Browsing through the recently released Guide To Advancement 2021 edition, I noticed this about the Webelos uniform:
“Webelos Scouts wear the tan uniform.”
I was puzzled as it didn’t mention the change planned for the upcoming 2021-2022 school year, which would allow fourth grade Webelos to wear the blue uniform.
Thanks to the Internet Archive, I confirmed that I had remembered it correctly. As late as February 2021, the uniforming page did indeed include this text:
“The Webelos uniform is going through a rolling change where fourth grade Webelos wear the blue uniform and fifth graders wear the tan uniform. This change will become official for the start of the 2021-22 program year.”
But now it seems BSA is going back to its old policy (established in 2018?) that all Webelos will wear tan.
I appreciated the new policy for several reasons.
- It would allow fourth graders time to actually wear the Bear emblem on their uniform. Having cubs who have been with me since they were tigers, it felt rewarding to see them wearing the full “diamond” of all four ranks – Bobcat, Tiger, Wolf, and Bear.
- It would give scouts who joined as Wolfs or Bears the opportunity to get more use out of their uniform before having to switch. Asking parents of a scout who joined as a Bear to buy a new uniform the following year is an awkward conversation.
- Tan shirts for first year Webelos look starkly empty, as it has no rank patch at all (unless a new scout chooses to wear the Bobcat badge). Transitioning to the tan at the same time as earning the Webelos rank makes the most sense. I think the prime time for switching to tan is right before the Webelos advancement ceremony. They show up to the ceremony wearing their crisp new uniforms, and by the end of the ceremony they get their Webelos patch with which to adorn their new shirts!
- The tan uniform correlates better to AOL content, especially the Scouting Adventure. The updated GTA clarifies that AOL required adventures should begin after the Webelos rank has been earned. It is during the AOL year that scouts will learn and begin to practice the Scout Sign, Scout Salute, Scout Handshake, Scout Motto and Slogan, and the patrol method. They may even design a patrol-like den emblem to wear on the uniform! As AOL begin acting like Scouts BSA, it’s the time they should start looking like Scouts BSA.
- If we could get away with one more year of blue, we could buy a bigger-sized tan shirt in the 5th grade, which would last more years into Scouts BSA.
I understand many have a different opinion and prefer to switch as soon as scouts graduate third grade. And they have valid reasons, too, most notably that scouts sometimes outgrow their blues around that time.
The best policy would have been a compromise allowing dens to decide for themselves when to switch, based on den leader and parent preferences. In my den’s case, I explained to parents the merits and shortcomings of both options, and let them vote on what they wanted to do.
Fortunately for me, they voted to stay with the blue. We still gave the kids Webelos hats, neckerchiefs, slides, and the Webelos “Colors”. The look was awesome! It was a very classic look that perfectly represented their place in the pack. Instead of looking identical to “full-on” second year Webelos preparing to cross over, they had the distinct look wearing the diamond rank patches while sporting Webelos accessories. Honestly, I’m not sure why this option isn’t more popular.
Maybe this compromise will be included in the 2023 edition of the GTA. One can only hope!