Girl Scouts: The Next Recruiting Ground for Congress?

Katie Couric wrote a fascinating article about the girl scouts that ran at the ABC News website.

As a girl, Couric was a scout and she hailed the organization’s latest initiative to raise more women CEOs and catapult women into public office. As it turns out, 11 of the 17 women in the U.S. Senate were girl scouts. Read on:

Beginning January 31, Girl Scouts of the USA will begin these programs to raise awareness about the leadership gap that exists between men and women in positions of authority across most industries and sectors. For example, just 3% of CEOs are women and just 17% of Congress….

Girl Scouts isn’t unique in undertaking this endeavor. There are many other organizations that are seeking to empower the girls of today to become the leaders of tomorrow. But the new CEO of Girl Scouts USA, Anna Maria Chavez, who is the first Latina to head the organization, told me that Girl Scouts are uniquely positioned for this goal….

I met with a troop of girls from Parkway Northwest High School for Peace and Social Justice in Philadelphia, all of whom shared with me their dreams for the future. One wanted to be an obstetrician, another said she’d like to work for Apple and help develop the latest tech gadgets. Girl Scouts is helping “to get them there,” as the slogan suggests.

I hate to sound like a broken record, but key to these girls’ success will be mates who will help them with childrearing as well as economic security to run for office. Eighty percent of women up to the age of 44 are mothers — a point that is often lost in these articles.

What do you think? Are any of your daughters girl scouts?


Tuesday Open Thread

It’s Tuesday! In the news:

The Girl Scouts are retiring some badges and inaugurating new ones. Among the changes:

Gone is 1987’s Fashion, Fitness and Makeup badge; in its place, a Science of Style badge has girls explore use of nanotechnology in fabrics and the chemistry of sunscreens.

Other new badges are on financial literacy, public policy and website design. And to help girls master skills needed to tough it out in a sometimes crazy world, there’s the Science of Happiness badge. Developed in conjunction with “positive psychology” researcher Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania, it helps “teach girls how to find happiness in their own lives,” says Niehaus.


A woman ran the Chicago Marathon at 39 weeks pregnant and gave birth 7 hours after crossing the finish line:

“I got the OK from my doctor to run half, and my husband ran with me and supported me along the way,” Miller told WGN-Channel 9 from her bed at Central DuPage Hospital. “I ran half and walked half, that’s how I finished.

“Everybody just kind of stared as I’m running by.“

Miller said she had been running throughout her pregnancy and marathon officials did not discourage her.

“Nobody tried to do that,” she said. “It wasn’t too bad, you know? I have been running all the way up until this point anyway so I’m kind of used to it.”

She finished the marathon in 6 hours, 25 minutes and 50 seconds.

I’m an avid runner, but did NOT feel up to running during my pregnancies (and I had easy ones). So I’m in awe of this woman’s stamina!

Finally, here are 18 Common Phrases to Avoid in Conversation. A few examples:

Don’t say: “You look tired.“
Why: It implies she doesn’t look good.
Instead say: “Is everything OK?“ We often blurt the “tired“ comment when we get the sense that the other person feels out of sorts. So just ask.

Don’t say: “Wow, you’ve lost a ton of weight!“
Why: To a newly trim person, it might give the impression that she used to look unattractive.
Instead say: “You look fantastic.“ And leave it at that. If you’re curious about how she got so svelte, add, “What’s your secret?“

Don’t say: “You look good for your age.“
Why: Anything with a caveat like this is rude. It’s saying, “You look great―compared with other old people. It’s amazing you have all your own teeth.”
Instead say: “You look great.“

Anything to add to this list?

What else is on your mind? Chat away!


When Children Fundraise

Carolyn Hax over at the Washington Post had an interesting response to a predicament I am sure most of us have encountered. What happens when a kid asks you to support an organization you disagree with, like, let’s say the Boy Scouts. Read on:

Arlington VA: A friend is so angry at me. Her son who’s about 11 is in a scout troop and I ran into them both outside the local supermarket. They were at a sales table and he asked if I would buy some merchandise to support the scouts. I told him very sweetly but firmly that I don’t support the organization. He asked why, so I told him it was because of their policies on with religious tolerance and homosexuality. Now his mom won’t speak to me. I don’t have children so I didn’t realize that at age 11 maybe kids aren’t prepared to hear that kind of information? Am I a complete bozo and should I keep apologizing? I’ve already said I was sorry a few times.

Carolyn Hax: For the record, I think this mom’s refusing to accept your apology and let you off the hook is the way bigger bozo thing to do.

But next time you see a friend’s kid at a table selling things to raise money for his group, and his group is not Skinheads of America, pay the $5. Even when you don’t agree with the policies of the parent organization, the kid is still 11 and your five bucks is sending him camping.

I had a similar incident when Ari’s school sent home boxes to collect funds for UNICEF. I am uncomfortable with the organization’s stance on orphanages and international adoption — they are against both — but in this case, we were told that the money would be used for water sanitation in the developing world. Also, I wanted young Ari to learn how to ask for money to support a cause so I went door-to-door with him.

One of our neighbors was very supportive, but a guest at her house wasn’t. “I would never support that organization,” she proclaimed in front of everyone, including the kids. “They are against international adoption!”

Of course, she was right. And, initially, I was conflicted about helping out with the fundraiser. But what about UNICEF’s other programs?

Not surprisingly, Hax received additional responses to “Arlington, VA’s” question.

WOW. Absolutely NOT. I know of the organization in question, and I, too, choose not to support it for the same reasons. And I do tell the scout masters that. Look I get it that the kids aren’t to blame. But you’re essentially condoning discrimination when you give them money. Remember the protests and sit-ins in the 1960s? Same thing here. Just because a cute kid is peddling stuff doesn’t mean the bigger picture isn’t important.

If we dont’ stand up to this, who will then?

It’s wrong. I don’t want my money going to such a group.

Carolyn Hax: I knew this was coming, and I don’t disagree–absolutely tell the scout masters. Tell the parents, too, out of earshot of the kids. “I’d really like to support Johnny, but I take strong exception to X policy of the parent organization, and I can’t in good conscience contribute to a fund-raiser.” Bonus points for adding: “How would you like me to handle this with Johnny right now?”

But my answer was honest based on what I would do if put on the exact same spot: If my friend’s 11-year-old were standing there with boxes of Not Overtly Inappropriate Do-Gooder Club Cookies, I would give him the $5. For the kid.

Now that we’re on the subject, I wish kids wouldn’t be asked to sell things to raise money. It just hits me wrong. I realize that means I shouldn’t encourage the practice by buying things, but it’s not the kids’ decision to do this stuff. And I did once win red line seats to the Caps from a raffle ticket Kenny and I bought from some Little Capitals players …

In all fairness, schools and non-profit organizations that cater to children need to raise funds. Having the people who the money is helping front and center, is really helpful. Here is another view on the matter:

Re: Scouts: I think the asker actually did the right thing here, though in the wrong way. It’s completely legitimate to say, “I’m sorry, I can’t today.” without getting off into apparently judging both the kid and his mom. I am gay, support lots of youth organizations, and do not support the Boy Scouts. For that matter, if I had a kid who was doing a fundraiser for his GLBT group, I probably wouldn’t be mad at my fundamentalist friends for politely declining to give, though I’d be VERY upset with any of them who preached at him about it.

Carolyn Hax: Wraps it up nicely, thanks.

And those of you who agreed that just saying to Johnny, “No, I’m sorry, I can’t buy anything today,” is the way to go, you’re right. It is okay to say no to Johnny. I’m just a sap.

Oddly enough, I’ve never had to face the Boy Scout fund-raising question myself–never been asked. Girl Scouts, different story.

Anonymous: Not to get too far off track, but you’re refusing $5 to an organization whose primary purpose is to teach boys to lead lives of service. As far as I know, the Boy Scouts do not deny service to any individuals, nor do they teach boys to deny service to any individuals, but do deny some relatively well-off men the ability to take boys camping; contrast this with the Salvation Army, which actually does deny service to vulnerable individuals because of their sexuality. As a gay person myself, not that it should matter, I would happily give an 11 year-old $5 for the Boy Scouts, because they serve a much larger purpose than the one I object to. Bottom line: keep principles in perspective.

Carolyn Hax: I was going to move on, but I thought this was really interesting, thank you.

I like it in particular because it speaks to nuance–I think we all know intellectually that thoughtful, principled people can disagree on moral issues, but it’s so much more useful to see people spelling out the thought processes that take them to different places.

As you can tell, a lot of people had something to say about this issue:

Girl Scouts: To be clear, the Girl Scouts don’t have the same anti-gay policy. The organizations aren’t related.

Carolyn Hax: Yes, I know, sorry I didn’t put that out there.

What say you about children and fundraising? Do you have a personal philosophy or policy on this matter?


Girl Scout Cookies: Trans-Fat for a Good Cause

Our family’s Girl Scout is getting ready to sell cookies. We picked up about 200 boxes of cookies today and she’s allowed to start selling them tomorrow. My boyfriend, who ran 7 miles before picking up the cookies, came home and immediately opened a box of Tagalongs – the chocolate peanut butter ones that I remember begging my mom for as a kid. She didn’t like to buy them because very few cookies come in each box, compared to the other varieties of Girl Scout cookies. Fortunately, my post-run hungry boyfriend saved me 2 cookies, which I eagerly ate. Then I reflected: Hmm, they aren’t that good. Not very chocolatey, and not even very peanuty. Mostly they are sugary. Yet, they got my sweet tooth going, so I opened up a box of Do-Si-Dos, the peanut butter sandwich cookies. Those were a disappointment too. Same complaint: too sugary.

Then I looked at the ingredients.

The reason the Tagalong box doesn’t mention chocolate (it calls them “peanut butter patties”) is because, by law, they aren’t made with chocolate. There’s a tiny bit of cocoa powder in them but no cocoa butter at all. The first few ingredients are:

Peanuts, sugar, vegetable oil (partially hydrogenated palm, palm kernel, and/or cottonseed oil, soybean and palm oil, hydrogenated palm, soybean, and cottonseed oil)…

The nutrition label claims no trans-fat, as the government allows any product with under 0.5g trans-fat per serving to do so. But there’s trans-fat in there all right. Same with the Do-Si-Dos.

I love Girl Scouts and I love that my boyfriend’s daughter is a Girl Scout. I was a Girl Scout until high school (I even got my Silver Award). My boyfriend’s daughter has a great troop and their activities add a lot to her life. But seriously, there’s got to be a better way to raise money. Either less junky cookies, or something other than cookies entirely. Done right, fundraising can be a helpful teaching exercise for the girls – like if they sold Fair Trade products and learned why they were helping people in far off places (Equal Exchange offers a fundraising program complete with a curriculum to teach kids about Fair Trade).

Our Girl Scout is a little bit young to understand why these cookies aren’t healthy. We can try to explain about trans-fat, but honestly, it hurts me to have to explain to her that an organization that she views as good is selling cookies that are bad. So we’ll buy a few boxes and dole them out slowly, as treats. Just like we did with Halloween candy. After a few weeks, the kids will hopefully forget about it. But in the meantime, what do we do with these 200 boxes of cookies? Now we’re complicit in peddling junk too. I hope Girl Scouts can truly find something better than cookies to use as a fundraiser.


The Girl Scouts Visit the Nursery & Make a Worm Bin

Today, my boyfriend’s daughter and her Brownie troop visited City Farmers Nursery in San Diego. They got to see all of the animals, plant their own fava beans to take home, and make a worm bin. It was a fantastic experience for all of the girls, both because it was fun and also because it was educational. I don’t know if there are any badges associated with what we did, but who cares. It was totally a blast. Definitely, definitely try this at home!

A while back, I brought my boyfriend’s younger daughter to City Farmers Nursery. She got to pet the chickens and rabbits, feed the goats, and dig for worms. We brought the worms back to my place, where she helped me rip up newspaper to feed the worms.

We had such a great time, that my boyfriend’s older daughter wanted to visit the nursery too. The plans evolved and it turned into an outing for her entire Girl Scout troop – 18 seven year olds (plus several siblings and parents). Today the girls had no school, so we all met at the troop leader’s house and carpooled to the nursery.

Bill, the owner of the nursery, gave us a tour. He told the girls to call him Farmer Bill and explained how he started the nursery when he was 16 years old because he liked to grow plants. He said he also liked to recycle, and then asked the girls to look at what they were standing on. It was mulch. Bill told us he got it for free. It was ground up yard waste that somebody would have to pay to dispose of in the landfill, so they were grateful that he would accept it for free, and he was grateful to get it for free. The mulch keeps weeds from growing and keeps the ground from getting dusty.

Then Bill asked for a show of hands: How many people go to the grocery store to buy their food? All the girls raised their hands. How many people NEVER went to the grocery store for food? Only Bill’s hand was up. He grows all of his own food at the nursery, he explained. On the tour, he would show us what he grew and how he grew it.

Bill showed the girls a milkweed plant and he explained how the plant lives symbiotically with monarch butterflies. The butterfly pollinates the plant and lays its eggs on it. The eggs hatch, and the caterpillars eat the leaves and then spin cocoons. The plant grows new leaves to shelter the cocoons. Then the caterpillars emerge from their cocoons as butterflies and pollinate the plant, completing the cycle and starting it again. The plant, of course, produces seeds once the butterflies pollinate its flowers, and then Bill takes the seeds and plants more milkweed plants.

As we walked, the girls got to see all of the animals (bunnies, chickens, turkeys, ducks, goats, a horse, etc). Bill told the girls that most of the animals were rescued from people who had them and didn’t want them. He’ll give the many of the animals away if people can care for them properly, and he’ll adopt new animals if they are unwanted.

Bill has a small flock of chickens for meat and for eggs. He had Cornish/Rock crosses for meat and a variety of other breeds (including some Aracaunas) for eggs. Bill told the girls that brown chickens lay brown eggs and white chickens lay white eggs, but Aracaunas lay green and blue eggs. The ducks lay eggs too – green ones. However, that is just the color of the shell, so you can’t get green eggs and ham from them. Oh, and brown cows make white milk, not brown milk. (Technically, it’s not true that the color of the chicken determines the egg color. Some say the color of the earlobe will tell you the color of the eggs though. However, if we’re talking about some of the more popular egg breeds, it is true that White Leghorns lay white eggs and Rhode Island Reds – which look brown – lay brown eggs.)

I raised my hand and asked if he used the chickens poop for anything. Oh yes, he said. Some of the girls wrinkled their noses at such a gross idea. Bill said that the larger the animal, the more it poops – and the smaller the animal, the stronger the poop. Chicken poop is very strong stuff. Bill composts the animal poop and uses it to feed the plants. Then he gives plant waste to the animals to eat, and thus, he has very little waste at all! He even re-uses dog poop. He fills garbage cans full of it and lets the worms eat it up. Then he uses the worm poop on ornamental plants (not food plants).

Bill showed the girls his house, and told them that he doesn’t want to drive far to go to work, so he lives at his worm. Then he said we were standing between two other homes – a home for turtles and a home for koi fish. Both types of animals were rescued. He asked the girls two questions: “How can you tell the difference between goldfish and koi?” and “What’s the difference between turtles and tortoises?” Koi have whiskers and gold fish do not, and turtles can live in water whereas tortoises do not. Bill also has a desert tortoise, which we did not see on our tour.

As we walked, Bill showed us his “apple orchard” – five apple trees planted far away from the path so that nursery customers wouldn’t pick the apples. He said when his apple trees have no apples, then he doesn’t eat any apples. When the trees do give him apples, he eats them. If he gets too many apples from the trees, he dehydrates them so he can eat them year round.

Next, we saw his garden. It is very special, he told us, because he uses no machines to grow his food. All of his vegetables come from the garden. I spotted peppers, chard, strawberries, basil, tomatoes, and lots of cruciferous veggies. Near the vegetable garden, he has a big swimming pool filled with tilapia. The pool was recycled, and the water came from the rain. The fish live on mosquitoes, duck weed, and plant waste. Bill uses the fish’s water (together with the fish’s poop) to water and fertilize his plants. Thus, the fish require very little in inputs and they are virtually free for him to raise. I didn’t ask him about heating the water, but tilapia like to live in warm water – about 80F. Then again, we’re in San Diego, so maybe the water stays the right temperature naturally. Bill preserves his tilapia in salt once he harvests them so he can avoid using electricity for refrigeration. He said a fish preserved in salt can last up to five years.

The last thing the girls did was a quick project. Each girl got a small container with holes in the bottom and filled it with dirt. Bill told them the dirt included bat poop and worm poop. He gave them each a fava bean and had them plant it about an inch deep in the soil. Then he told them to take it home and water it and put it in full sunlight. He said only water it when you touch the soil and it feels dry. He also explained that fava beans fix nitrogen in the soil and they are therefore used as a cover crop.

Last, he gave the girls a quiz question: Why are plants on earth? He promised a prize to whoever answered it right. Nobody got it right. I thought, well if you boil it right down, every creature’s goal in life is to reproduce. If an organism has no ability or desire to reproduce, then it goes extinct. But why did plants evolve in the first place? I don’t know. There’s an abundance of animal waste (poop, CO2, etc) and the plants use it, and we use their waste. It was an available ecological niche and they took it. Is that what Bill was getting at? I went with that answer. Wrong, he said. Plants exist to reproduce. We often think they are here to feed us or to give us oxygen, but that’s not why the plants think they are here. It’s just lucky for us that they happen to do nice things for us along the way. (He didn’t say this, but they use us quite well actually. For example, they get people and animals to plant their seeds by producing tasty fruits that people and/or animals eat. Then of course we either drop the seeds or throw them out or poop them out, and they can grow. And, of course, as humans figured this out, we domesticated several species of plant by intentionally planting them, and selecting for traits we like best.) The prize Bill had was a Farmers Almanac for Kids. He donated it to the Brownie troop since nobody got the question right.

The girls’ attention spans were more or less gone by then, so we had them eat their lunches and then we all carpooled back to the troop leader’s house.

Back in my boyfriend’s car, we had the supplies to make a worm bin ready. I bought a bag of worms on the way out the door (full of worms and dirt), and we brought them back to the troop leader’s house. There, I sat with the girls in a circle and asked them what worms like to eat. Several people raised their hands and gave various answers. I added that we can give them food scraps, and listed off several like apple cores, banana peels, leftover Jack-o-lanterns, green bean tips… One of the girls added that you can give them the leaves and hairy stuff you take off of corn. Great idea, I told her. Then I asked how many of the girls had parents who drank coffee. Lots of hands went up. Well, you can give the worms coffee grounds too. And you can give them paper, like old newspaper and junk mail. Before making our bin, we also talked about three things we don’t give to worms: plastic, meat, and cheese. But you can give them egg shells, as long as you crush them up into bitty worm-size pieces.

With that, we got started. We had 2 bins that fit into one another. My boyfriend drilled holes in the bottom of one of them for drainage. The girls each took pieces of newspaper and shredded it into the bin. Then I showed them some food scraps we brought – a top of a bell pepper, some leftover oatmeal, squash seeds and pulp, leftover grapes that had gone bad, and coffee grounds. We put that in the bin too. Then we put water on everything so the worms would have a moist enfironment. Next came the worms. I ripped open the bag and asked the girls to each grab and handful of dirt and worms to put in the bin.

That’s when the fun REALLY started. The girls LOVED the worms. Most of the girls wanted their own worms to take home. One of the adults present tried to make the case that girls weren’t allowed to have worms without parental permission. That didn’t fly. The girls grabbed tupperware containers and gathered up handfuls of dirt, worms, and shredded newspaper for their new pets to eat. We helped them put holes for drainage and holes for air in the containers. Many of the girls wanted to name their worms. They were especially excited about the baby worms they found. The smaller the worm, the “cuter” the girls thought it was.

One girl’s mom was there and she thought the worms were DISGUSTING. She was horrified that her daughter wanted a worm to take home, but she let her do it anyway. She said the girl wasn’t allowed to touch the worm once it went home. The girl looked like she had no intention of obeying that rule. It was thrilling to see how enthusiastic the girls were about the worms, but troubling that they were getting feedback from the adults around them that the worms were gross. After all, people probably couldn’t exist on this planet without worms. They make it possible to grow all of our food!

We gave the troop leader worm bin instructions in advance, so she said she’d print them up and distribute them to the parents of each Brownie. I told the girls that they could use the worms’ poop to grow food in their gardens, although I don’t know how many girls have gardens (or even yards) and how many of them were listening. For parents who don’t want worm bins or pet worms, letting the worms go in the garden or yard might be a good compromise. That would still fit with the spirit of the activity, as the worm would be doing all kinds of good work in the soil outdoors.

My boyfriend’s daughter LOVED her worms. Even after everything was all done and the girls’ parents began showing up to take them home, she and another friend were still elbow deep in the worm bin, finding worms and naming them. Once we got them home, she asked me to help her name them. So we dug around in the bin and found several worms. We named one after each of us. I told Jill the worm that she/he had to be the best worm ever. (Another interesting worm fact I told the girls: every worm is both a boy AND a girl.) We named one worm Brownie and another one Try-It to commemorate the activity today with the Girl Scouts. Other ones got names like Slither and Wiggles. While naming the worms is a bit silly, I’m thrilled that she’s excited about her worms, so I’m happy to participate in worm-naming.

We plan to go back to the nursery to buy garden supplies, plus our Girl Scout wants to go back without her troop so she can have the animals all to herself. I think it’s a great idea. I look forward to getting our garden started, although technically we just did that, because step one is good soil, and that’s what the worms are making for us.


Weekly Parenting News Roundup

Cross-posted at Daily Kos. Please recommend so people get directions to the Hard Rock Cafe this Thursday! Thanks, Elisa

Hello fellow moms, dads and caregivers!

I am back with your weekly parenting news update. Here are some topics we recently discussed here at MotherTalkers:

Girl Scouts and their moms are rightfully upset to learn that Wal-Mart was at the BlogHer conference last week giving away samples of its own version of Thin Mints and Tagalongs. You can read about it here and here.

Parenting magazine ran an article about the difficult decision facing couples who have conceived through IVF: What to do about the leftover embryos? Some parents, including a mother quoted in the article, shared their stories here at MotherTalkers.  

P.E. injuries are on the rise, according to an article by the Associated Press. The injuries are not due to rigorous exercise, but a lack of adult supervision as staff like nurses are laid off and class sizes grow.

Here is one last important news story I want to highlight: Drinking and driving is up among women, according to an Associated Press report. Even more disturbing, drunk women are more likely than inebriated men to drive with children in the backseat. This story was covered in light of the tragedy that occurred in one of New York’s highways, in which an intoxicated mother caused a one-way crash that claimed 8 lives, including her own.

I hate to end on that note, but I am off to the east coast to visit my parents in New Hampshire and attend Netroots Nation in Pittsburgh. In the meantime, I want to alert you of some important dates so please pull out your calendars:

I am helping pass important legislation in California that would ban the toxic chemical bisphenol A (BPA) from baby and toddler products like bottles and sippy cups. The chemical and canned goods industry, including the formula companies, are fighting this bill. We are holding two important rallies to let the state Assembly know that families in our state support this bill.

The first one is in Los Angeles on Wednesday, August 19. Check out the Facebook page on it and pass along to all your family and friends in SoCal!

The second one is in front of the state capitol in Sacramento on Wednesday, August 26. Again, please see the Facebook page here and forward to all your family and friends in northern California.

It is important that Assemblymembers see a lot of us at these rallies as they will be heavily lobbied by the chemical industry.

Now onto other fun events: I will be hosting the Netroots Nation Parents Caucus at the Hard Rock Cafe this year on Thursday, August 13 at 1:30 p.m.. A group of us will meet in front of the convention center between 1 and 1:15 to share cabs or take public transportation. Here are directions to get to the Hard Rock Cafe via the “T” public transit station: Exit the convention center and walk up 10th Street away from the river. Walk 3 blocks and take a right on Liberty Avenue. Walk 2 long blocks up Liberty — the cross-streets will be 9th and 8th streets — and on your left will be the Wood Street Galleries at the intersection of Wood Street and Liberty Avenue. The T station is down the escalator.

You will take the “outbound” train. The train numbers are 42S or 47L, but the sign should say “to Square Station” or “to South Hills.” It is easy in that the T has only one line in town. The train comes every 8 minutes and it is a 5-minute trip to Station Square. Expect to travel like 3 stops. Once you get to the Station Square stop, cross the street (Carson Street) and head towards the river where you will see the Hard Rock Cafe. You will walk about a block to get there.

I will make sure to re-post these directions before the event on Thursday. Hope to see you there! Remember, the first 20 people to arrive will receive swag bags.

One last event I want to highlight: DH will be signing books at our Katie’s bookstore. Come out to meet the snark queen herself! Here are the details:

When: Monday, August 24
Time: 7 p.m.
Where: Gibson’s Bookstore, 27 S. Main Street, Concord, NH

The whole family will be there, including the kiddos. Please do come and bring your families!

What’s up with you?


The Girl Scouts’ (Lack of) Online Strategy

I did not know this, but the Girl Scouts have a ban on online cookie sales, which is beginning to peeve some parents, according to a story in Newsweek.

When 8-year-old Wild Freeborn became a Girl Scout earlier this year, she had a simple goal: sell 12,000 boxes of the organization’s addictive cookies. She wanted to earn enough money to send her entire troop (all new scouts) to summer camp in Brevard, N.C. After going door to door in her neighborhood, visiting stores in downtown Asheville, N.C., and consulting her parents about her precocious business plan, she asked her tech-minded dad, Bryan Freeborn, “Can’t we use what you do at work?” referencing his job as the chief operating officer of TopFloorStudio, a Web design and development firm.

In late January, they posted a YouTube video, starring Freeborn in Girl Scout gear, touting her straightforward sales pitch. “Buy cookies! And they’re yummy!” Soon after, they set up an online order system that was limited to customers within their local area (so Freeborn could personally deliver them). While her online sales strategy took hold, she continued peddling cookies the traditional way—going door to door and working booths at the local grocery store. Within two weeks, more than 700 orders for Thin Mints, Caramel DeLites and Peanut Butter Patties reached the Freeborns solely through the online form.

Considering that the national Girl Scout Cookie Program bills itself as the largest program to teach entrepreneurship to young girls, this e-commerce strategy seems especially savvy. But some families in the community felt threatened by the Freeborn’s unconventional efforts, likely because various prizes (including camp vouchers, stuffed animals and apparel) are given out by local councils to girls who sell a certain amount of boxes. “If you have an individual girl that creates a Web presence, she can suck the opportunity from other girls,” says Matthew Markie, a parent who remains involved in Girl Scouts even though his three daughters are well into their 20s. Markie, and other disapproving parents, brought the Freeborn’s site to the attention of local Girl Scout officials who told the Freeborns to take down their YouTube video and reminded the family of the organization’s longstanding prohibition of online sales. According to the FAQ on the national organization’s Web site, “The safety of our girls is always our chief concern. Girl Scout Cookie activities are designed to be face-to-face learning experiences for the girls.”

As the article pointed out, going door-to-door could be dangerous, too. Also, not having an online presence is probably hurting the Girl Scouts in terms of sales. What do you think of the GS ban, MotherTalkers?


Girl Scouts Re-Do Image

Are any of your daughters in Girl Scouts? Apparently, the organization is quite different than it was a generation ago. From the Washington Post:

Long associated with images of dorky vests and singalongs around the campfire, the 97-year-old Girl Scouts of the USA is trying to become cool. Or at least cooler.

With enrollment dropping sharply, the organization is experimenting with a total makeover of the Girl Scout experience.

What’s in: books and blogs written in girls’ voices on topics such as environmental awareness and engineering; troops led by college students; videoconferencing with scouts in other countries.

What’s out: textbook-style lessons on the value of helping others; shunning the Internet; moms as troop leaders for teenagers.

Thin Mints are not in jeopardy, but — OMG! — badges will be de-emphasized.

Last year, the Girl Scouts hired their first ever brand manager. The organization wants to remake its image to attract a growing number of urban minority girls who know nothing about it. The Boy Scouts and other organizations such as Rotary clubs and Elks lodges have also lost members due to low minority recruitment.


When Thin Mints Lead to Resentments

My little one isn’t in school yet, but I’m already dreading the seemingly endless fundraisers that seem to be part and parcel of both public and private education nowadays.

Since long before I had a child of my own, I have been buying Girl Scout cookies, wrapping paper, cookie dough and peanut brittle from co-workers who felt compelled to bring the catalogs into the office. But I’m grateful never to have been confronted with this awkward scenario:

Your boss, who normally is a reserved person, walks up to your desk with a brash request: Buy this box of Thin Mints and help my daughter stomp the rest of her Girl Scout troop in cookie sales this year.

What would you do? And, furthermore, do you think Girl Scout cookie pushers belong in the office? Is it ethical for a parent to sell cookies for his or her daughter? Is it helpful? Is it a good learning tool? Is it annoying?

I know I always felt compelled to buy something, especially when asked by a colleague I liked and respected. Even if I had no use for a box of mini frozen pizzas (yes, I ordered those once) and my ass could have stood to avoid another box of Do-Si-Dos, I caved and bought. I also couldn’t help but hope they would remember my willingness when it came time for me to take up sales.

How do you all handle fundraisers? Do you find that workplaces are fertile sales grounds? Do you stick to selling only to close friends and family? Or do you boycott such fundraisers altogether?


Muslim communities organizing Girl Scout Troops

How many of us MTs were Brownies or Girl Scouts when we were kids? How many have daughters or sons in the scouting movement? Remember those camping trips, the years of selling cookies door to door, sewing or ironing badges onto our sashes? For a lot of us, I’ll bet scouting was just a normal part of growing up, something that we didn’t think too much about doing.

But for some, scouting is a means of integration and fitting into the American Dream. According to this gently written New York Times feature, some Muslim communities are founding Girl Scout troops and the girls participating are flaunting their membership to the community at large. Article here :

Sometimes when Asma Haidara, a 12-year-old Somali immigrant, wants to shop at Target or ride the Minneapolis light-rail system, she puts her Girl Scout sash over her everyday clothes, which usually include a long skirt worn over pants as well as a swirling head scarf.

She has discovered that the trademark green sash — with its American flag, troop number (3009) and colorful merit badges — reduces the number of glowering looks she draws from people otherwise bothered by her traditional Muslim dress.

“When you say you are a girl scout, they say, ‘Oh, my daughter is a girl scout, too,’ and then they don’t think of you as a person from another planet,” said Asma, a slight, serious girl with a bright smile. “They are more comfortable about sitting next to me on the train.”
Scattered Muslim communities across the United States are forming Girl Scout troops as a sort of assimilation tool to help girls who often feel alienated from the mainstream culture, and to give Muslims a neighborly aura. Boy Scout troops are organized with the same inspiration, but often the leap for girls is greater because many come from conservative cultures that frown upon their participating in public physical activity.

On the one hand, I felt a bit sad for Asma in that she felt had to consciously find ways of signalling her status as a “good American”, but mostly I felt fond pride for a fellow Scout (and not a little bit of respect that a 12-year-old has figured out that embracing certain symbols can have positive reverberations. I think she’s headed good places, this one!). I was a Brownie and Girl Scout – went all the way until I was 12 years old. I still have my sashes at home. My mom was scout leader for both my sister and I, and I loved the experiences, particularly camping. I’d love Jess to join a troop and would most likely volunteer as a troop leader as well.

Girl Scouts have evolved their organization to meet the needs of these new community members. For example, the Girl Scout Promise, which traditionally asks girls to promise to serve God, now allows substitution for, say, Allah. From the Girl Scout’s page on the promise:

The Girl Scout Promise
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.
The Girl Scout Law
I will do my best to be
    honest and fair,
    friendly and helpful,
    considerate and caring,
    courageous and strong, and
    responsible for what I say and do,
and to
    respect myself and others,
    respect authority,
    use resources wisely,
    make the world a better place, and
    be a sister to every Girl Scout.

  • The word “God” can be interpreted in a number of ways, depending on one’s spiritual beliefs. When reciting the Girl Scout Promise, it is okay to replace the word “God” with whatever word your spiritual beliefs dictate.

Girl Scouts America haven’t just evolved their operations for religious communities- the site offers translation into Spanish, for example. Of course, the program has changed from what I remember doing in scouts; a lot of it back then (yes, about 20 years ago now, egads) focused on arts and crafts, first aid and things like that. Now, according to the site, the program is broken down into eight areas of concentration – Leadership and Self-Esteem, Community Outreach and Education, Environmental Awareness, Financial Literacy, Health and Wellness, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, The Arts and Travel.

So what about you, ladies? Is scouting still relevant to today? Do you have good memories of scouting, and are your children scouts?