In first grade, or maybe second, I joined the Brownies. I think it was first, because Mom went to work outside the home when I was in second. Anyway, she took over the troop midyear, after the old leader moved to Cincinnati. Up until that point, if I had not exactly enjoyed the experience, I hadn’t hated it either. But after Mom took over the troop, because nobody else wanted us, Brownies became hell.
It hinged on a Thanksgiving project. Mom wanted to adopt a family and bring food. The other mothers considered this a waste of their children’s time, and when Mom persisted, several girls were pulled out and the rest stopped participating in the activities that didn’t involve glitter paint and yellow markers. It’s not something I’ve ever forgotten, and I’ve been grateful that Caroline has shown no interest in the organization, though she has friends who do scouting. Also, when my Facebook feed this morning contained an article about the Girl Scouts’ financial struggles, I won’t pretend I was unhappy.
I know many girls grow up happy in Scouts. They learn confidence, leadership, and all kinds of handy lifeskills. Plus, they bond with other girls. I know the kool-aid being sold, and I tried to drink from that well. Truly, I did. But where I lived, the well was poisoned, and I can’t imagine that my little community was the only one.
The organization is too often about gathering badges and proving who can get the most. Enough people are aware that the camping badge can be earned by spending a night in a hotel that it’s a fairly simple Google Search to find someone talking about their own curling iron merits. The success comes not in learning survival skills but in making small scale business trips and learning how to be good little executives.
Besides, Girl Scouts are destroying the rainforest. No, really. Palm Oil is such a great healthy substitute for other oils that many companies use it. So many that in Indonesia and Borneo, farmers are cutting down rainforest in the rush to produce more. They are just people hungry to make a living and finding that they have access to something that is useful to the world economy. But they are destroying the habitat of orangutans and other primates. And the Girl Scouts know it but take no steps to avoid Palm Oil in their cookies. So not only are those damned things addictive, they are also deadly.
In short, if the Girl Scouts’ current financial woes, which seem to involve pensions and waning interest, don’t abate, there are leaders within the organization who fear the group’s demise in ten years. I say bring it. Let’s have a scouting organization that is both gender neutral and all inclusive, one that doesn’t bias based on sexual orientation and that teaches kids kindness. The world would be a happier place.