Re: Girl Scout program vs Boy Scout program
Michael F. Bowman (mfbowman@CAPACCESS.ORG)
Sun, 27 Aug 1995 04:24:42 -0400
Your posting made a number of points that are near and dear me as a
father of daughter who just recently quit GSUSA, the spouse of a
wonderful lady who quit GSA and the son of a mother you dropped out of
GSA. All three generations quit for the same reason - it wasn't fun and
they couldn't do the level of outdoor activity they wanted. You asked:
>Are there institutional barriers within GSUSA that make it more difficult?
>Or is it the fault of the girls' parents?
Bear with me as I speak from limited experience and realize that my
comments are not intended to offend those GSUSA leaders that do deliver
quality program. When our daughter started in Daisys and as she
progressed through to Juniors, my wife was deeply committed and went to
training session after training session, argued for outdoor activities,
etc., but in each case the leadership was happy to just have meetings and
do indoor badge work, with only a few notable expections. When our
daughter decided she'd had enough we knew all to well why but still asked
why the GSUSA had to be the way it turned out for her.
Several things hit us at once:
1. GSUSA doesn't have much infrastructure in terms of long-term
leadership with outdoor experience. From what we could tell there was a
Council Office, but no real organization between there and the unit. Yes
there were "Service Units" but their focus was on a few small events with
only a very few units three times during the year. No one was looking at
the quality of the program. It was left up to whomever decided to be a
leader. When there were severe unit problems committed and willing
parents were at the mercy of the #1 and #2 with nobody to turn to and the
service unit didn't want to be involved. Not much like commissioners
trying to give advice to a wayward leader at all.
2. GSUSA training is stifling and not focused on program delivery. Ask
my wife about this and be prepared for two hours of lecture!! Before the
unit could do anything remotely related to the outdoors training in
painful detail on the obvious was required; e.g. a course on cookouts.
Now who doesn't know how to flip a few burgers? That sure puts a brake
on things. The focus of training as near as she could figure out was on
what you couldn't do and never on how to have a successful year-round
program with outdoor activities. Even in courses that by their title
implied this would be the content, the training went the other way. When
she later went to BSA training, she said that the difference was that in
BSA she felt empowered to lead and to help kids have fun.
3. GSUSA seems to have gone overboard, at least here, on "safety"
requirements. On one of the rare occassions when they went camping
(actually slept in a cabin, but one where they were not permited to have
a fire or cook despite fireplaces - on GSUSA property) they had to reel
out colored tape from each bedding area through the door and down half a
mile of road to the camp gate or leave. This was to mark fire exits.
And some folks thought BSA was overboard.
4. The summer camp program seems more like YMCA/YWCA than Scouting in
GSUSA. In this area it is really REALLY rare for a troop to go together
and as in our case, the girl ends up going to camp and staying with
strangers which does a lot to make the first experience more difficult.
5. Try to find supporting program literature. We couldn't, not here. We
tried to get the leaders to take advantage of stuff we'd got in BSA, but
it got the "it wasn't invented here" treatment. Even the handbooks are
not oriented towards a lot of outdoors experience. The new ones just out
focus more on discussions of a number of very serious topics like sex,
etc. My daughter was interested in going to have fun, this is not her
idea of fun - she couldn't imagine sitting in a group sessions to discuss
what are very personal things to her. Neither could she bear any more
sessions of handicrafts or badge requirements done in a school cafeteria.
6. Youth leadership - this is something that is up to the leaders and
from what I can see, it is not much promoted. For my daughter,
everything was what the adult decided period. No input, no questions. No
involvement in planning. As she watched her brother planning to go
places he and his buddies wanted to go, getting food, packing gear, etc.,
more than once there was a tear, cause it just wasn't there in her troop.
7. The local Council's idea of volunteer input into decision making was
an annual meeting where decisions were announced not discussed. One of
the better ones was the expenditure of several thousand dollars on smoke
detectors for each tent at each camp. They announced it was required
under the County's hotel regulations. I've seen how fast a tent burns
and am not sure that the ones they purchased would go off before the tent
Before anybody asks - yes we did get involved and we did suggest
activities til we were blue in the face. And yes we tried to get other
parents to join in doing more outings. We succeeded a few times, but it
was like banging your head against a brick wall - a lot of pain and not
much forward progress. Most of the parents were happy to have little
Mary or Amanda safely away from dirt, bugs, tents, etc.
Sorry to go on for so long. I guess I'd better get off the soap box
myself. :-) Anyway, let me echo Alan's closing thoughts:
>Please note that I am not arguing for either coed or separate gender
>Scouting. I share many of the thoughts that have been argued eloquently
>by both sides here, and I can see merits in having both.
>And I especially think that the girls deserve to have the same opportunities
>as the boys, and not just after age 14, by whatever program is available to
>them. All preconceptions, philosophies, and dogmas aside, how can we make
Couldn't resist one final thought - wouldn't the idea of new hordes of
eager young Scouts make most DEs drool at the thought of upward curves in
their membership graphs!?
Speaking only for myself in the Scouting Spirit, Michael F. Bowman
DDC-Training, GW Dist. Nat Capital Area Council mfbowman@CAPACCESS.ORG
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City