, exclaim "this is BULL****!" and walk away from an ordeal. It was an "adult" about 40 years old.


Lots of us here went through the traditional "tapout" and Ordeal as youth. How many were permanently scarred? Yes, some Allowats got overzealous and took them to their knees, but ours was a firm, but painless series of taps. I never gave it a second thought. I, for one, remember the experience with great fondness, as it was one more challenge that I overcame...something my Dad didn't think this fat bookworm mama's boy could do.

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Any and all humor has a dark underbelly from which it arose - ask any professional comedian, locally Yakov Smirnov occasionally teaches classes on humor in the Psychology department at the University.


Snipe hunting is not any worse and a lot less harmful than many "practical jokes" I've seen performed. My Scouts haven't found anyone gullible enough to try it on yet. Yea!

When I feel inclined check to see if any of the new Scouts are gullible enough to fall for some of the older Scouts repertoire of jokes I just break out a couple of Cornish hens and roast them over a fire at the adult site - if asked and they accept the Snipe story then I know I may have to watch out that there isn't any inappropriate activity in that direction - If I get the "You're so weird" look (but I get that a lot)then I know they know the deal and don't have to worry about them.


But more importantly - and with ANY "practical joke" reading the jokee's(victims, targets) reaction and responding appropriately is the key to keeping it fun versus creating a cultural distrust as described by the illustrious OGE. If the fellows had brought him in when they were supposed to and made it clear that some of them had fallen for the same joke and made him part of the crowd with it he probably wouldn't have felt the same way he does now. - However this kinder approach could very easily still fall into the popular hazing definition.


As to the OA situation, part of the key to whether or not something is hazing or not(FOR ME) is whether or not there is spoken or unspoken pressure to continue in an activity in which one is made to feel uncomfortable.

Not the uncomfortableness of a missed meal, or a cool night but more of perceived danger to self by being afraid to speak up if you wind up approaching hypothermia from bad equipment+bad weather, etc. If the Ordeal staff are evaluating conditions and have backup plans for dangerous weather situations, are providing appropriate scant food, plenty of water opportunities and monitoring their charges for any undue stress(medically) then I don't see what I was exposed to as hazing. And the "friend" is there, if it is being run correctly to allow the prospect to raise just those kind of concerns.


Most activities that I am aware of that are thought of as hazing run along the same lines - there's good clean fun and then over time it's not enough and keeps going one step further - it usually doesn't take too many steps for this to cross the line into hazing or truly dangerous activities.

Since most boys and some men lack the ability to evaluate the position of this "hazing line" and some cultural populations seem inclined to always push the limits - the no hazing prohibition makes a lot of sense.


But, I may be culturally damaged on the issue; In my old school Marine world my view would include that having your new stripes "tapped" on after a promotion with a single blow to the bicep or deltoid wasn't hazing - lining you up and having two dudes who out weigh you by a combined 150 lbs doing it at the same time - that might be hazing, having the same guy put you against a wall and do it - hazing. Get promoted to Corporal and have someone who was glad you got it do a kind of knee kick in to your quadricep - no just a recognition and congratulations; some sadist who waits for these things so he can abuse people doing the same thing but trying to make you feel it for a week - hazing.


I guess for me hazing is the result of the instant the cruel underbelly of the experience is exposed - and/or when no effort is made to ameliorate even the kinder gentler version for the jokee.


I don't think the OA experience of Ordeal needs to be modified or done away with yet, it didn't seem anywhere near the line yet and there were safeguards in place.

I think that Scouting jokes can and should continue.

I think that hazing needs to be quashed.

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Pail of Steam, bucket of spotted or stripped paint, skyhook, left handed smoke shifter( was told that there was no such thing because most people make do with a right handed one).... I think that there is a time and place for these things(camp wide scavenger hunt) and that it needs to be looked at by whos doing it. Is it hasing to get eleven year old boys out for the "snipe hunt" and off their duffs?

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On my very first campout with the Troop, I was sent to go and find a left handed smoke shifter. The older guys in the Troop told me that they thought that the Troop at the next campsite might have one, and to ask if we could borrow it. This, of course, played out with me making the rounds to various campsites asking if they had a left handed smoke shifter. At the last stop that I made, the SM of the Troop handed me this stove pipe type contraption that had an elbow on it, that if you held it just the right way, the smoke from any campfire would "shift to the left, and away from your face."

Well, imagine the surprise on the faces of the older guys when I came back with said smoke shifter ;)

Anyway, this helped to prepare me for some hi-jinx that some "seasoned construction workers" tried to play on me as I was just a general laborer on the job, and only 17.(Summer job). I was asked to go find skyhooks, left-handed monkey wrenches, pails of steam, and of course the polka-dotted paint. I used this time to venture off-site and grab a quick drink, or snack, and then return with a puzzled look on my face, and with a sense of despair, would say that I couldn't find what they were looking for. After a while, my little secret was discovered, and no one seemed upset that I used that time to my advantage. I think it actually helped me gain a bit of respect with the guys on the crew. Anyway, the point that I am trying to make is that Snipe Hunting and all of the other pranks can be actually good life lessons for a young man IF DONE IN A GOOD NATURED WAY WITH RESPECT TO THE VICTIM OF THE PRANK! There are scam artists everywhere, and having a life experience that may make you question whether something is legitimate or not can be a good thing in the long run.

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  • 10 months later...

I have fond memories of my first camping trip with my troop many, many, many years ago, 1970.... That first night we new Scouts with help from the older scouts got to do a Snipe Hunt. Lots of running around a large field with sticks, flashlights and trash bags searching for that illusive bird. I never found that bird...But I did get to join the Royal Order of Siam that night (O Wat a Goo Siam)Was it hazing, probably, but as others have stated, none of it was meant to be derisive or humilating. Was I hurt by it, not at all. Did I have a sense of humor...absolutely, in fact I couldn't wait to get home and have my younger brother join the membership of the ROS......Then I joined the Army and got "Blood Wings" at Jump School and those Master Parachute wings were ground into your chest. We're not supposed to do that either.....

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As a practical joker myself, I find it difficult to categorize a true practical joke as harrassment. Harrassment is singling out someone with continual tormenting of another person and a good practical joke only works once. I have boys play harmless pranks on me and I return the favor and as long as everyone is having fun with it the boys enjoy it. There are a few of the rules which must apply.


1) No one gets hurt or endangered. Rule #1 Safety First!!!! I.e., if boys go on a snipe hunt/tornado watch/smoke shifter they have to go with a buddy.


2) You can play out the prank as long as you have already had it pulled on you. You can only send someone on a snipe hunt if you have already been a "victim" of such a prank. If you witness a prank, but weren't a victim, you cannot play that prank on someone else. New pranks must be approved by the SM. Usually this is done by playing the prank on him first. If you wouldn't do it to the SM, you shouldn't be doing it to another scout.


3) If you play pranks, expect to get one back.


4) No prank can last more than 15 minutes.


5) The prank must be age appropriate and focused. Yelling "BEAR IN CAMP!" on the Webelos' first outing isn't allowed. But staring out into the darkness just before bed with the Venture Patrol and when asked what's going on, you reply, "Oh, nothing, I just thought I saw something out there." is. Just remember, to inform the boys it's a "gotcha" after 15 minutes of them staring intently into the darkness.


6) Inside inside any tent is off-limits.


I don't know how many times I have gotten up in the morning with my staff SM flag removed and replaced with underwear (or no staff at all!) Is that harrassing? Nope, but the boys have fun and so do I. Of course when the rope under the tent trick is played by the SM, or mink in the back pack or mess kit, or tastes like mint is done, it's fair game, too.


Harrassment? Some of my boys take pride in being the victim and have often bragged about how well someone was able to dupe them as if it's a badge of honor to learn a new prank.


A boy can declare himself neutral at any time and he cannot participate in the game, he's then off-limits to any prank. If a boy has claimed neutrality, and then wants in on the game he has to wait until he's been gotcha'd before he can "retaliate".



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The thing to keep in mind is that hazing and bullying is about pecking order, and putting people "in their place." I teach my guys one element of bullying is if the target of the bullying is perceived to be a weaker or somehow lower in status than that of the bully. Funny, you rarely see the kid that's 6-1, 230 lbs and the star linebacker on the football team getting picked on like this.


I loved that episode of Cheers. It's a classic. (My favorite is when Carla's ex tries to seduce Diane by hypnotizing her, but it works on Woody instead.) But the difference between fun and hazing is that the guys are considered equals. The ASMs in the troop who are my buddies can joke about my belly. I can raz them about their bald spots. As Frasier says, "That's what guys do." But it would be wholly in appropriate for me to make similar comments about a youth.


The night the new boys crossed over my first year as SM three of the 17 year olds lined up all the new guys and started making up nicknames for them. I put a stop to it. The ringleader complained that everyone had a nickname. "Fine," I said, "you're B.O." I turned to the chubby guy next to him and said, "You're Bucketass." And to the third guy I said, "Your name is Dewey, but of course that's spelled D.U.I." That last one, in particular, hit a nerve. "So," I said, "are we sticking with the nicknames or do you think it would be more Scoutlike to go with everyone's real name, at least until we get to know them?"

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Yes, the left-handed smoke shifter. I'm glad scoutmaster52 brought it up, I was going to. I am guilty on two counts: 1) being duped into going to get one on my first campout, and 2) sending a new scout to get one on a subsequent campout.

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"As intelligence officer for the Mediterranean area, Baden-Powell was in

charge of gathering and submitting to the War Office information on the

disposition of troops and ships of the different countries, their armament

and other items of military value.


"He first turned his eyes south and decided to go 'snipe hunting' in Tunis

and Algeria. On his first trip to these North African countries, both of

them French regencies, Baden-Powell focused his attention on Bizerta....

"B-P took a room in Bizerta overlooking the canal and the lake and spent

several days roaming the town and the surrounding area, ostensibly looking

for birds in the snipe bogs. When he had gathered all the data he

considered pertinent he went inland with a guide, an interpreter, and a

couple of beaters, for an honest-to-goodness snipe shoot at a farm owned by

a British settler, near Mateur....


"On other trips to North Africa, the inquisitive Baden-Powell covered the

area from Nemours in French Algeria to Tripoli, the capital of Turkish

Tripoli, by sea, by railway, by diligence, on horseback and on foot. He

visited Oran and Algiers, Constantine and Biskra, Tunis and Kairouan,

Sousse and Gabes. He went 'snipe shooting' and snipe shooting, watched the

maneuvers of Spahis and Chasseurs d'Afrique, witnessed the obvious growth

of the harbour of Bizerta into a major French naval base -- and sent reams

of reports and scores of sketches and maps off to England."


When it came time for B-P to resign as military secretary and return to his

regiment in time to take part in the spring training, the Governor sent

B-P's resignation to London.


"The War Office's telegram accepting B-P's resignation contained a bouquet

for his work as Intelligence Officer in the form of a grant of 40 [English

Pounds] for a side trip on the way home, for 'snipe hunting' in Algeria"

(Baden Powell: The Two Lives of a Hero, William Hillcourt, Pages 96-101).


It is not unreasonable to assume that there may have been early Scouting

games based on B-P's snipe hunt subterfuge. Many of the games that appear

in Baden-Powell's book, Scouting Games




are based on stalking, cunning, stealth, and spying. Most likely early

"snipe hunts" would have been tests of vigilance by Patrols "scouting"

the Troop or other Patrols. These sort of activities date back to the

Brownsea Campout and B-P himself,


"The boys on sentry duty during night picket took their jobs seriously --

and well they might: there were 'enemies' about.


"One night, for instance, the van Raalte's young son and daughter decided

to 'invade' the camp. They were 'arrested' and sent on their way home.

Another night, a party of ladies and gentlemen -- visitors at Brownsea

Castle -- were intercepted during a twilight stroll.


"Even Baden-Powell himself became the victim of a night picket sentry on

one of this attempts to 'scout' a patrol. He was spotted by his nephew,

Donald, hanging on for dear life to a tree limb overhead"

(Baden-Powell: The Two Lives of a Hero, Page 271).




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I PM'ed someone this story, but I though I would share a laugh with everyone with the story.


When I just joined the National Guard, I was sent to supply to get a shelf stretcher for our equipment room. I went and asked for one. My cousin happened to be working that day. She told me that there wasn't any such thing as a shelf stretcher. I winked and said, "It is shelf stretcher duty or latrine duty." "Oh, it's in the motor pool! I'll go get it right now." So I spent all morning looking for it. I would be instructed to go to another location and upon leaving the room everyone would laugh. After lunch we had formation and the master seargent asked me if I found it yet. I said "no, but I wasn't going to let him down." Everybody had smiles on at that point.


A guy in my squad told me that it was a joke and I looked like a complete idiot. I replied saying that I needed help to find it and to carry it back since it took two men to carry it. I then winked. I asked one of our squad leaders if Al could help me. So he went along with me looking for it. I saw my platoon leader go into the CO's office for a meeting with the CO and other NCO's. Al said, "Don't do it." but I did it anyways. I busted into the meeting and was crawling under the CO's desk looking for the thing. When I left, I heard them laughing saying, "Who's idiot does he belong to?" My platoon leader said, "He's mine and he knows exactly what he's doing." Private Horton is an Eagle Scout and he is fully aware of what a snipe hunt is.


He came out of the meeting looking for me. Al and I waved at him as we drove out of the parking lot driving a Duce and a half. We drove to several hardware stores to look for one. We drove to a local mall and went to Sears. The guy at Sears made some phone calls and located one for us. After that we spent some time looking at the girls until we knew we had to be back in time for formation. So Al and I ended up all day getting out of crap details. At formation, the Master Sergeant asked us if we found it yet? My answer was, "No, but we bought some polka-dot paint at Sears." Everyone in my unit got some laughs. Even the CO thought it was funny that I had the audacity to crawl between their legs looking for the thing.


The following week, we had out troop committee meeting. The committee chair was the CO of HQ for my battalion. He mentioned that the incident got back to him and he asked for the name of the new recruit. He laughed when he heard it was me. He put in a good word to my CO, so things went well for me after that.


I hope you liked the story. RD

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