Jump to content
oldisnewagain1

"Unofficial uniform"

Recommended Posts

I think it might be useful at this point to review the purposes of the Uniform Method as set out by BSA in the Guide to Awards and Insignia, page 5, https://filestore.scouting.org/filestore/pdf/33066/33066_Official_Policy_WEB.pdf.  I have highlighted in bold each unique statement of purpose of the uniform (selecting what I think is the best statement, where it appears more than once) and added a number in brackets to each distinct purpose:

OFFICIAL POLICY
The Boy Scouts of America has always been a uniformed body. Its uniforms [1] help to create a sense of belonging. They [2] symbolize character development, leadership, citizenship training,
and personal fitness
. Wearing a uniform gives youth and adult members a sense of identification and commitment.

Personal equality.  The uniform [3] represents a democratic idea of equality,  [4] bringing people of different racial, economic, religious, national, ethnic, political, and geographic backgrounds
together in the Scouting tradition.

Identification. The uniform [5] identifies youth and adult members of the Boy Scouts of America, [6] visible as a force for good in the community.  When properly and smartly worn, the uniform
[7] can build good unit spirit. When worn on the correct occasions, it [8] can attract new members.  

Achievement. The [9] uniform shows the wearer’s activity, responsibility, and achievement. What each youth or adult member has accomplished with program opportunities can be recognized
by the insignia worn on the uniform.

Personal commitment. The uniform is [10] a constant reminder to all Cub Scouts, Scouts, Venturers, Sea Scouts, and adults of their commitment to the ideals and purpose of the Boy Scouts of America. The uniform is a way of making visible members’ commitment to a belief in God, loyalty to country, and helping others at all times.

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.

To summarize, BSA states that the Scout uniform -- 

  1. Helps to create a sense of belonging;
  2. Symbolizes character development, citizenship training, and personal fitness;
  3. Represents a democratic idea of equality;
  4. Brings people of different backgrounds together in the Scouting tradition;
  5. Identifies youth and adult members of the Boy Scouts of America;
  6. Provides visibility to Scouting as a force for good in the community;
  7. Can build good unit spirit;
  8. Can attract new members;
  9. Shows the wearer's activity, responsibility, and achievement;
  10. Serves as a constant reminder to all Scouts, Venturers, and adults of their commitment to the ideals and purpose of the Boy Scouts of America.
  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, ParkMan said:

The reason this topic gets debated and never resolved is because it's not a discussion about uniforms. The issue at hand is how adults approach Scouting.

Many Scouters look at the program, embrace it's structure, and then utilize it to it's fullest.  Others look at the program and say "I agree with about 85% of this" and then focus on the aspects they agree with the most.  Others of us treat Scouting as a fun activity with kids, are just happy Scouts are there, and don't rock the boat.  I could go on...

I agree that the real issue is how adults approach Scouting, and I applaud leaders who believe in the power of the correct complete uniform and act on that in a moderate and positive way.  But there are eight methods in Scouts BSA that call for our attention, so I don't think you can judge a leader's dedication to Scouting from how he or she handles just one of the Methods.  I suspect that very few troops have the skills and resources to "utilize [each Method] to its fullest."  Additionally, the circumstances, needs, strengths, and weaknesses of each troop and each leader are different.  So leaders have to make choices about where they are going to put their time and resources and what Methods they just aren't going to emphasize.  How to decide? 

Certainly personal preferences are part of it, as well as the preferences of Scouts and adults in the troop.  Parents complain about the cost of uniforms; but that's an easy fix -- start a used uniform closet.  Well, who is going to handle the collection, storage, communications, exchanges?  Parents complain that their children are growing out of their pants every six months and it would be a lot easier if their kids could wear pants they already have.  Is it likely that a discussion with them about the value of the correct complete uniform will change their minds about a garment their child will wear for a total of about three days?  And of course, if a leader is of the personal view that many youth are embarrassed to be seen in public in Scout uniform, or that the uniform is uncomfortable, or not suited for outdoor activities, or that the ten purposes BSA gives for the uniform are mostly fluff, or has other unfavorable views about the uniform, then that leader is going to apply resources to aspects of the program he or she sees as more valuable (such as Patrols, or Outdoors, or Leadership Development, or the Daily Good Turn).  But even if a leader is a strong believer in the value of the correct complete uniform, and wears an impeccable uniform, he or she may make the calculation that going beyond personal example would not be a good use of time or resources in that troop.

Edited by dkurtenbach
Typo
  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A historical note, the Uniform Method (circa mid 80's) did not exist when I was a scout and nationally ,there were a LOT more scouts yet fewer Eagles. The uniform remains not mandatory.  My point, the other Methods are more important in delivering the Scouting Program. Focus on those.

My $0.02,

 

  • Like 1
  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Not to rain on this, but yes, Baden-Powell made the statement that the uniform was not mandatory, but the BSA, for quite a few years, has not made that statement.  Current literature talks about the uniform as an essential component (for example: https://www.scouting.org/programs/scouts-bsa/faqs/).  Current position training also states that no one of the 8 methods is more important than the others.  Do I think we need to be so uptight as to break out a tape measure and start giving de-merits for a patch out of alignment, or that the shorts/pants the scout is wearing are the wrong shade of green? No, absolutely not.  Personally, I'm much more encouraging to a parent to buy a $15 pair of green cargo shorts from Walmart than a $30 pair from National Supply- and as a parent I'm not going to fret on my kid wearing those $15 shorts on his camping trips, hikes, etc.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There are ways to encourage insignia placement ...

Thinking globally, a complete uniform is an excellent trading item! One fellow from outside the US shared a picture of the BSA shirt that he acquired from the Jamboree. Based on the insignia, I was could explain most of the history behind the scout who wore it (a PL from the late 70's who was active in his council and attended Nat. Jambo at Moraine State Park, Philmont, etc ...). I also gave some suggestions of online sources that may have a picture of that very uniform and the scout who wore it. He was very grateful for my armchair anthropological assessment!

I've often told scouts that decades from now they will have so much fun showing their shirt and collection of patches (assuming they survive whatever journey through life the scout takes) to their kids. I can now tell them that a half-century from now, their shirt could tell their scouting story to someone far away.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Uniform expectations are certainly ambiguous in BSA publications and materials:

Guide to Awards and Insignia, page 5, https://filestore.scouting.org/filestore/pdf/33066/33066_Official_Policy_WEB.pdf (bold emphasis added):

"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."

Guide to Advancement 2019, paragraph 8.0.0.4, https://www.scouting.org/resources/guide-to-advancement/boards-of-review/#8004 (bold emphasis added):

"It is preferred a Scout be in full field uniform for any board of review.  As much of the uniform as the Scout owns should be worn, and it should be as correct as possible, with the badges worn properly. It may be the uniform as typically worn by the Scout’s troop, crew, or ship. If wearing all or part of the uniform is impractical for whatever reason, the candidate should be clean and neat in appearance and dressed appropriately, according to the Scout’s means, for the milestone marked by the occasion. Regardless of unit, district, or council expectations or rules, boards of review shall not reject candidates solely for reasons related to uniforming or attire, as long as they are dressed to the above description. Candidates shall not be required to purchase uniforming or clothing to participate in a board of review."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
39 minutes ago, RememberSchiff said:

A historical note, the Uniform Method (circa mid 80's) did not exist when I was a scout and nationally ,there were a LOT more scouts yet fewer Eagles. The uniform remains not mandatory.  My point, the other Methods are more important in delivering the Scouting Program. Focus on those.

 

 

Fair enough, but even the local soccer team understands the importance of team uniformity for success on the soccer field. I know it is my style of mentoring with scouts, but not only can I not pick a method more or less important than Uniform, I think the method is the foundation for a successful Patrol Method. Successful well run Patrols typically appear uniform in their actions, attitudes and appearance. 

As for the passionate complaints about all the patches and do-dads that scouts can choose to add on their uniform, I'm a minimalist that chooses very few patches. Oh I have a box full of that stuff somewhere, but not on the uniform. 

Barry

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I certainly apologize for commenting on an old topic, regardless of relevance.  Everyone has opinions on this subject: wearing mentor pins, too many square knots, official hat, socks, belt, and is the neckerchief worn under the collar of is the collar turned under.  How many wear official socks, and if not are you in uniform?  If it's cold outside and you put on a generic wool hat are you suddenly out of uniform therefore preventing you from giving the scout salute at flag raising? What exactly goes on the back of a merit badge sash? Can you wear your hat inside? Can you wear a sheath knife on your belt? Jeeeeeesssssss....these issues are something that I choose not to occupy my mind.  Others can if they choose to do so, but I would respectfully request that you do not attempt to correct those with differing opinions.  I will refrain from making any additional comments and I again apologize for dredging up such an old and irrelevant topic.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There seems to be two different issues here. One is the quality of the uniform and the other is the quality of how the uniform is used to help with the aims of scouting. It's the same thing with advancement. 

First, helping with the aims. Both the uniform and advancement have gotten very complex, bloated, full of arcane rules. I'd much rather see simplification of all of it primarily so the scouts can own it and the adults can be gently moved aside. We don't need pages of rules about patch placement. We don't need knots on uniforms. We don't need pages of requirements that involve describe and discuss. We only need "do" requirements. Same could apply to the uniform. Rank, por, patrol, troop number, US flag, and maybe wosm patch. Chuck the rest. The scouts can easily handle that. 

Next, quality. Well, the same things apply for quality. Make it simpler and the quality will improve. Both the uniform and advancement, if simplified, might make it easier for the scouts to see the forest rather than the trees. By that I mean seeing the aims and not just the methods. That's why scouts don't have pride in what they're doing.

They're never told the connection between the aims and methods. Awhile ago I asked about writing something that would explain it and nobody was much interested. Recently, I asked our incoming SM if he'd like such a document and he jumped on it. He said he recently taught the sm specific training and several people, after they were taught the aims and methods said "that's nice, but how do the methods support the aims?" The guy teaching it didn't have an answer. If this isn't obvious to every parent involved in scouting then there's no wonder why everyone is trying to short cut these issues. Just saying that the scouts have to wear their uniform correctly because we have a uniform is just dogma. Scouts want a better answer than that and we owe it to them. I'd much rather see an explanation that involves encouraging a scout to want to wear it than make them wear it. And if they don't, then they dont.

  • Thanks 1
  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Oh, on the contrary @Mrjeff, this is a mighty relevant topic, and clearly one that still needs to be addressed. Thank you for bringing it up. But I suggest that it's really not your place to request that people not attempt to teach, educate, and counsel others to do better. I know that I will continue to do so - I think it would be unkind and unfair for me NOT to try and help the Scouts and Scouters I love to try and do better. Isn't that why we're here? To try and improve ourselves and encourage the best in others?

I think you've added a lot of important information for us to consider, and I hope you don't disappear entirely. I've found much to contemplate in your remarks.

Edited by The Latin Scot

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, RememberSchiff said:

A historical note, the Uniform Method (circa mid 80's) did not exist when I was a scout and nationally ,there were a LOT more scouts yet fewer Eagles. The uniform remains not mandatory.  My point, the other Methods are more important in delivering the Scouting Program. Focus on those.

My $0.02,

I ... I just don't believe this. I feel, very strongly, that ALL the methods are equally important, and I can't accept the idea that somehow a leader has to sacrifice one to focus on the other. 

1 hour ago, dkurtenbach said:

I agree that the real issue is how adults approach Scouting, and I applaud leaders who believe in the power of the correct complete uniform and act on that in a moderate and positive way.  But there are eight methods in Scouts BSA that call for our attention, so I don't think you can judge a leader's dedication to Scouting from how he or she handles just one of the Methods.  I suspect that very few troops have the skills and resources to "utilize [each Method] to its fullest."  Additionally, the circumstances, needs, strengths, and weaknesses of each troop and each leader are different.  So leaders have to make choices about where they are going to put their time and resources and what Methods they just aren't going to emphasize.  How to decide? 

I really don't think any leader's circumstances require them to walk into a room of Scouts and pick one method to teach at the cost of the others. The whole idea is that these concepts strengthen and support each other - if you find the methods are competing with each other, you're not using them correctly. 

For example (to the point of this topic), our troop had an outdoor Court of Honor last night. At the end, the SPL held a surprise uniform inspection. Each patrol was in competition with the other patrols, and the leaders were their own collective unit as well (the boys love competing against the grown ups). First, the SPL gave a brief overview of the importance of the uniform. He talked about unity and having a place in our group, and asked everybody to look around at all their fellow Scouts, all dressed alike and all feeling like one unified team. Then he asked each patrol leader (and the Committee Chair for the adults) to review a group that wasn't his own, and the resulting scores were written on a large whiteboard he had brought with him. He then brought out a large platter of cookies and said the winner was ... everybody. 

In effect, he told the audience that every Scout who works his hardest can still accomplish something, and that just by making the effort to be there, each boy deserved recognition. Everybody got a cookie. But, the extra effort of some boys deserved more. So every boy with a perfect score also received a cupcake. Then he pointed out that we work best when we work together, and the winning patrol ALSO received ice cream. So everybody won, but according to his efforts, there was the chance to get more out of it as well. 

It was a mighty fine lesson, and I notice the following methods of Scouting were all part of it: Ideals, group activities, adult association, uniforms, teaching others, and leadership. That's 6 out of 8 in one activity! This SPL understands the goal - to make Scouting a constant stream of learning, with the ebb and flow of the eight methods forming the momentum which carries these Scouts on towards a healthy maturity. And if done right, more than a few adults might find themselves moving forward with the tide themselves!

Edited by The Latin Scot
  • Upvote 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There's a difference between intent and effort.  As a leader, you can promote proper uniforming with very little to no effort.  With almost no effort, a Scoutmaster can share a positive word or an encouraging remark.  I believe that we should have the intent of proper uniforming.  In fact, it takes effort to detract from uniforming.  Should a Scouter really actively criticize the uniform, should they promote wrong patch placement, should they tell a Scout jeans are ok?  Scouters like @The Latin Scot may find the energy to put in the effort more actively promote uniforming, but the rest of us certainly should not detract from it. 

Mistakes are one thing - but making an overt choice to ignore uniforming guidelines because "it's too hard" or because you think you know better actively detracts from the program.  Youth are very astute and recognize when adults are exercising their own judgement to break a rule they don't like.  I know we think we're teaching them a high lesson - but we're really not.

My challenge to Scouters would be to let the program be the program.  If a Scouter's bandwidth is limited, then at least don't detract from those methods you don't put energy into.   There's 1000 ways for a Scouter to show their personality without detracting from the uniform.  

I fully respect that others have differing opinions on many of the eight methods - uniforming, advancement, patrols, ....  But, as Scouters we should avoid the crutch of criticizing the method because it's easier or because you don't like some aspect of that method.

  • Like 1
  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@Mrjeffit may be an old topic, but it is a perpetual topic; like a volcano, it goes dormant for a while, but then it erupts.  It would have erupted at some point anyway, even if you had not tossed a pebble into the crater.  

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 minute ago, ParkMan said:

There's a difference between intent and effort.  As a leader, you can promote proper uniforming with very little to no effort.  With almost no effort, a Scoutmaster can share a positive word or an encouraging remark.  I believe that we should have the intent of proper uniforming.  In fact, it takes effort to detract from uniforming.  Should a Scouter really actively criticize the uniform, should they promote wrong patch placement, should they tell a Scout jeans are ok?  Scouters like @The Latin Scot may find the energy to put in the effort more actively promote uniforming, but the rest of us certainly should not detract from it. 

Well stated.  Yes, we should avoid saying or doing things in front of Scouts and parents that detract from BSA's program and policies, including uniform guidelines, even if we personally have reservations about or criticisms of program elements and policies.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, MattR said:

Both the uniform and advancement, if simplified, might make it easier for the scouts to see the forest rather than the trees. By that I mean seeing the aims and not just the methods. That's why scouts don't have pride in what they're doing.

I certainly think that the Uniform Method would benefit greatly from a statement of clear, concrete reasons for wearing the Scout uniform.  As noted previously, this is what we have now:

6 hours ago, dkurtenbach said:

To summarize, BSA states that the Scout uniform -- 

  1. Helps to create a sense of belonging;
  2. Symbolizes character development, citizenship training, and personal fitness;
  3. Represents a democratic idea of equality;
  4. Brings people of different backgrounds together in the Scouting tradition;
  5. Identifies youth and adult members of the Boy Scouts of America;
  6. Provides visibility to Scouting as a force for good in the community;
  7. Can build good unit spirit;
  8. Can attract new members;
  9. Shows the wearer's activity, responsibility, and achievement;
  10. Serves as a constant reminder to all Scouts, Venturers, and adults of their commitment to the ideals and purpose of the Boy Scouts of America.

Personally, I think that numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, and 10 are too vague and aspirational to be useful in explaining to Scouts and parents why we want them to wear uniforms.  Number 5 is sometimes useful, but not for most of the occasions (unit meetings) where the uniform will be worn.  Number 6 is good, but only on those occasions when Scouts are out in the community in uniform.  

I would keep number 9, and suggest two restatements so that there are three clear, concrete, and easily explainable reasons.  The Scout uniform -- 

  • Shows the wearer's activity, responsibility, and achievement.  Badges and other insignia remind the Scout -- and show others -- his or her progress in developing skills, developing leadership, and overcoming challenges.  (Character, Fitness, Leadership) 
  • Shows that the wearer is a member of a team.  Regardless of their backgrounds, all Scouts are equal members of a team, with equal responsibility for helping each other and the unit to succeed in their goals and activities, and to grow.  (Citizenship, Character)
  • Shows that the wearer is ready and willing to serve the community and the country.  Every member of an organization committed to directly helping others puts on some type of uniform:  fire fighters, clergy, military, law enforcement, medical professionals, and many others.  For more than a hundred years, Scouts have been recognized as people with special skills, and have been called upon time after time to help others.  (Citizenship, Character, Fitness, Leadership)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×