I’m sitting here trying to plan today’s Girl Scout meeting for the troop I lead. The girls have repeatedly asked to work on one badge in particular and I know it’s because of it’s appearance. It’s pink, with a purple castle. Yes, I have the sort of girls in my troop that that image totally appeals to.
The problem I’m having with this badge is that as I read the requirements, it almost reads like a school assignment. The badge is called “Playing the Past” and the girls are to dream up a character from another time period. In addition to creating this character, they are to come up with a costume (it is suggested they sew it themselves), immerse themselves in the character’s time period by taking on one of her duties (like hand dip candles or churn butter) as well as complete all sorts of research along the way. The mom in me feels like this is way too much like schoolwork and homework, of which I think my child already has too much of. The Girl Scout leader in me knows I will lose the girls along the way if I follow the badge to the letter, because they aren’t going to do the supposedly required research. It IS too much like homework. They are in scouts because it’s fun.
I’ve run into this time and again over the years with the Girl Scouts – their suggested activities are not always age appropriate, require some serious hands on oversight by adults and/or resemble classroom activities. For an organization that is geared towards girls, I am constantly amazed at how they miss the mark time and again. Every leader I know adapts activities for their girls, which prompts me to wonder why the scouts don’t take a look at overhauling their badge activities to make them more age appropriate? Then again, we are talking about an organization that has trouble recruiting adult volunteers, that this year has overhauled their program so that the focus is no longer on badges but these things called “Journeys“. Just look at how they’ve reacted towards the girls who asked them to look at where the palm oil for their cookies come from – they famously removed all negative comments criticizing how they handled it on their Facebook page.
As I looked through the other badges we could work on, trying to find a back up should the girls decide they don’t want to put the effort into this particular badge, I found one that I thought might be a useful one – it’s called “Independence”. It seemed good until I read some of the suggested activities. “Help take care of a car”, which suggests the girls go over all the lights and gauges, look under the hood for a safety check. Another one is to “solve a pesky plumbing problem” and suggests the girls learn how to fix a toilet. The last required step in earning this badge has three choices – stay home alone, run a family errand (by having a parent drop the girls off alone) or go out with a friend, again, alone. While all of these are great activities, they are suggested for 9 and 10 year old girls. As a parent, I don’t find them age appropriate in the least.
I’ve already had a very tense conversation with someone from the Girl Scouts on the subject of my troop not selling cookies. We don’t sell cookies because no one wants to be cookie mom. I was told by my local council it’s not up for the parents to decide, it’s the girls’ decision. Apparently in the universe of Girl Scouts, 10 year old girls are allowed complete authority, telling their parents what they can and cannot do, rather than having parents set limits.
I am all for children being responsible. I am all for raising our girls to be strong, independent women. Supposedly, this is the purpose and mission of the Girl Scouts. It’s a damn shame they don’t actually understand how to go about doing this. Our girls deserve better.
8 thoughts on “A Rant.”
Oh, I hear every word of this rant as the mom of a BOY SCOUT. These stinkin' eagle-required merit badges require a visit to a national monument. WTF? If you live in the midwest, that's impossible without much expense and travel! I could go on and on–just as you have. If the GSA were wise, they'd read this post and sign you on as a consultant to improve their organization!
You think that's bad? You should see what it's like to be a Girl Scout in the inner city. It's a joke, is what it is. Girls Scouts really need to add some adaptability to their model.
I was part of a Girl Scout troupe when I was in maybe 5th or 6th grade. I hated it –probably mostly because of the girls, very cliquish. But it turned me off to Girl Scouts, so I never suggested it to Emma.
If the organization is so annoying, can I ask why you guys participate?
You've just hit on all the reasons why I am no longer a G.S. leader.
The complete lack of understanding and flexibility about the cookie sales sent me over the edge. (Cookies that are, but the way, crappy but which are overpriced, with the troop only getting a tiny part of the monies.)
As for the badges, whenever I came across unreasonable requirements, I ignored them and came up with alternatives that were more age appropriate.
Sad face. I had an AMAZING experience growing up in Scouts (as you know because I've talked about it before). I attribute that fully to the wonderful leaders I had the fortune to be surrounded by – we had a strong GS community in my hometown, and as a result I built strong relationships with other girls and had amazing women for role models (including my mom, but others as well). I am proud of some of the things that GSUSA does and takes a stand on – like welcoming transgender girls to participate (a far cry from the “no gays here!” attitude of the Boy Scouts).
Having not looked at a badge book for years (and I have no clue what the hell a Journey is), I cannot make any assertions about the current state of badge requirements, but I do remember that some of them were really friggin' hard in my day, too. And my leaders fudged some of the requirements, I am certain. But running a national organization is really hard to pinpoint what's going to be appropriate (or possible) across regions – in my hometown, for example, when I was 10, it would have been perfectly normal for me to be allowed to run an errand by myself (I often walked from school to my grandparents' house 10 blocks away, or from my mom's office to the library and back, about 10 or 12 blocks total) or learn how to care for a car. Still, it's a shame that there's not more flexibility built in. And the cookie pressure is NOT okay – I agree, the parents HAVE to have some say in that, because being cookie mom is a LOT of work.
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(That was me above. I was signed into the wrong account.)
I don't know whether there is a better organization but am a bit bummed by your experience. I was hoping to put Emily in girl scouts except I really dislike busy work. I hope girl scouts can change where they need because it just sounds like too much work the way it functions now.
My girls were never in scouts, so I don't have personal experience with this, but I'm with you on their response to critical comments on facebook, and what seem to me, very rigid badge requirements. (Although the Little House in the Prairie lover in me would probably enjoy fulfilling the requirements for that badge.) And the cookies aren't that great. I don't know why some people seem to be obsessed with them.