The past few months I have dreaded turning to the back inside cover of my Leader magazine. “THE LAST WORD” by our National Commissioner, Sam Elsworth, (Jan, 2001) concerned me greatly.
The scary thing about statistics is how easily abused they can be. Quoting from a, then, Angus-Reid survey, the article states, “…only sixty-five percent of all MEMBERS surveyed said they liked our uniforms. Among members who were planning to leave Scouting that number plummeted to twenty-two percent.”
This leads to an un-supportable conclusion that those leaving are doing so because of their dis-like for the uniform. It also does not consider that the percent of members not planning to leave Scouting approve of the uniform by an amount in excess of 65 percent.
I personally do not like the current uniform but I wear it with pride on all appropriate Scouting activities.
The article went on to mention how the results of the survey were presented to “…over 100 youth members from across Canada” and refers the reader to the December 2000 Leader magazine. I located my copy and re-read the article “FORUM 2000 National Youth Conference”. The article had one photo that showed six delegates. Of these six, two were in uniform and both were Israeli.
At the end of the article there was an URL to view further photos of the conference. I checked each of the 100 photographs and found that 14 pictures had uniforms or portions of uniforms. Three were scarves only and two were of an official presentation by the Israeli contingency. That left only 9 out of 100 pictures of Canadians wearing their uniforms.
Many of the activities shown would have been very appropriate for the wearing of one’s uniform, such as visiting Parliament, posing with red-serged RCMP officers, listening to a speech by Canada’s Chief Scout.
There were four general conclusions from the focus group per the National Commissioner’s article. In my own order they are:
· This seems entirely reasonable and to be expected. What scenario can be imagined where otherwise would occur unless an individual is acting as a representative of their group.
· Absolutely no argument here.
· Unfortunately this is true, especially at the older levels but may be due, in part, to the other conclusion, that;
· I agree the uniform is impractical for both indoor and outdoor activities. It is far too lightweight.
· As to being irrelevant, I have no choice but to take the strongest possible exception to this comment.
If the uniform is considered relevant for “formal ceremonial occasions, awards ceremonies and investitures”, then it is appropriate for every meeting. I do not recall a Cub meeting where someone was not awarded a badge for their uniform. I have never been to a Scout meeting that did not include some, if not all of; a horseshoe, a flag break, a moment of Scouts’ Silence and a flag down, all of which are ceremonial occasions.
The article states there are problems with the uniform but it also states Scouts Canada in not planning any changes to our current uniform. These statements appear oxy-moronic. True, the uniform has problems and could stand re-vamping. That, however, is not the real problem. The problem, of course, is how to foster pride in one’s uniform. About 25 years ago, Leader magazine had an article that stated that the first step in instilling the youth’s pride was not to have leaders demonstrate shame in their uniforms. The line I re-call basically described a Scouter stuffing his beret into his jacket on the way out of the hall and then pulling his zipper up past his woggle.
The way to fix a problem with a uniform is not to go to the youth and give them the opportunity not to wear it.
Section IX, Uniforms and Insignia of the By-Laws, Policies and Procedures does state, “…members will wear uniform or an appropriate activity dress on all Scouting occasions and activities.” I have always understood that to mean the uniform is to be worn unless there is a very good reason, as dictated by the activity, not to do so.
I was raised with the simple attitude of, “When on Scouting business, go in Scouting uniform”. I still believe the words of my former Scouter/ADC/DC/ARC/RC/father just as firmly as I believe that fore-going the uniform will not make us any less “irrelevant or out-of-step with today’s society.”