Remember when you saw an on-duty policeman wearing his uniform shirt and jeans? Or how about when you watched your favorite team take the field, and half the team wore mismatched workout clothes? Of course you don’t, because it didn’t happen. A police officer wouldn’t dream of stepping out of his patrol car wearing just a portion of his uniform. Professional athletes have special televised ceremonies at which they accept the uniform of the team they will be representing.
But we’re talking about young boys in an outdoor program here. Surely we could avoid the expense and deliver the same program without the outward trappings.
To answer this question, you must understand one of the basic premises of the Boy Scout organization. “The Scouting movement is built on positive values. As we wear the uniform, we stand together and encourage each other to live by those principles. Scouts and adults alike should take pride in belonging to this program and wear the uniform correctly.”*
Some of you are cringing, knowing I have wandered into dangerous philosophical territory here. Some Scouting units adopt a policy that a full uniform stops at the waist. As parents of boys who outgrow their clothing overnight, we wince at the price of a complete uniform when the shirt will suffice. Why would I say otherwise? I advocate for complete head-to-toe uniforms for the same reasons some communities adopt school uniforms; when uniforming increases, behavior issues decrease. Cliques denoting social status disappear. Socio-economic markers are eliminated. The playing field is leveled.
Because the cost of the uniform can place it firmly out of reach for some, here are some ideas to help:
- Petition Scouts changing programs (Cub Scout to Boy Scout or Boy Scout to Venturing/Varsity) to donate old uniform pieces. Spread the word to chartering organizations, Council board members, and Eagle Scouts. A uniform bank can help ease the burden for families in low-income neighborhoods.
- Host a uniform swap. Establish some guidelines, i.e. must be a registered Scout, must have a gently used item to trade for one of equal value, etc. This would be especially beneficial right before long-term summer camp where each Scout needs more than one uniform.
- Set up a uniform account to which donors may contribute and Scouting families may apply specifically to help pay a portion of the cost of a full uniform. Again, thoughtful development of guidelines is necessary to keep this from being an administrative headache and cause more problems than it solves.
- Talk to thrift shop/second hand store managers. They might be persuaded to set aside any uniform pieces that are donated and give you a call for ‘first dibbs’ on purchasing.
As an adult leader, you can only expect the Scouts to wear as much of the uniform as you do; you set the standard. If youth sports teams are not embarrassed to require full uniforms, Scouting shouldn’t be either.
Check back later for more on fundraising ideas to support uniforming.
*(copied from www.boyscouttrail.com).