When encouraging proper uniforming becomes unkind

A while back, one of the BSA’s official Facebook pages posted a wonderful photo of a Cub Scout flag ceremony. (Not the one above — a different photo.)

It was one of those perfect Scouting moments: Charming and inspiring and genuine. Scouts were having fun as parents and adult leaders looked on with pride.

Unfortunately, a handful of commenters noticed some of the Scouts weren’t in full uniform. Rather than remarking on the impressive display of patriotism, this vocal minority offered a scathing criticism about uniforms.

The story got worse from here. A parent from the pack contacted the BSA, saying her Cub Scouts had seen the comments and were devastated. The mom, who had originally sent in the photo with pride, asked that it be taken down. And so it was.

Proper uniforming is a worthy pursuit — one we have discussed at length on this very blog. But sometimes the way people react to improper uniforming leads them away from the Scout Law.

Maybe we need to have a discussion about uniforming and kindness.

The uniform is one part of Scouting …

Wearing the uniform is very important. It’s one of seven methods of Cub Scouting…

  1. Living the Ideals
  2. Belonging to a Den
  3. Advancement
  4. Family Involvement
  5. Activities
  6. Serving the Neighborhood
  7. Uniform

… and eight methods of Scouts BSA:

  1. Patrols
  2. Ideals
  3. Outdoor Programs
  4. Advancement
  5. Association With Adults
  6. Personal Growth
  7. Leadership Development
  8. Uniform

The uniform builds unity among Scouts, lets them show off awards they’ve earned and helps others notice the presence of Scouting in their community.

… but it’s not the only part of Scouting

There’s a difference between encouraging proper uniforming within your pack, troop or crew — something we can all support — and belittling or embarrassing fellow Scouts and Scouters who aren’t perfectly attired. That moves from striving to uphold standards to being unkind.

The Facebook post of the Cub Scout flag ceremony photo serves as a nice reminder that your online comments don’t live in a vacuum: There’s a real person — sometimes a child — on the other end of your words.

Scouts learn to be a part of a den or patrol. They grow as people as they advance through the program.

Scouts learn from positive adult role models. They practice leadership skills. They serve their community. They have life-changing experiences they can’t get anywhere else.

And if they do all that with a shirt untucked or a patch misplaced? Maybe that’s not the end of the world. Maybe those Scouts are learning bigger lessons — ones that will last a lifetime.

Let’s all aspire to a higher standard when discussing uniforms — a standard straight from the Scout Law. Points four, five and six tell us to be friendly, courteous and kind.

About Bryan Wendell 2799 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is senior editor of Boys’ Life, Scouting and Eagles’ Call magazines.