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The Girl Scout Image

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I'm curious (and maybe I should be putting this out in the open discussion forum, because I'm quite sure that very few of the male members of this forum pay any attention to this little corner of the world) as to how the boy scouts, youth and adults, view the Girl Scout program. Be brutally honest, and please share any observations you may have regarding girl scouting.


As for the female members/girl scout members out there reading this, feel free to share your own opinions on the mission of girl scouting and what you think the "Girl Scout Image" is, generally, nation-wide. I'm curious to see how many of you think like me, or if I'm the only one. :p

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Girl Scout image - elementary age (K-5) girls who sell cookies, candies and calendars and who do arts & crafts and meetings and maybe an occasional horse ride.


Cub Scout image - elementary age (K-5) boys who are rambunctious, race pinewood derby cars, do arts and crafts and sell popcorn.


Boy Scout image - middle school age boys who don't quite fit in with the "cool" crowd who camp and learn to tie knots. Oh, and wear those antiquated uniforms.


I am aware of the error of these perceptions but like most, there is a grain of truth to them. Girls Scouts can be a wonderful program but peer pressure and sometimes the lack of a diversified outdoor program will make the girls drop out or join the BSA Venture program.


Also, the Girl Scouts are not quite as "old fashioned" (some would say more PC) than the BSA and because of the perceived vulnerability of young women/girls, they have much more restrictive requirements with respect to safety and youth protection. Both are excellent programs. Also, the GS are more decentralized than the BSA.(This message has been edited by acco40)(This message has been edited by acco40)

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I joined The Girl scouts as a leader this fall to help my wife and daughters troop get into more outdoor endevors.


I had always viewed the gs as sitting around indoors and doing more"Girly things" than the boy scouts. This opinion changed last weekend when the lady who did my training invited me and my daughter to a "Adventure Diva" meeting. We met several girls from the council who were really into outdooor stuff(high ropes, orienteering meets, winter camping in the boundry waters area) Man, were my eyes opened.

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My eyes were opened about 10 years ago when my Girl Scout Gold Award Wife set me straight.


I am now a firm believer in the power of the Girl Scouts of the USA to teach young women skills as well as the Boy Scouts of America.


My problems with the GSUSA are, as you might likely predict, with the national and professional organization of the GSUSA.


I'll post more later on this topic, but I'm not impressed with the Girl Scout organization from my point of view.


I'll preface my later post with saying that, in 15 years of going into schools to recruit boys -- whether or not in mixed gender classrooms or settings -- I have NEVER run into a Girl Scout Executive, nor heard of one. I have heard that GSUSA "field directors" the same as BSA "district executives" work 35 hours a week as opposed to a DE's 60 hrs. a week.


Perhaps I'm biased when it comes to professionals.


In terms of program, however, GSUSA is on par with BSA.



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Let me say that I have no first-hand experience with GS, so all I know about GS is from conversations with a couple GS leaders and the "background radiation" that anyone with kids hears.


My perception is that the GS program seems to be more nimble and quicker to change. They seem to add new program elements and different tracks girls can follow. This could be a plus of a minus, depending on your point of view.


I also get the impression that male volunteers aren't welcome, or at least are looked at with some suspicion. I think that leads to a view of Girl Scouting being more militant feminist than they probably are.


They also seem to handicap themselves by having a strongly top-down organizational structure. I know our local council generally has a couple thousand girls on a waiting list to join awaiting new units. Roundup nights (held in the other corner of the school cafeteria from us) sound more like volunteer recruitment than girl recruitment.


I may be wrong about this, but it seems to me that GS troops are more like our dens and patrols that packs and troop. From the couple of GS leaders I know, they don't seem to have the support and bench strength that our pack and troop committees provide.

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TwoCubDad, I think you are correct. In the BSA, units are "owned" by the CO. This is a very foreign concept to outsiders. I know someone at work (male) who questioned, "What do you mean that the Troops are owned by the Church, doesn't the BSA own the Troops or better yet, the Troop own itself?" I gave the worn out franchise example but it did not make sense to him.


The GS don't follow that mold. I'm no expert, but I think the Troops are "owned" by the councils. That is why they seem to be more top-down structure than the BSA, because they are! I'm not saying that this is good or bad, it just is. One of the problems of the BSA with its CO approach is that I believe Troops take on too much of a reflection of the SM and that is why you get such variation in the Troops with respect to MBs in troop meetings, flaunting of the rules if the adult leadership doesn't like them, etc. It does get to loosey goosey for me sometimes. The BSA has laid out a great program, voluteers should strive to deliver it.

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Oh, the Girl Scouts get pretty loosey goosey too...

One thing I've noticed is that the badge requirements are very complicated. They don't expect girls to do them independently. They do them in groups at badge workshops or at summer camp. But then everyone sort of is herded along and gets a badge at the end, and rarely do the girls really do six requirements in as much detail as the badge book spells out. And the council sponsored events do it just as much as the activities done by one troop. I'd like to see the requirements in the book reflect the reality -- girls do have fun and learn a lot in the current system, but are discouraged from pursuing interests on their own if they read the badge book.

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I agree with you I just started to earn my gold awared but befor I started I had to earn 4 or 5 very hard badges that took me atleast a couple of years just to earn them. I also belive that the bsa have it easer then the gs do because the gs cannot earn a badg withen a day or two but the bsa can earn a couple of them withen a couple of days. also that the bs have to memorize a list of words for there promise and the gs have to memorize a bunch of paragraphs that chang avery so often

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I'm a registered leader in both BSA and GSUSA. I've had some GSUSA training, but not comparable to the BSA training I've had. My daughter's a Junior, in her 2nd year; been with it since she was a Brownie. I've worked closely with GSUSA leaders for about four years, since we shared a building, coordinated schedules, deconflicted activities, borrowed each others' stuff, etc.


I think the GSUSA image is better than the reality, and I happen to think that's exactly the opposite of BSA -- our reality is better than our image.


- GS Troop-level finances are an imponderable to me. I don't understand why a GS troop has to zero out it's books at the end of a year, start over in September cash-poor, then try to spend cookie money any way you can in a frenzy in the springtime. I've seen this in three councils now, so I don't think it's anecdotal.


- GS Troops have less of a community connection than BSA units do, because they aren't chartered to community organizations. Many areas don't know they have GS troops, or how to contact them, or where they meet, or anything else. We see them at cookie sales time.


- GS Troops have a harder time finding leaders, in part because they aren't chartered to community organizations, etc., etc., etc. Another big reason is that a Troop Leader and her assistant, if she's lucky enough to have an active one, is really on her own without a CO and a Troop Committee -- more on that later.


- Leadership opportunities are harder to get in GS Troops, in part because they're Balkanized by age. The best opportunity we've seen so far is the Junior Aide requirement, where Junior Girl Scouts help a Brownie Troop Leader with her Brownies. But, it's not optimal because it's only a few meetings. Result: Troop leaders (adults) do all the planning through Junior, and the bulk of the planning for cadets/seniors, too. Anecdotal exceptions.


- Role modeling is tougher in GS, again because the Troops are Balkanized by age. The Brownies don't see the Cadets, the Juniors don't see the Seniors, etc. Or, perhaps more fairly, the

opportunities for role modeling aren't built into the program or inherent as they are in BSA. In a previous council, we dragged our Juniors to a Gold Award ceremony in hopes of motivating and encouraging them by example. It went okay, but would have been a lot better if our girls knew the Seniors, or had seen them before or had some idea what they had to accomplish. I guarantee you, my first year Boy Scouts know what Life-to-Eagle means, what you have to do to earn it, and have spent time helping with an older Scout's Eagle project...no substitute for that.


- Troop leaders operate independently; inconsistent program delivery, lots of administrivia rules, no "support networks", and no real oversight from the council (other than the rules). In the six years my daughter's been in Girl Scouting, I've only seen anyone above the local committee level at a meeting or activity where the girls are present, one time (a Thinking Day). What's wrong with that picture?


- The distinctive separate programs with Brownie/Junior/Cadet/Senior GS means that a girl "starts from scratch" each time she moves from one program level to the next. I don't mind new uniforms, because they'd outgrow them anyway, but I don't appreciate the new books every couple years, or the fact that the program levels amount to a "do over".


I'm not going to complain about not being completely trusted as a male leader in a GS environment. Frankly, there's enough creeps and neer-do-wells out there that they should be careful, and I'm glad they are.


That said, I like the promise of what GS offers my daughter. I think she's better for having been active in it, even though she'd enjoy more of an outdoor program. She's enjoyed some years, hasn't enjoyed others, but always re-registers. I'm going to look specifically for Cadet and Senior Troops that will give her leadership opportunities.




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The local GS council was highlighted in the newspaper a few years ago. The council camp has been "transformed" with air conditioned cabins, because "today's girls don't like sweat, dirt and bugs." That's the image I have. That could also be why girl scouts are lining up to be Venturers.

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  • 2 weeks later...

As a Council Trainer, I have to confront the image problems head-on. Most new leaders come in thinking that GS is a fun afterschool activity where they'll sit and do crafts. And unless I break through that somehow at training (and if the leaders bother coming to it!!) that's exactly what their troop does.


It's not the girls who object to "sweat dirt and bugs" - it's their mommies - and these are who our troop leaders are. But frankly, councils have been spending a lot of money making their camps all comfy for these leaders, and *these are still not the leaders who are bothering to take their girls to camp*.


These same folks don't want a "large" troop because they perceive it as "too hard to manage". What they want is an exclusive clique ready-made for their daughter. I work super-hard on this one in training to get out GSUSA's message of inclusivity. I tell these leaders straight up - if you're limiting who joins in this way, thst's a clique, not a GS troop. Then I move on to how bigger does not equal "more difficult", and try to get them to understand the benefits of multi-age versus one-grade-level for making the troop function well.


This same group also doesn't want meetings to run longer than 40 minutes and they certainly don't want to meet every week. Sheesh. So, I bite my tongue to keep all my mean thoughts to myself, put the encouraging smile back on, and give them the tools and information on how longer meetings are easier to run and meeting consistently keeps girls from dropping out. "What? You mean meet during the summer?????" Yha...I work on that one too.


As cheesed-off as I am on these issues, I consistently get good evaluations. I wish I could see some hard data on how the troops do. I think training is where we've got to put our emphasis. As an organization we bemoan how tough it is to get volunteers that we then think we ought to just let them do it any old way. But isn't doing a job well the biggest motivation to keep at it? We gots to give them the tools.


Peace out,

Anne in Mpls

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I promised earlier that I would post more on this topic, and here it is.


My overall impression of the Girl Scout program is very good. I think they do a lot of wonderful stuff for girls and my wife is a product of the program. She can do anything and behaves as well or better than I would expect any Eagle Scout to do or behave.


However, that's about the only comparison I feel good about making. In the public eye, the Girl Scouts of the USA and the Boy Scouts of America are brother/sister programs and should mirror each other. That is true on the basic philosophical level, but it parts after that.


Organizationally, they are very different. A Girl Scout Council is pretty synonomous with a Boy Scout council in that they both have Executive Directors, Executive Boards, etc. Funding is different and the methods are different. At levels below the council level, the terms are similar, but don't match up. For example, if you compare the number of Girl Scout Troops to Boy Scout troops in (GS and BS) councils of similar geography, the Girl Scouts have a lot more troops. However, it seems to me that Girl Scout troops are more akin to Boy Scout patrols than to Boy Scout Troops -- and we don't count the number of patrols.


Also, the Girl Scout year ends on September 30th -- at least as far as membership is counted, and the Boy Scout year ends on December 31 -- so the membership figures are really apples and oranges.


Comparing the organizations, in my opinion, is comparing apples and oranges. Both are good fruit, but they are different fruit.



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