October 14, 2008

It's a tradition: Change and griping

"What Happened to the Girl Scouts" is the headline on a magazine article that comes up in an Internet search. I'm amazed that mass media has picked up on the changes, an undercurrent of dissatisfaction in Girl Scouts.

Will it be about the merging of councils, the changing of programs, or lambasting the values? Is it pegged to the 51st National Council meeting in Indianapolis Oct. 29-Nov.2?

It is a look at values - the downplaying of international relationships. It is a look at changes - a handbook revised just 11 months after being published.

Nice - an article written in 1955 - has words that connect with today's Girl Scouts.

What pops out for me in the May 1955 Atlantic article is this:
"Every six or seven years the Girl Scouts completely revise their manual. In between - ordinarily the book remains the same during additional printings except for minor typographical corrections."

So change is a tradition.
"Yet less than a year after the first printing, more than sixty changes were ordered. Some expressions were toned down, strong sympathies diluted, and a few plain facts erased."

So revision is a tradition.

Author Ben H. Bagdikian, "one of the first to be alarmed by the policy of retreat disclosed in the article which follows" carefully looks for evidence that Girl Scouts, the organization, has changed its thinking, its values. He cites examples like this:

"The old Handbook said, "Scouts and Guides all over the world are known for their willingness to help other people." In 1953 the "all over the world" was dropped."

So debating the inclusion or exclusion of a phrase in documents is a tradition.

Today's hot topic on the Internet e-mail lists is that "they" are against "unhealthy traditionalists."

The phrase - an obstacle to changing a program - is found in a table cell in a "Strategic priority" document shared with a Yahoo group on Feb 16, 2008:

"There is an unhealthy devotion to traditions on standards, uniforms and

Another shares that she saw the phrase as "an unhealthy attachment to tradition" in a PowerPoint she was forced to watch. Later, someone sends out a PowerPoint from an annual meeting where it was held.

Now, a group has ordered shirts that say Unhealthy Traditionalist: Eat 2 Thin Mints and call me in the morning."

I'd prefer to push for the positive: Healthy Traditionalist: Eat 2 Thin Mints and call me in the morning (Can you be healthy eating thin mints?) because I think traditions are healthy.

But then I think debate is healthy and so is change.

"Have the Girl Scouts themselves changed? Have they altered their basic ideas about international friendship and the United Nations?

Nothing of the sort. The Girl Scouts of America was and is a fine organization which still encourages idealism, good citizenship, and international friendship. What happened in 1954 was that the Girl Scouts in the forty-second year of their existence decided it was no longer safe to say so too plainly."

Another section in the article also makes me smile:
"The (1954) pamphlet correcting the new 1953 Handbook was filled with instructions like: -

"Page 86. Change the sentence beginning with Line 2 to read: 'Service is your way of making a contribution to your community." A few months before, it had read: "Service is your way of making this a better world in which to live."

In 2008, we are back to "Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence and character who make the world a better place."

Traditionalists, after all.

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