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embassed to be in uniform

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The "coolness" level of scouting is so interesting as it changes through a boy's age. In elementary school, almost every boy is a Cub Scout. Some join willingly, many are forced by parents, some join to be with friends. Elementary school boys don't have any shame in scouts because everyone else is also in the same program.


There's no huge problem in high school either. While some teasing occurs, and boys often don't wear uniforms to school, most people don't care. Many high schoolers realize that an Eagle Scout has a full resume that will play a vital role in college admissions. They have also heard all the stories about the white-water rafting, the backpacking, and the rock climbing.


The trouble spot is middle school. Middle school (ages 12-14) is the time when "coolness" becomes life. Nobody is content with their popularity status. They have been thrown together with a bunch of new people and are convinced that the one with the most friends will come out on top. A definite "cool" group emerges too. This is when people drop out of Boy Scouts, usually before First Class. They use excuses of time commitments or lack of interest, but we need to face it that Boy Scouts is a taboo subject in many schools. It's something boys are ashamed of and want to hide. And this is the moment when boys cross over from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts.


Why has Scouting gotten this "uncool" stigma at this stage of life? I believe it is the connection to Cub Scouts. No matter how impressive a troop's program is, the boys who aren't scouts and whose opinions are so important will not approve. Many of these "cool" boys were in Cub Scouts and they walk away with images of uniforms and den leaders. They haven't been introduced to high adventure. Schemas have been formed and won't change for many years.


The middle school mind has confused the chicken with the egg. It is their thoughts that Boy Scouts is an extension of Cub Scouts because Boy Scouts comes after Cubs. So why spend five more years of life doing elementary school projects?


While the Cub Scout experience is not negative for these boys, the memories are of an elementary program. Middle school is puberty and the beginnings of manhood. Connections with the infant world of the past must be broken to be "cool." Middle school boys can't listen to their parents, conform by wearing uniforms, or do arts and crafts.


Boy Scouts needs to be advertised as the high adventure experience it is. Since there are no requirement connections between Cubs and Boys, and no program connections, I think they need to be separated. Let Boy Scouts stand alone and the boys will come. They will see it for what it is instead of most of the same old elementary school activities.


Yay for rants!

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I remember that feeling of being embarrassed in the BSA uniform.

We were in London and our jamboree Troop was taking a walking tour of the city. I thought I would die. The red berets were funny looking...the shorts were too short. But all day, no one said anything derogatory to us and I finally got over myself.

Now that I have two sons in Cubs and am a Webelos Den Leader, I struggle with preparing the boys for this sudden awareness of "what other people might think of me". It is starting even now in fourth grade. I agree that the Scout Oath in action in the local community is the best advertising, but we need more.


If you look at the national BSA site...the sample print adds and TV spots online - You see the selling of high adventure and the aspects of Scouting to which we all aspire. The problem is that I have never seen these ads anywhere outside the BSA website!

I know the national BSA office has had advertising problems in the past but a strong national advertising effort must be made to ensure that we have a future. People know what a "kid in a soccer uniform" means. They do not know (except from odd TV sitcom and movie caricatures of Scouting) what we are about!


I spend much of my quality "parent to Den Leader" time explaining the program and how it will change their boy's life forever. We need BSA commercials on Cartoon Network, Disney Channel, Discovery Kids, Animal Planet and the like and fewer ads in the relatively obscure business magazines that the national office BSA targets.

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Zahnada and EagleDad,


Good points! I do disagree in part with some of your observations Zahnada. My son is in 4th grade and a Webelos 1. He just joined Cub Scouts this year. He joined because they had a recruiting night at his school. Each year they try to establish a pack at his school and never get enough kids to do it. The boys that did sign up ended up merging with an existing pack. I think there were 10 boys who signed up from Tigers thru Webelos. My son was the only Webelo to sign up. A den of one is pretty small.


Anyway, to my point. He has tried to recruit a lot of his friends at school to join. None of them are the least bit interested. It isn't "cool" and they don't want to wear that "dorky" uniform. This is 10 year old 4th graders, not middle school boys. I agree about the problem with middle school and the problems that come with puberty. If I could black out any time in my life, it would be my miserable middle school years. But I don't agree that elementary kids don't have a problem with scouts not being cool. I've seen it up close and personal. Luckily my son is not a "follower". He is a very copperative and fair kid, but he does not follow the crowd just to follow the crowd. If he finds something like scouts that he wants to do, he will do it. He would prefer that he had friends involved too, but if they aren't, oh well...their loss. Also, he is very good at making new friends, so he can join something like scouts and gains a whole new additional group of friends.


I also remember my buddies who were scouts in high school. They took a lot of ribbing and wouldn't get caught dead in a uniform except when they HAD to wear it. It isn't as bad as middle school though.


I think the "coolness" factor is there at every age, just worse at middle school.

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For 14 year olds to 20 year olds there is an awesome program out there called VENTURING!!!!!!! COED,FUN,Be with older youth, be in control, adults act as shadow leaders to keep them inline

the youth run the program,almost all aspects of Venturing, The way the troops can use Venturers to thier benifit is the Venturing youth have to teach what they learn to earn awards.

Venturing should not be looked at as something to do after Boy Scouts but as something they can do along with Boy Scouting


In a Crew the youth choose the uniform they want to wear. So why would they be emberassed to wear something that they chose to wear!!!!


Our Crew decided to wear the Official, preferred but not required uniform and they are very proud to wear it.


We are chartered by the Gander Mountain store in Germantown WI.




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I would like to add to your advertising comments. I think BSA needs to engage in a multi-pronged advertising campaign. I also noticed that high adventure ads are no where to be seen. But the ads I do see are directed almost exclusively towards parents. These are ads that emphasize the morals of scouting (important, but not inspiring to a youth until they experience it themselves). The pictures on the ads are of boys in uniform saluting the American flag. I think the main target is obvious: the parents.


They need to target the youth at all ages. I would love to see ads of boys on a 100 mile backpacking trek. Ads of boys not wearing uniforms and out doing activities like scouts. We have so much to offer.


I know I personally would have been more inspired to join if I saw pictures of boys having adventures instead of standing at attention. While the moral side of scouting is one of our most important aspects, the adventure side is ignored in ads. Two pronged attack! One for the parents and one for the kids. It's like how the Army had the ads with people interviewing for a job and explaining their qualifications (gained from the military) and then they had ads of people jumping out of helicopters. Appeal to everyone!

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I must be really odd. I LOVED my Girl Scout uniform, and wore it with Pride. I had a kind of reverse-coolness thing going on with scouting as a kid - because I could never hope to be 'cool' in school - the acheivements I earned in scouting meant that much more to me. But I, too, wanted to drop scouts in Jr high. I had too much homework, switching schools was tough, my friends went to another school, and my parents put me in confirmation. I felt I had too many things going on,too much pressure and felt lost. My mom let me drop out - as long as I kept an 'at large' status. (kind of like a 'lone scout' in BSA) that way I could still go to camp if I wanted (I did). After about a year, we found a GS troop whose meetings didn't conflict with confirmation, and I started going to their activities - eventually I joined their troop.


My son has wanted to quit, too - but I told him he had to participate in SOMETHING. if he quit Scouts - he had to take up a sport, or music or something else to expand his horizons. He couldn't just sit home in front of the idiot box. like most boys he figured scouting had to be better than piano lessons! LOL! It doesn't take much to sway him toward scouting - I don't really have to 'convince' him - I just have a very strong belief that scouting is the next best thing to sliced bread. And I LIVE my beliefs. Example is the best teacher. As for the uniform - he has commented more than once to me about liking the looks and respect he gets from adults when we go to the grocery store and he has his uniform on. Kids? well, some are impressed, some don't care. But he's never gotten teased about it though.



I think our example, though, points up what is missing in the retention of boys in scouting - PARENTS.


yes, coolness, sports and the troop program all have something to do with the loss of boys - and I would personally agree that "program" is the biggest of those three - If a kid is truly having a great time, and has one or two buddies to share that fun with - they can easily shed the nerdy image.

But then why do Girl Scouts, 4H and Church youth groups also loose alot of membership at that age?


Kids at that age are struggling with ALOT of changes - mostly changes in independance and identity. They want to make their own decisions, they fight authority, and yet they want direction and security of structure. But the problem I see - is the PARENTS. No matter how much a kid is bombarded by peer pressure - at the age of 11 - 13, their PARENTS are still their strongest influence. Seriously - take a look at your troops - and I bet your 'best' scouts have parents who are active & supportive of the troop. they aren't just 'drop and run' parents.


There's also a male image thing that starts to come over boys and dads when the boys get into jr high. the child is no longer a 'baby' and becomes less involved with Mom things and more involved with Dad stuff. Often, Dads can finally really 'relate' to their sons, as they are now more capable of things that interest Dad and they can do more together without Mom flustering over her "baby'.


Now I know I'm probably gonna take alot of flack for this - especially as most (male) scouters I know are NOT that way. Most people involved in scouting are and have ALWAYS been very responsive to their kids at any age. Scout families also place a higher value on the character building, community, teamwork and variety of exploration that Scouting offers, than on the public recognition and competition of, say - football.


but the vast majority of people want instant recognition, they want their boys to be recognised in school and in sports - because that is what their neighbors notice. how many local headlines scream 'Troop awards 6 Life Scout ranks!" vs. "Woodstock Beats Mchenry 6 -1!" ??????


The PARENTS are not understanding what scouting can do for them and their boys. If they DO want scouting for their boys - they expect to drop them off at "practice" - and cheer from the sidelines at games (and the parents don't get to see scouting successes as often - usually only boring COH's). Most parents can't 'coach' their boys in knot tying and knife handling skills ( unless they were avid scouts) - but almost any Dad can toss a football or teach a kid to throw a fastball.


See what I'm getting at? we DO need to advertise and build our program. But we need to aim at the PARENTS, as well as the kids.


We need to do a better job at the CUB level of bridging to Boy Scouts - that will get the kids in the door.


There are few kids who truly CHOOSE to be in scouting or soccer, or band. Given a true choice - most of them would stay home and play playstation! It's their parent's support, among other things, that reinforces their decision to stay a part of an activity. Even choosing the troop they join - is more often influenced by the PARENTS choice - even if it's by abstaining from choosing and following the crowd in the pack.


anyway - that's my $.02 worth.



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A bit off topic but related to the issue...

I scanned the latest Boys Life Magazine that arrived at home yesterday (04/29/03).

There are only two photographs of Scouts in uniform. This does not count the cartoons.

This spoke volumes to me regarding the concern in the thread.

If the primary magazine for the BSA is shying away from the "image of Scouting" what will be next?




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I do.


My uniform is not official pattern but a very close style in 100% cotton and same colour. It is strong and I wear it whenever I am Scouting except for canoeing and swimming.


My effort at advertising Scouting and showing the Scouts that I am proud of the uniform.


May not be appropriate in your system but thought the alternative view may interest.

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I find at work that 'cool' varies from place to place. It strikes earlier in surf beach communities and later in rural areas for example. That may effect which school age group is negative in your locality.


The safe position for a kid trying to be cool is a negative stance to alternatives. These kids seem to be extreme conservatives - within 'cool' norms. ie only the one style of shirt, music etc is acceptable.


They are aggressively defensive of their conformaty. Alternatives are attacked ruthlessly.


I don't know how we can reverse the public image. Within my circle of influence I try.

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My own son thought Scouts would be like Cubs too! And he has been on the fringe of the Scout Troop all his life.


It clicked at his first official attendance last weekend. The Hook? He passed his Scoutcraft (entry knowledge) and recieved his pocket knife.


Can your Webelos get the Totin Chip (I think that's it) as part of their linking to the Troop of choice? Same hook might work for you.

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Of course the boys are embarresed to wear the uniform, it only represents skills, experienes, and attitudes that are uncool. Just kidding, if the adults wear uniforms not just to meetings but also in public the boys will tend to also.


When told they are uncool for being a 'boy' scout, ours come back (at times) with skills in cooking, camping, wilderness survival, knots, high advinture, backpacking, stars, etc, etc,etc,. By all reports this usually shuts the other ones down.


The key, IMHO, is the adults wearing the uniform and being proud of it. We here in Mic-O-Say also do public dances and demos where the scouts wear their native american costumes and are well recieved by not only the public but their peers. (go figure) Adults also show up in their stuff of MOS.


If you as leaders show pride being in uniform it will rub off.



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