In elementary school, little boys and girls are excited to join their local scout troop at the beginning of kindergarten. Each troop claims to provide a welcoming community for children to grow as individuals, learn to help others and develop positive characteristics as their personalities are forming.
On paper, the two groups have similar mission statements. Boy Scouts aim to: “Prepare every eligible youth in America to become a responsible, participating citizen and leader who is guided by the Scout Oath and Law,” which is, “On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.”
The Girl Scout mission statement is quite similar, but with a slightly different choice of words: “Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence and character, who make the world a better place.”
Young Girl Scouts also learn the Girl Scout Promise, which is, “On my honor, I will try: To serve God and my country, to help people at all times and to live by the Girl Scout Law,” which emphasizes the importance of helping others, respect and kindness.
Where in the Girl Scout Promise is the part of becoming strong, smart leaders? Where does it say that girls should become involved and engaged world citizens? Where does it say that they keep themselves morally and physically strong?
In Girl Scouts, I remember learning about manners and etiquette, doing arts and crafts, volunteering, visiting museums to learn about history and listening to speakers. We never went camping. We never learned survival skills. We never learned how to be leaders, but rather we learned to be polite when we sold Girl Scout cookies door to door.
Boy Scouts learned outdoor skills, such as first aid, winter camping and knot tying. They learned to identify plants for their hands-on experiential learning endeavors, which include camping trips, backpacking trips, canoeing trips and outdoor activities. They learned leadership, not how to make ornaments to bring home to their parents.
Sure, as a five-year-old, arts and crafts were fun. Our field trips were always entertaining and educational, and we loved giggling as we volunteered around the community. But, in a time where women empowerment is more important than ever, we need to educate girls from a young age that they are capable of strength and that they can be excellent leaders. Yes, the traits that girls learn in Girl Scouts are important as well – teaching children about respect and helping others is a key step to instructing them on becoming strong individuals.
But girls deserve to learn about survival skills. They need to learn leadership skills. They have to be encouraged to speak their minds. We spend enough time making crafts as little girls. We have enough hand-made ornaments on our trees. What we truly need more of is the encouragement for girls to become engaged citizens, morally strong individuals, just like the boys are encouraged to become.
Katie Anderson ’20 (firstname.lastname@example.org) is from Saint Paul, Minn. She majors in English and music.