Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Sewing on Lots of Little Patches

Here it is, National Sewing Month, and I've dragged the sewing machine back upstairs to the dining room table. And the first thing I've been sewing is various patches and insignia on the Girl Scout vests.

While I do this I think about scouts quite a bit. I think about the woman who murmured to me during a meeting, "They're getting rid of the badges, you know." Well, if they get rid of the badges, Annabeth is out of the program. It's as simple as that. She's in it for the badges, folks. And I don't know if they're actually getting rid of the badges or not, although I've heard that line before. I've also heard that they're NOT getting rid of the badges. And I've heard that they don't know if they're getting rid of the badges or not, they'll be figuring that out later ... presumably after they decide whether people are using that insipid Journeys program or not, or if Journeys goes the way of the Studio 2B.

I wonder if they'd give us an exit interview. Ask us why we left the program. Heaven knows they spend oodles of dollars trying to figure out what would attract new people; do they ever spend time trying to figure out why they loose current members? Eh, most people would probably either lie or only tell part of the reason, so maybe it's just as well they don't bother.

I also think about a family who has left our troop, has left Girl Scouts altogether. The mom was troop leader for a couple of years, and the daughter had good friends in the troop. Rick and I were discussing it, and said, "Oh, I guess they got too busy with other things," but really, it was more than that. Last year during cookie sales the mom had commented to me that she didn't want to support the national organization at all, and wished she could ditch the cookie sales because of it. I vaguely recall that her opinion of GSUSA went down hill as she looked through the Journeys material. And there were other factors, too.

I started pondering what an exit interview should look like. "Why did you decide to leave our organization? Choose one:" Here are some choices I'd like to see: The way the camp catalogs are laid out makes no sense. Ticked off about the Journeys programs. Realized the Back to Nature cookies taste better than the Girl Scout cookies of the same flavor, plus they're available year round. Sometimes calls to Council seem to enter an alternate reality. Decided this year's Thinking Day patch was ugly, and fell into despair about ugly patches. Couldn't figure out why we have both wings for flying up to Juniors as well as a rainbow for bridging to Juniors, and really ticked off that we have to sew both onto the vest because they're such odd shapes to sew around. Also, the iron-on stuff never really works right, so you have to sew everything on or else glue it, so let's just stop pretending these are "Iron-On".

(Brownie Try-Its are the worst for that last one -- they seem like they're ironed on nicely, but then the little corners of the triangles stick out and catch on something, and before you know it they're all popping off and people are looking at them and thinking, "that's it, I've had enough of this -- it's been one frustrating experience after another, and I've reached my limit and we're dropping out NOW.")

In the meantime, the badge program still exists, I've learned to sew everything down, and we're still planning to spend this year in Scouts. And we got a new camera, so Annabeth was running around experimenting with it while I was sewing the oddly shaped patches (Thalia will do the IPs herself since they're rectangles and relatively easy).

And I did the wings on Annabeth's new Junior vest myself. And the rainbow. I don't begrudge the wings even though they're toughest thing to sew on, because I've always thought they were wicked cool. But the rainbow? And this new flag shape? Give me a break.


Ami said...

When they started Studio 2B, the marketing focus groups interviewed girls who had left GS and girls who had never been members.

"What would it take to get you into Girl Scouts today? And what if I throw in some jewelry and some smarmy, feel-good activist stuff, would you join then?"

I thought then, and still think now that if GS wants to build membership, they're going about it all wrong.

They just never asked me what I thought because I was already active in the organization.

Gail said...

Really? I didn't know that -- that they also interviewed girls who left.

I always appreciate your insights into the organization. To show my appreciation should I send you some smarmy, feel-good activist stuff, or would you prefer jewelry?

And, by the way, what would you do to build membership?

Ami said...

I'd go back to basics. Hiking, camping, helping your neighbor. Patriotism..the real kind... not (expletive deleted) national day of service crap.

I'd leave out the 'homework' type stuff that they've drifted into, also. Kids get enough of that in school. It's not fun to go to an after school activity and do more school work.

And GS should be visibly and completely non-political. They've also slanted way left in the last couple decades.

They're butt kissing every organization that will donate money to them, and it aggravates people.

Gail said...

Wow, I've heard similar things from so many people -- this is a great summary of things people around here have been saying for the past couple of years.

Anyone else have something to add? I know more GS-types read this blog than just Ami.

Bridgett said...

Gail, I just got back from the organization meeting for our troop, which has turned into this unwieldy 3rd through 5th grade brownie-junior mix, with a couple of second graders who, we promise, have girl scout experience already...

We are doing badges. We are going back to basics just like Ami said. There is no homework; I like badges and I like going on field trips. I like taking a group of city girls up to Clarksville to see the eagles.

My moms are very laid back. Nobody wants to do too much but what we want to do is fun stuff that they aren't doing already. We don't go to the zoo; but we do have STages St. Louis come do a dance program.

That said, about half my girls don't have anything but a brownie pin. Money is tight in some of their houses and the troop pays for some things but not everything and a bunch of crap trinkets is not going to draw them in.

What I love about GS is the autonomy of troops--we have a good leader (ahem, me) and so we have a good troop. What I hate about GS, well, pretty much everything else from above the troop leader on up. Sigh.

I could go ON AND ON AND ON.

Freakmom said...

I've heard the badges are staying, but so are the Journeys. I hated last year's journey - it felt like a bad public school social studies program. But I like this year's. Violet and her friend are going to do it together.

What I don't like are the rumors about the changes to the bronze, silver and gold awards. They'll require journeys (so I've heard), they'll require more hours. And the projects will have to be "sustainable". Really? The projects can't be a one-time thing anymore? I'm not going to encourage Violet to try them at this point. Sigh.

At our service team meeting last night we learned that we have a new volunteer position, an "interviewer" who is supposed to call people who leave and do an exit interview. I expect she'll get an earful, but since she's just a volunteer I can't see that it will make any difference.

This is likely to be my last year as a volunteer. I don't like the way our realignment is going and I don't like the turn national is taking. I think I'll just support Violet in whatever she wants after this year.

Wendy said...

I loved girl scouts when I was a kid, and then, I wanted to sign up my girls, but as homeschoolers, I didn't want to go to the "public school" troops, but there were no homeschool troop options at the time. So, we signed up as Juliettes, which was a lot of fun, because we also sold cookies, but we had a hard time accessing the money my daughter earned from her cookie sales. We still have money out there somewhere, at least *we* didn't spend it all ;). Anyway.

I used the badges as a part of our homeschooling, because a lot of them have some great educational opportunities. If not for the badges, we'd have no reason to be girl scouts.

The funny thing is that I was able to order badges and books online without being signed up as a scout, and so, paying the fee to be "registered" really did nothing for us.

When I was a scout, the thing I liked most was the emphasis on outdoor skills and the cameraderie - out doors - with other girls. When we did our stint as Juliettes and received all of the promotional materials, it didn't seem like that's where the emphasis was anymore.

Anyway, we weren't in a troop, and I wasn't a "leader". I was a "mentor" ;), and so I don't have much experience with how the organization is run.