Hotel Campers

In order to retain membership, have the Girl Scouts changed too much?

Burnette says, however, that what girls learn in their troops depends on the leader. Burnette has two girls in the San Jacinto Scouts and says her daughters are involved in camping and community service -- even as Brownies. She says although her girls are involved in such activities, there are troops she calls "hotel campers" that head for more comfortable destinations.

"They take really cool trips with cookie moneys. They go to Sea World and they stay at the Hilton, and while they're there they go to a movie and maybe have their nails done," Burnette says, "but that's what those five little girls want." Burnette says she has always been impressed with the choice the Scouts allow girls to have these days, and thinks it attracts a wider audience than the Scouts of her time did. "I had friends that thought it was really cool that I was in Girl Scouts, but you wouldn't have caught them dead back packing."

Ostendorf and Omer don't see the changes so benignly.

Girls can earn badges by trying out hairstyles and organizing their closets.
Mark Brewer
Girls can earn badges by trying out hairstyles and organizing their closets.

"In some ways I can see that the Girl Scouts are trying to address concerns, but I feel like in some ways it goes the opposite," Ostendorf says. "They're telling girls: 'Here are things you should be concerning yourself with.'"

She adds that badges for things like good grooming and fashion magazine research were given back in the '50s, and that their revival shows a regression. "We're right back in the '50s."

Low intended the Scouts to explore life outside of the house. If a girl isn't encouraged to go camping, will she? She could always stay in her room, flip through the latest issue of Elle, do her nails and earn a different badge. This isn't to say that Scouts shouldn't keep their nails clean, but shouldn't there be dirt to clean in the first place?

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