I'm the Brownie in the front. Circa 1989
Did you know that Michelle Obama is the honorary national president of the Girl Scouts of the USA? Apparently all first ladies have been since 1917. Which I guess means Barbara Bush was mine during my Brownie days, and Hillary Clinton was when I was a Junior. Which is kind of funny, since during that same time period, she made some very controversial statements about cookies.

Anyway. The Girl Scouts have seen a steady decline in membership in recent years, going from 2.9 million youth members in 2003 to 2.2 million today. This week, Mrs. Obama helped the organization launch an unconventional ad campaign driven by social media and by word of mouth directly in communities.

They’re focusing on making the Girl Scouts fun and fresh, and have created the catchphrase “I Can’t Wait To ...” with colorful fill-in-the-blank responses like “Create my own masterpiece” and “Make everybody say, ‘Whoa!’”

I’ll go ahead and wish them luck, because really I don’t have any sort of vendetta against volunteer organizations, especially ones that focus on helping girls feel confident and sure of themselves. But I think they may have done better to hit up my demographic when researching the reason for the decline in membership.

I was a Girl Scout through my elementary school years, and I loved the experience. I now have two daughters that are perfectly aged for the group, but I’ve opted not to get them involved. A lot of my friends feel the same way. Maybe we could have clued GSUSA in as to why we’ve chosen not to participate as mothers now, when we once enjoyed it so much as daughters.

  1. Troops Receive a Pittance of Cookie Sale Revenues. Most of the revenue from those adorable little cookie peddlers funds the Girl Scout bureaucracy. About a quarter goes to the bakers. That leaves as little as 10 percent for the troops -- barely enough to purchase their patches for the year. That turns it from a community project focused on volunteerism to child labor. Not cool.
  2. They Support Planned Parenthood. Most of Planned Parenthood’s adolescent health material is sponsored by GSUSA, and in 2005, their CEO proudly admitted to partnering with Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood boldly advertises that they provide not only confidential abortions for teens, but also hormonal birth control for adolescents without parental consent or even an exam.
  3. Shutting Down Rustic Camps. The GSUSA claims that these outdoor recreation centers are too financially burdensome to maintain, but members say that ridiculous and laborious “safety requirements” took away the fun for the girls, and they no longer wanted to attend. Let the kids be kids, man!
  4. Policies Supporting Religious Diversity. Regarding the word “God” in the Girl Scout Promise, they say, “The ways in which members identify and fulfill their spiritual beliefs are personal and private ... the decision to say grace, blessing, or invocation is made locally at the troop or group level and should be sensitive to the spiritual beliefs of the participants.” Nope, God is God, in my book. In fact, the whole spiritual aspect has gotten entirely too new agey for my particular tastes.

As a group, the Girl Scouts of the USA has every right to exist, and I’m not going to stop them. I’m also not going to endorse them. I want my daughters involved in a community group that holds similar values and beliefs to what I try to teach them on a daily basis. Right now they’re happy participates of AWANA, a national Christian community group. Their membership numbers have been soaring recently, by the way.

Do you support the Girl Scouts?


Image via Jenny Erikson