Thursday, January 17, 2013

Bad Aftertaste.

Apparently, it’s cookie season. Girl Scout Cookie season. I know this because the tortured pleas from desperate parents have been heard throughout the halls and the sign-up sheets have papered the walls en masse.

I was never a scout of either gender, but I have a great respect for both the Boy and/or Girl Scouts of America. Anything that teaches children to love the outdoors is a-okay with me.

But I seriously question the merits of the cookie program*.

First there’s the image problem.

When I think of the Boy Scouts, I think pinewood derby—good old-fashioned wood working, painting and hands-on craftsmanship. Bona fide skills. Of course I realize that there’s a good chance a majority of the cars are built by the dads, but at least it sends the right message.

When I think of the Girl Scouts, I think cookie sales. That would be all well and good if, like the pinewood derby, they made the cookies themselves—good old-fashioned baking, packing and distribution. That way they would learn exactly what ingredients are going into their cookies.

And I realize that it sounds sexist to say that boys should be in the woodshop and girls should be in the kitchen—it really doesn’t matter to me what the task is**—but the point is that the boys make something and the girls, as it stands, do not.

According to the Girl Scout’s website, “When a Girl Scout sells you cookies, she's building a lifetime of skills and confidence. She learns goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills, and business ethics—aspects essential to leadership, to success, and to life.”

At one point in time, this statement was probably true. When I was growing up, you could actually go door-to-door to sell stuff. Back then, girls could certainly learn those skills through the process of selling. I don’t disagree with the statement or the sentiment. But what parent is going to let their daughter just wander off around the neighborhood talking to strangers these days? Not many. 

Instead, the program has become one where you get swarmed at the entrance to a grocery store or have parents tacking up sign-up sheets at their places of employment.

How does that build skills?

Second, the Girl Scouts promote what’s called the Healthy Living Campaign. Cookies and healthy living? Do I really need to explain this? Let’s move on from Let’s Move.

Third, there seems to be a whole slew of partners willing to hitch their star to this wagon, so is the all-out blitzkrieg fund raising even necessary at this point? And wouldn’t it be better to just donate to programs directly anyway?

In my opinion, it’s time for the Girl Scouts of America to retire the cookie program. It’s not longer feasible as a teaching tool and it sends a mixed message to the very girls it’s intended to support. If fund raising is truly needed, why not have the girls make sellable items with their own hands? Or put on musical productions for the elderly? Or create artwork instillations in public spaces that can be auctioned off?

If “goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills, and business ethics” are the lesson, surely there’s a better way to learn it than through box after box of cookies.

*Yes, I realize I’m not the first and won’t be the last.
**They could both make ashtrays for all I care