On our backpacking trip this weekend we adults were reminiscing around the campfire. Three of six of us had either not been Scouts or had been Scouts only briefly. The two who had been Scouts for a brief time said that they left Scouting because of hazing.
Hazing may be ritual or other activities that use harassment, abuse or humiliation as a way of initiating a person into a group. It can be expressed in practical jokes, bullying, unwanted physical contact or a number of other methods. All hazing is antithetical to the spirit of Scouting.
If an activity is intended to humiliate, trick, abuse, or harass is hazing and such activities should be immediately put to a stop. Although it may be regarded as a hallowed tradition in some troops hazing must be eliminated and if it isn’t it should be reported.
I freely admit that as a young Scoutmaster I thought little of the detrimental effects of hazing and even participated in some of the standard practical jokes that were all too common at the time (snipe hunts and the like). I am embarrassed that some adults in scouting seem to be unaware of the immense power differential between themselves and scouts and exploit it to humiliate a bunch of boys.
As in most things kindness is the antidote. It does not mean that we lack discipline or intensity. Instead of exploiting weakness we reinforce strength. Instead of being a source of frustration we become a source of support. Scoutmasters are not supposed to antagonize their scouts but to lend them confidence, to help them find their own talents and strengths.