Why shouting ‘sign’s up’ to quiet Scouts is all kinds of wrong

The Scout sign holds incredible power.

Without saying a word, a leader can raise the Scout sign and transform a room of rowdy Scouts into a quiet, attentive group.

Sometimes it take a few moments, but eventually the Scouts notice the silent signal and raise their sign. Like magic, the effect spreads until everyone quiets down.

But on a few occasions this act is accompanied by an unnecessary, not-so-silent exclamation: “Sign’s up!”

Moment over. Magic ruined.

Page 42 of Vol. 1 of the Troop Leader Guidebook says adults should never shout “sign’s up” to shush Scouts: “The Scout sign is a silent signal, and getting control of the group is the senior patrol leader’s responsibility.”

North Carolina Scouter David Webster agrees. After hearing “sign’s up” for the zillionth time at a Scout event, David was compelled to email me.

“In my opinion, hearing ‘sign’s up!’ is like hearing fingernails raked across a chalk board,” he writes. “Yes, it’s that annoying.”

The ah-ha moment for David came during his Wood Badge course. A staffer held up the Scout sign, and when the group didn’t settle down immediately, someone yelled the offending phrase.

“That staff member quickly nipped that in the bud,” David writes. “He explained that it was not necessary to yell ‘sign’s up’ — that the mere action of putting the sign up is sufficient. Furthermore, if you are going to yell ‘sign’s up,’ there’s actually no point to put the sign up. It now becomes a yelling match to see who can be the loudest. That will accomplish nothing in a Scout meeting.”

A Cubmaster or senior patrol leader might have to stand up there, sign raised, for 20 seconds or even a full minute for the group to quiet down, but the lesson learned will have been worth it.

“Yep, it takes patience to stand there with your arm up, waiting on the boys, parents, siblings and sometimes leaders to quiet down and pay attention,” David writes. “But it needs to be done that way. In the end, it’s worth it. Eventually, the boys will learn that things will go smoother and faster if they are paying attention and quiet down quickly when the sign goes up.”

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