“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.