Stop flipping them!

udbobcat“They turn them upside down when they get their Bear badge??”

My wife incredulously asked me that as she showed me a picture that a friend of hers, a parent of a Cub Scout, had posted on Facebook. His son was dangling from his ankles as the Cubmaster pinned his badge on.

It sounds fairly harmless and a good bit of fun. The premise is that the Scout is held by his ankles by one of the leaders as the parent or another leader pins his rank badge on, such that it’s upside down on his uniform when the boy lands on his feet. Then, upon doing a “good turn” (turn – get it?), the badge is turned around and permanently affixed.

Do a web search for holding Cub Scouts upside down and you’ll get lots of hits, many from websites of Cub packs that describe the element of the ceremony, mentioning that it’s a “pack tradition” or some such. But among those hits you’ll find references to the policies of the Boy Scouts of America on the practice.

One of the earliest references comes from the BSA’s associate director of health and safety. In a 1997 letter, the reasons that the practice is unacceptable and unwarranted are listed:

  • It’s frightening to many boys.
  • It’s harassment by the adults.
  • It’s dangerous – what if the Scout is dropped on his head?
  • It’s frivolous in what should be a solemn ceremony.
  • It’s inappropriate, since doing a Good Turn is not part of the Cub Scout program.

I’ll add one more reason: It’s adding to the requirements – the Scout can’t have his rank free and clear until he completes an unrelated, unwritten, unexpected requirement. And for good measure, it’s probably a violation of the uniforming and insignia guidelines too.

In later years, language was added to the Cub Scout Leader Book and the rank handbooks prohibiting the practice.

So why do so many leaders keep doing it? Maybe they think it’s a tradition they can’t dispense with. Maybe some parents insist on doing it. Or maybe they’re untrained or just aren’t aware of the BSA’s longstanding policy against it.

So if your pack still holds your Scouts upside down during rank ceremonies, or you know one that does, it’s time to quietly drop the practice before you drop one of your Cubs.


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2 Replies to “Stop flipping them!”

  1. I have heard of Packs asking Scouts to where their Bobcat badge upside down until they complete a good deed. Do you think that also is against the BSA policies?

    1. Robb,

      Thanks for your comment. Yes, this is wrong for two reasons.

      First, it’s adding to the requirements. Once a boy completes the requirements, he earns the rank – period. There is nothing more to do. The Guide to Advancement makes it clear that units are not allowed to add, subtract or change requirements.

      Second, “Do a Good Turn daily” is not part of the Cub Scout program. It’s the Boy Scout slogan, so even though it’s a good idea, it doesn’t directly apply to Cub Scouting, and we don’t expect our Cub Scouts to do a good turn (or deed) daily – just to “do their best”. There isn’t a corresponding Cub Scout slogan, and only the Scout Oath and Scout Law replaced the Cub Scout equivalents.

      To put it another way: If a sprinter won the 440-yard dash at a track meet, they wouldn’t have him go over to the basketball court and sink a free throw before he was allowed to wear his medal.

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