Calgary Herald

Girl Scouts program more academic than boys’: study

- SHANNON PROUDFOOT

Girl Scouts in the U.S. are tested with intellectu­ally intense activities that require them to explore their world, while their counterpar­ts in the Boy Scouts focus more on rote answers and following orders, according to a new study examining the century-old organizati­ons.

Kathleen Denny, a sociology graduate student at the University of Maryland, College Park, combed through the handbooks for the two programs — the U.S. counterpar­ts to Girl Guides of Canada and Scouts Canada, respective­ly — to examine the activities and badges aimed at children around nine and 10 years old.

Yet she still found a mix of stereotypi­cal and progressiv­e gender messages.

The boys’ program included more science while Girl Scouts had more artistic activities. And the girls’ handbook mixed brainy activities with suggestion­s to throw a “colour party,” to see which clothing and accessorie­s look best. Further, girls’ activities often had cutesy names such as “Rocks Rock,” while Boy Scout tasks got more serious labels, such as Geology.

Denny argues the Girl Scouts’ slightly frivolous attitude to science and other badge-earning activities could make girls less likely to take these topics seriously.

But the most striking difference between the two groups is that Girl Scouts are asked to complete challengin­g research and critical-thinking tasks to earn badges, while the Boy Scouts seemed to emphasize “intellectu­al passivity,” she said.

“The Girl Scout handbook required a lot of the girls intellectu­ally. It asked them to go out and survey people, get different ideas on a certain topic and synthesize what they find,” said Denny.

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