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Beavah

What is hazing?

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My son is ADHD. Forgetting things is just part of who he is. Out of sight out of mind with him is a literal statement of fact. He was also rather a shy kid.

 

His Troop had the practice of singing "Little Teapot". His SM would hold the forgotten item until the Scout performed the song in front of the Troop. For my son, this could be at least once per meeting, sometimes more.

 

He was humiliated. He was picked on by the other boys. He was laughed at by adults and youth alike.

 

Did it "teach" him to remember things? Of course not.

 

What it did teach him was not to respect, or like, his SM and most of the other Scouts. It taught him to not trust his SM or his Troop. It taught him to never tell someone if he lost something. It taught him to go behind his SM's back and take his stuff back from his SM's bags without telling anyone. It taught him that Troop meetings were activities to avoid.

 

 

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Yah, I guess I'm like pappadaddy, eh? I remember my snipe hunt as being mostly fun. Got to run around the woods in the dark with friends. Like OGE I was a stubborn and determined sort, so I was the last one in. I don't recall feeling betrayed at all. I felt like one of the guys, and thought it was a sort of funny prank. Got left behind and lost a couple times too, eh? Didn't feel betrayed then either. Felt like I should have paid more attention.

 

So in terms of da Golden Rule, I guess I'd be OK with snipe hunts, where OGE wouldn't.

 

That having been said, I strongly discourage snipe hunts these days, just because there's always a risk that some lads will be like OGE. I confess I'm not convinced there's an institutional spot to draw the line, just an alertness to boys personalities and maturity. After all, at camp yeh often see boys feeling betrayed and reduced to tears by da annual 'hazing' ritual we call "swim checks.". Does that mean swim checks are bad? Maybe. It does at least mean that we need to be mindful of handlin' 'em differently for the more fragile lads. Problem is that sometimes it's just so hard to predict who is goin' to be scared but fine, who is goin' to get the joke... and who isn't .

 

My great uncle used to do this thing with kids where when you'd shake his hand he'd really shake it, eh? Back and forth, up and down. It was funny, and as kids we always enjoyed it and remembered him as a bright spot in some otherwise dull adult gathering. But then there was one cousin whose hand he "shook" that freaked out and was reduced to tears.

 

So was that "hazing"? Was it a poor practice because one young lad out of 50 became tearful? Or is it poor practice to deprive da 49 other kids of a fun moment and fond remembrance of their uncle?

 

Beavah

 

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As SM, I participated in snipe hunts all the time. All the boys needed to have permission to leave camp and thus notify an adult they would be leaving, for what purpose and when they expect to return. Not a problem.

 

Whenever the new boys would come and ask to go on a snipe hunt, I would always say, "Sounds like fun, can I go along?" We'd go out and set ourselves up and while waiting for snipe, we'd chat. It was a good way to get to know the new boys, one-on-one. After a while they'd begin to question the task and I'd say, it was a joke being pulled by the older boys, but it was fun getting to know them as we waited out the joke. We than had a discussion on hazing and how important it was to "pay-your-dues" to become one of the group. We then discussed, the two-way smoke shifters, tornado watches, and whatever else was the tradition of the troop for the new boys. I suggested they think of something new, because the next batch of new scouts might catch on to the old traditions. I also told them that if they wanted to be a good leader, you need to go with the new scouts like I was doing so you could get to know them better like I was doing. And after all, this was also a way for the older boys to let the new guys know that if they passed they would be "part of the group". If the older boys didn't send them on their snipe hunt, it may mean they didn't care about the new boys enough to initiate them into the "club".

 

One of the more savvy boys decided to turn the tables on the older boys and told them when he returned the snipe were all over the place, but were too fast for him. He apologized profusely he had failed in his mission. He dropped the conversation at that point. About 15 minutes later a couple of the older boys came to me and asked what it was he actually saw out there. I said I don't know, but he was running all over the woods after them. I still wonder to this day whether any of the older boys went out to check it out, but I never heard one way or the other. Of course they wouldn't admit it to anyone if they did. :)

 

Another process was the teapot song when they lost their patrol flag the first, and usually only time. The whole patrol would have to sing, most of them reluctant and angry at the PL for losing it. But when the SM stepped in and help teach them the song and gestures, it became fun for all. Remember, these boys were usually Webelos Cub Scouts just a few months earlier and were used to these goofy songs. Also when the SM taught the boys, it also took a lot of the fun out of it for the older boys. Of course, I warned the new scouts that if I sang the song and did the gestures better than they did I would get the flag. Somehow I would always lose even though I would cut them no slack.

 

One does not need to forbid the process of initiations, but use these times as an opportunity to show leadership and help the boys through the process. Eventually the SPL would take the boys on the snipe hunts because he saw how important the process was and how I as SM had handled it in the past.

 

I kinda really liked snipe hunts. :)

 

Stosh

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I have sung the teapot song as ASM when I lost my book at a campout and a newbie who found it said "Teapot song, Teapot song". So sing I did.

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wow, havent been dressed down for quite awhile, almost forgot what it was like

 

can I prevent what happened to me from continuing? Nope, I do want to express how I felt. If you think you can pull off a prank and know your youth, how you behave is up to you

 

Maybe the focus is in the wrong place. According to Beavah its not hazing, perhaps not, its merely being unscoutlike. What you call it is not as important as the lessons that are learned. If you are ok with that, I wish you well

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So let's take a fairly typical state's hazing law:

 

Given that we're talking about ever-expanding definitions, what exactly makes the law you cited a "hazing law"? I don't see the word "hazing" actually used at all within the text you quoted (though perhaps it's contained somewhere else in the legal text, just not in the part you pasted here?)

 

If we're going to focus on the strict definitions of terms like "hazing," I guess I still don't see the problem. That law doesn't define hazing at all - it just describes certain activities that are illegal. Actually, the definition in my dictionary - "subjection to harassment or ridicule" - seems pretty consistent with how the BSA understands hazing in its documents, and also with how your average Scouter understands the term.

 

I think debating the merits of specific cases (snipe hunts, singing) is a separate discussion, but so far I don't really see any "ever-expanding definitions" nor hypothetical legal concerns.

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what exactly makes the law you cited a "hazing law"

 

Yah, I forget which one I grabbed, but of course I'm just grabbin' excerpts. Whichever it was was passed as the "State anti-hazing law" and came up in a Lexis search. But if it makes yeh happy, here's another representative sample

 

(b) Hazing means an intentional, knowing, or reckless act by a person acting alone or acting with others that is directed against an individual and that the person knew or should have known endangers the physical health or safety of the individual, and that is done for the purpose of pledging, being initiated into, affiliating with, participating in, holding office in, or maintaining membership in any organization.

 

In da state with the above definition, hazing can be a misdemeanor or a felony, and "organization" is again defined as a club that is affiliated with a school.

 

So I would say that "subject to harassment or ridicule" would be one of those ever-expanding definitions, eh? ;). I mean, really, "subject to ridicule?". So every political cartoon or stand up comic is committing hazing? Every scout campfire skit that pokes fun at da SM or SPL is hazing?

 

Nonsense!

 

B

(This message has been edited by Beavah)

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Hazing? Not by the strict dictionary definition. Most definitions relate it to a joining activity.

 

Abusive? ABSOLUTELY 100% TEXTBOOK. It seeks to change behavior by using embarrassment and humilitation.

 

Websters dictionary definition: Emotional abuse (also called psychological abuse or mental abuse) can include humiliating the victim privately or publicly, controlling what the victim can and cannot do, withholding information from the victim, deliberately doing something to make the victim feel diminished or embarrassed, isolating the victim from friends and family, implicitly blackmailing the victim by harming others when the victim expresses independence or happiness, or denying the victim access to money or other basic resources and necessities.

 

Other definitions can be summarized as "... all of which have the effect of eroding their self-esteem".

 

...

 

I have a real hard time with those who defend the behavior and/or muddy the waters by tying it to other debates such as eliminating competition or every scout wins. Don't defend bad behavior ever, even if you have fond memories of it. I have fond memories of an 8th grade fight I was in. But, I have no excuse for it and pray that I teach my kids better.

 

...

 

People associate singing for punishment with hazing because of a key aspect. The victim remembers the experience and looks for future opportunities to one-up what was done to him. That's why it hazing is illegal. It compounds over time until people are really getting hurt. Same thing happens with humiliating other people. The next guy tries to do it bigger.

 

...

 

Also, what does it teach about leaders using power? We are trying to teach leadership and character. Our precepts are friendly, helpful, kind, .... BSA GTSS says discipline must be "constructive". Such punishments are no more constructive than training a dog by hitting them. The only definite lesson result is a mean dog.

 

...

 

How many schools have dunce hats any more? How many of us would be happy if we heard our kids had to wear a dunce cap during the school day?

 

...

 

If at this point you still support it, then implement it at work. Late for a meeting? Sing a song. Missed a delivery / commitment? 20 pushups. Took too long for lunch? Run twice around the building.

 

Or as we are scouters, do it at troop committee meetings and and district committe meetings? Didn't return your FOS card? Wear this dunce cap for 15 minutes.

 

If you would not do it or not make another adult do it, why push it on a youth vulnerable to your authority?

 

...

 

I also think about John Wayne. Back in 1900, the leader was the toughest SOB. Worker gets out of line, then you hit them. We're just talking about another left over out-school leadership practice.

 

Or, join the military. A good old fashioned blanket party changes behavior fast too.

 

...

 

A good rule of thumb is it's bad if it entertains others at another's expense.

 

...

 

Simply stated, I think it's mean spirited and I hope I have enough backbone (i.e. "character") to redirect the situation the next time I see it happening.

 

...

 

Beaveh - Thanks for the thread. I think these are important subjects.(This message has been edited by fred8033)

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FWIW, I'm involved with a Fraternity, so the issue of hazing comes up. About every fraternity and sorority defines hazing and opposes it (and as noted, its against the law in probably every state, and against most school rules).

 

But it still happens. With most such organizations, hazing is one of the quickies ways to get yourself removed from an organization and have your chapter shutdown.

 

Here is how APO defines it:

 

Hazing activities are defined as (but not limited to):

Any action taken or situation created, intentionally,

whether on or off fraternity premises or during fraternity

functions, to produce mental or physical discomfort,

embarrassment, harassment, or ridicule. Such activities

may include but are not limited to the following: Use

of alcoholic beverages; paddling in any form; branding;

creation of excessive fatigue; physical or psychological

shocks; quests; treasure hunts; scavenger hunts; road trips;

or any other such activities carried on in the name of the

fraternity wearing of public apparel which is conspicuous

and not normally in good taste; engaging in public

stunts and buffoonery; morally degrading or humiliating

games and activities; and any other activities which are

not consistent with fraternal law, ritual or policy or the

regulations and policies of the education institution and

local, state and federal laws.

 

A couple of good 'rules of thumb' I've used with people was to ask them: is this something you'd as a Brother (ie a member of the group) to do? and if your mother (or university official) happened to come by when you were doing this, what would you say?

 

Keep in mind that hazing is pretty much always used against the new members as part of them being made 'part of the group', and as such is something that established/existing members would never be subjected to.

 

A related problem is dealing with people who take too wide a stance on what hazing is. Some want to claim that asking a new member to do ANYTHING is somehow automatically hazing. But I go back to my second point: if this is something we ask of existing members to do, how is that hazing. For instance, asking pledge to do stuff (anything) is considered hazing, but in APO we expect ALL members to do service, so we expect pledge to ALSO do service. Is that hazing to ask them to do service? I don't think so.

 

 

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Emotional abuse? Holy Smoke! Fred8033, we take children away from their parents for emotional abuse. Do yeh really want to claim that making a lad sing a song to get his book back is da same thing as an offense that will have your children removed and you imprisoned?

 

I don't think so. Makin' a lad sing is just makin' a lad sing. Could be a bit embarrassing, but then so can encouraging a lad to try the climbing wall again and having him fail, or pointin' out that his fly is unzipped.

 

Now, I agree that most of us adults wouldn't be asked to sing if we were late to a meeting (perhaps because of da torture it would cause others :) ). But then singing is not somethin' that we do in most business offices, whereas it is something we do in scouting. I can think of lots of times when I was late to a meeting and therefore got "volunteered" for far more onerous tasks than singin' a song. :)

 

Let's be careful not to confuse things that are really, truly awful and merit criminal penalties with things that are ordinary activities a good scouter might try to use and not succeed with for a particular boy.

 

B(This message has been edited by Beavah)

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Not all abuse is criminal. Some abuse is just mean. I think snipe hunts, singing a song to get stuff back and such is mean. And, it's a dead on match for the definition of emotional abuse. I'm sorry if you are uncomfortable with that. Not every scouting tradition is positive.

 

You might not think it's significant, but I do. I've seen the tears. I've seen kids wanting revenge by doing it to others. It's just plain old mean and teaches others to be mean.

 

I've talked with my sons and told them that their self-worth is worth much more than any set of dishes. If asked, readily acknowledge they are yours, but politely refuse and let the leader and everyone else know that your self-respect is worth more than any set of dishes. Similar with tricks such as snipe hunts. I've told them that any leader promoting such events is not worth their respect or trust.

 

I'm sad to hear you defending such behavior.(This message has been edited by fred8033)

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Hazing is a lot like the bullying argument. There is clearly a grey area. I view scouting as a bit of introduction into the male world which can be a bit rough and alpha-dog like.

 

Pretty soon we will be saying that having a loosing patrol in a patrol competition is public humiliation or being the last kid in the group to advance in rank. A little perspective here. I am not going to lose to much sleep over singing. We do have some boys that are a bit "fragile" and yeah I think a gentler approach is warranted at times.

 

What about cutting the corner off a Totin Chit? What about making a badly behaving boy sit something out? Maybe we should not making the boys wear their uniforms in public, though a tradition, causes some public humiliation? Fred where do you draw the line?

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Fred, there's a difference between defending that behavior and defending your behavior. I don't defend either. ;)

 

To my mind, your describing singing a song as emotional abuse is slander, both legally and ethically. You are accusin' a fellow adult leader of committing a felony against a child. That goes far, far beyond "mean". Is that what yeh really want to do?

 

Webster's silly over broad definition of emotional abuse includes "controlling what the victim can and cannot do". So when da BSA says that a non-swimmer is not permitted to go whitewater rafting, and the lad is in tears because he can't go with his friends, that is emotional abuse? Puhlease.

 

That's what I mean about over broad defintions, eh? It's fine if we want to talk about whether singing is a good choice, or an effective one, or is appropriate in a jamboree context with relative strangers, or even if it's "mean" or unfair to shy kids. But one way or another, there has to be a willingness to acknowledge that there's a difference between singing and abusing a child.

 

Unless of course Mrs. Beavah is singing. Any court in da world would certify that is abuse! ;)

 

Personally, I hope in scoutin' we're helping to raise kids who aren't so fragile that, right or wrong, singing a song affects their self-respect in any way at all.

 

Beavah

(This message has been edited by Beavah)

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Beav - Thanks, the second example was helpful.

 

But I'm still not sure what the big deal is? You're trying to take a term that has a very narrow definition in a specific legal context, and apply it in a general sense.

 

we take children away from their parents for emotional abuse.

 

Sure - but sometimes we don't. What you're ignoring is the severity of the individual situation in question. Consider this example: doing 26mph in a 25mph zone is legally speeding. So is doing 55mph in a 25mph school zone. Both the law and common sense dictate that the consequences for the same offense vary based on severity of the infraction, right? Or are we saying that severity doesn't apply to cases of emotional abuse?

 

Like anything else, there's a grey area when it comes to classifying hazing. It depends heavily on the mindset, intentions and specific actions taken by those involved. I can envision one example of a "snipe hunt" that would clearly be classified as hazing, and another snipe hunt that wouldn't be. The solution isn't at either extreme - neither classifying EVERYTHING that could be construed as hazing as prohibited, nor writing everything off because it doesn't fit some unrelated legalese.

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