Scouting for Improvements

It was so much easier being a Brownie Girl Scout. Back then, fellow Girl Scouts were abundant, I earned “Try-Its” just for exploring activities and most importantly, everyone bought cookies from me. No one buys cookies from an acne-ridden teenager unless they too are a teenager desperate for sugar.

Scouting past “Brownie” age, or especially after transitioning from green-clad “Junior” to beige-clad “Senior” is difficult and fairly unusual. Now, only five girls remain in my Girl Scout troop, and we account for half of the Class of 2014’s Scouts. Just five seniors, including myself, earned their Gold Awards, the highest award in scouting.

This should shock you. Not only is the process of earning the award an invaluable experience, but Girl Scouting has a legacy of more than 100 years of helping girls achieve success. From National Charity League to the Presidential Service Award, Hockaday students have shown that service is a priority. But apparently extracurricular personal leadership growth is not.

Perhaps Hockadaisies simply misunderstand scouting or have schedules filled with more celebrated activities. Girls assume they will learn to take adult-like responsibility in other ways; parents presume their daughters will learn to be selfless leaders of younger girls by osmosis in our K-12 atmosphere.

Perhaps also the image of Girl Scouting nationwide needs to change. For one thing, though Boy Scouts clearly divides younger Cub and older Boy Scouts, older Girl Scouting is marginalized because of the name’s association with Brownies and Daisies. For another, in Girl Scouting’s effort to be inclusive, it has marketed itself with role models less attractive than the beautiful celebrities that fill the media. They should try the likes of Katniss Everdeen. Boy Scouts and adventurous, rugged men already go together.

But perhaps the Girl Scout program should change to realign with girls’ interests and make time spent scouting worthwhile. Now in my final year of scouting, I have passed through some fairly unstimulating years. I would have preferred a system where advancement through ranks centered on actual accomplishments, keeping activities aligned with my personal growth. In addition, scouting needs more regular meetings, access to older and younger girls for mentorship and for leadership opportunities and more troop leaders who could share responsibilities. If Girl Scout troops were fewer and larger, as Boy Scout troops are, all this could happen. From girls who responded to a survey, Hockaday Upper School alone has representatives from 15 different grade-level specific troops.

Scouting is a laudable extracurricular. I believe just a few changes can make Girl Scouting work even better.

– Emily Wechsler