By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

A no-class comment

As the father of a son who recently earned his Eagle award and a daughter who just got her Silver, I’m appalled at a comment from a spokeswoman for the Boy Scouts of America that appears in today’s Boston Globe. Renee Fairrer tells reporter Irene Sege:

The Girl Scouts, pretty much they’re known for the Girl Scout cookies. When people think of Boy Scouts, they think of Eagle awards. They think of service.

Girl Scouts have to put in a tremendous number of service hours for their awards. The requirements can’t be directly compared, but the Silver award, for girls 11 to 14 years old, specifies that a girl put in 40 hours. The Gold, for girls up to the age of 18, requires 65 hours, according to a workbook my daughter has.

The Eagle, which a boy can earn up until he turns 18, does not specify a minimum number of hours for a service project, though such projects usually run about 100 cumulative hours from everyone who participates. In practical terms, that means the scout himself generally puts in fewer than 40 hours of his own time.

Too bad Fairrer didn’t understand that before she opened her mouth and inserted her foot.

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  1. Joel Monka

    I’m not so sure she inserted her foot. She was wrong about the details, but she was not wrong about what the Girl Scouts are KNOWN FOR. The Girl Scouts are famous for two things: cookies, and being so lame that girls sue the Boy Scouts tryng to get into that instead. It’s not a complete image, (though not completely wrong, either), but it’s what they’re known for.

  2. Dan Kennedy

    Joel: You are technically correct, and I thought about it before I posted. But is Fairrer really talking about branding? I say she’s talking about substance. And she’s wrong.

  3. lkcape

    The day and the age of the Boy and Girl Scouts has past, victims of many things. It is unfortunate because the Scouts are organizations that are both meaningful and instructive to youths, at whatever age.But the fact is that the Boy and Girl Scouts are no longer in the mainstream view of the kids of the world.The passing is just one more tradition that we can mourn.

  4. Mike from Norwell

    Dan, first off: congratulations to your son for attaining Eagle Scout! A ton of work, especially the service project (I know, having gone through that back in ’75 earning my award).I certainly hope that Scouts aren’t an anachronism in our society; know that the incredible expansion of youth sports from 35 years ago has taken a ton more time away from kids today to participate. I’ll go with a “pass” on the Girl Scout comment. I have friends who attained First Class Scout (the GS equivalent of Eagle) and know they worked every bit as hard to attain their rank.

  5. NewsHound

    Congratulations, Dan, and also to your children. Even if they hadn’t qualified for the distinguished awards, all experience in Scouting is most important. When I was in Scouting we had a lot of fun and learned a lot about many things including good values to carry us through life.To raise money one year we sold donuts but never became famous for it. There is more to Scouting than selling cookies. Just being a good Scout is an accomplishment.Unfortunately, Ikcape is not completely wrong about Scouts, and the same would apply to 4-H, DeMolay and Rainbow Girls. In many communities life is completely consumed with organized sports and in some cases parents become overly involved instead of allowing time for children to learn, explore, think and grow independently and amongst themselves.

  6. Dan Kennedy

    Scouting is shrinking, but it still serves millions of kids. I think it’s like a lot of things — there is far less mass culture than there used to be. Just because scouting isn’t as visible as it used to be doesn’t mean it’s going to disappear. At least I hope not!

  7. NewsHound

    In Scouting we learned to do good deeds. When we went camping we were reminded to leave our campsite better than we found it and that is what we proudly did. It’s rules like that that build a lifetime foundation of values. Later in life if we manage a company we should leave it in better shape than when we arrived. And should we ever be President of the USA we would leave the country in better shape than when we arrived.

  8. Bill H.

    I think that the state of Scouting today also says something that may inform our ongoing discussion of the meaning of “community” in the 21st century. Not happy developments, but the bottom line, Dan, is that you have two wonderful kids who deserve our congratulations.

  9. Aaron Read

    I am an Eagle Scout, and I learned a great deal: wilderness survival, sailing, swimming, shooting (archery and rifles), starting a fire (and cooking) under any conditions, and various other camping-like activities. Our Troop, while not large (often we had just one patrol, sometimes two or three), was fairly active…camping one weekend a month when school was in session, and one week at Scout camp every summer.While I don’t exactly regret it, and I still have many of those lessons with me today. Generally I consider my involvement with the Scouts to be something deserving shame.I was part of an organization that all-too-often shielded child molesters, and still continues to discriminate extensively against gays. I have friends who’re Eagle Scouts, too, and I now have some friends with kids who’re Scouts…and I don’t ever really mention my feelings about the BSA to them; it’s my own opinion about Scouts, and everyone’s experience with Scouts is unique, so it would be inappropriate for me to judge Scouts in context of their own experiences.But if asked for an opinion, I would not recommend being involved with Scouts, boy or girl, to anyone.————For what it is worth, and this is probably more relevant to the issue at hand: an old girlfriend of mine was a Girl Scout in the American compound of Saudi Arabia (her father was an oil rig engineer) for several years in her childhood…this was back in the early to mid 1980’s. She said they all learned how to use various firearms, how to drive (remember, she was 11 at the time), how to identify edible plants and animals (and survive in general) in the desert, and they’d go camping in the desert for a week at a time…with not a soul in any direction for 100 miles.Then the family moved back to the states. In Southeastern CT in the late eighties, the Girl Scouts apparently was little more than the cookies. She gave up after six months, but I can hardly blame her…after learning desert survival for a few years, I think even the most wilderness-minded Boy Scout Troop would seem rather lame.

  10. Rachel

    Congratulations to your son and your daughter, Dan. I was a Brownie and Girl Scout until I hit high school (no Daisies when I was a kid), so I recognize that a lot of hard work went in to what both of your kids have done!I’ve been reading a few articles of late on how the Girl Scouts are pushing ahead to make the organization relevant to new communities – particularly urban immigrant communities, and what impact scouting can have for these girls. It’s a fascinating discussion.

  11. Ron Newman

    Before blaming this quote on Renee Fairrer, let’s be sure she was quoted accurately and in context.

  12. Amused

    I agree.Now, can we do something about the price of Girl Scout Cookies. And the quality of those peanut butter in the middle cookies has gone way downhill, which is a shame since I’ve always considered thin mints to be among the most overrated food substances on earth.

  13. Bill Toscano

    Dan: In the years I was running National Honor Society selection committees, we *always* took a Gold Award and an Eagle Scout at the same value. There was never any discussion.And, honestly, kid had one of those and nothing really negative, the discussion because a “Yes” right there.I think part of the Scouting thing is geographical. I am sure nationally the numbers are down, but up here in rural northeastern New York, Scouts are everyone.It’s gonna be barbecued chicken for lunch from their fund-raiser.And, Ron, I am sorry you have to be so cynical. Newspaper reporters are like everyone else and do their best to be as accurante as possible.With a quote like that, you know it got some serious inquiries from editors.

  14. Ron Newman

    I’m not being cynical or attacking the reporter, but it’s quite possible that Ms. Fairrer didn’t intend her remark to be taken the way it reads in the article.

  15. Mike from Norwell

    Aaron, you bring up a couple of interesting points (one that involves us helicopter parents):When I was going through scouts in the 70s, we were pretty much left to our own devices as to cooking food and making sure we didn’t freeze; if you had a miserable time on a January campout, you sure as heck tried to figure out a better way to do things the next monthly campout.After college I briefly helped out with my old troop, but the handwriting was on the wall at a troop meeting when they were planning the upcoming ski trip. Scouts were supposed to be responsible for “bringing their own sodas.” Everything else was left to the fathers.Just this past weekend went with my son to his new town Pinewood Derby. Pretty elaborate, with the new metal track, the laptop with derby software and a dad announcing (and a bunch of cars that won that I’m positive these kids were never allowed to touch through the whole process). Fun, but the kids were entirely spectators. Hopefully if my son continues into boy scouts that it will be up to him to take care of himself, instead of us over exuberant dads running the show.Second (and probably the more contentious point), after talking with several friends (who were also Eagle Scouts) about this matter over the last few years, there is a serious dichotomy in your statement:”I was part of an organization that all-too-often shielded child molesters, and still continues to discriminate extensively against gays.”The challenge for scouting is defending itself against homophobia tags while dealing with the reality of the first part of your statement. I could care less about a person’s sexual orientation; however, it is an issue with scouting, girls or boys. We’re not talking about adult groups, we’re dealing with 11-18 year old kids. Hetero or Homosexual, think all of us as parents realize that some things are out of bounds in a scouting situation. A pedophile is a pedophile, whether preying on young girls or boys.

  16. Aaron Read

    Eeep. I had thought this was obvious, and honestly I’m not sure if you’re inferring something or not, Mike…I don’t think you are, but on something this serious, let me be EXCRUCIATINGLY clear: the issue with Scouts shielding pedophiles and the issue with Scouts discriminating against gays are COMPLETELY separate issues.My sentence did kind of read like I meant they were related, but as far as I’m concerned, they’re most definitely not.

  17. Dan Kennedy

    Aaron: The Boy Scouts (but not the Girl Scouts) organization does discriminate against gays. It’s a huge problem, and has hurts its image tremendously. I must say that in 10 years as a scout volunteer in Eastern Massachusetts, I have never even heard it come up. But it’s a reality at the national level.But shielding pedophiles? Evidence? Even one recent example? I think you’re way off base.

  18. Chris Helms

    I’m an Eagle Scout who is also dismayed by the homophobia of the national organization. Even so, if I had kids, I wouldn’t hesitate to put them in Boy Scouts. Scouts were a bedrock part of my growing up and shaping who I am. The good far outweighs the bad.

  19. mcough4

    I’m the father of two Eagle Scouts and I concur with Dan and others about the homophobia and general cluelessness of the Boy Scouts of America. My experience with several local troops over the years has been outstanding but I have no respect for the national organization. I have had some professional contact with the Girl Scouts organization and find them to be far more enlightened and better positioned to retain relevance with kids in the future than the Boys Scouts.

  20. Danielle Ouellette

    I have been a Girl Scout for 18 years – from kindergarten through college and I am now training to be a trainer for GS Eatern Mass. It’s frustrating that just because Girl Scouts isn’t organized like Boy Scouts – that you have to earn Eagle, etc like levels – makes people think that it’s any less legitimate. I volunteered running a troop for 5 years in Roxbury, across the street from Northesatern University. Almost every week for those five years the girls would squeal in delight and the boys would ask, “Can we come? Why don’t we have boy scouts??” So where are these Eagle scouts, who have invested all this time in their projects – are they continuing to give back to the community and foster another generation of involved young citizens? And GS might be most well known for cookies – but that is the major source of income for funding programs and camps, especially for girls who are unable to afford registration fees, etc. So please, buy a box and give it away. But know that your money isn’t for the delicious cookies but so that girls like mine can actually participate in events.

  21. djcmurphy

    My daughter is now with her second Girl Scout troop. The first did very little and was little more than a social gathering, with many of the less appealing social interactions sometimes attributed to pre-teens. She dropped out of that and joined a group that is a huge improvement. These girls runs their own meetings, are involved in the community, and generally represent and engage in all the kinds of things you want your kids to be involved with. I am very impressed.I’m also very happy that the Girl Scouts are far less religious than the Boy Scouts. I would not be at all comfortable with my daughter being involved with a group that discriminates against homosexuals or atheists.

  22. Ms. L

    For five years, I ran Campus Girl Scouts at Northeastern and was a volunteer for an inner-city troop in Roxbury. I now lead three troops in Bedford, where I’m a teacher. I have earned both Silver and Gold and I firmly believe that Girl Scouts gives girls a chance to belong to both the Girl Scout community and the wider-community – my girls do service both inside Girl Scouts and our community. And we have fun while doing it!I’m married to an Eagle Scout. We both got wonderful experiences out of program, though different, and when we have children, I have no doubt Scouts will be part of their lives. I tell everyone who complains that Girl Scouts is abotu cookies and crafts that they need to get trained and get their girls out there then. My girls have gone skiing, snowshoeing, winter tent camping, summer camping, canoeing, and much more. The program, for either organization, is only as good as the leadership for that troop.Congrats to both your children on Eagle and Silver. Both are very wonderful accomplishments!

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