If there is one thing everybody knows about the Boy Scouts of America it is that they earn badges. As members of the church one could (if they were so inclined) make all sorts of arguments that perhaps badges aren’t really that great of an idea. One could say that it conditions boys and young men to be hungry for honor and accolades. One might be able to make such arguments, but they would ultimately have to shrug their shoulders and admit that we don’t control the BSA, so we’ll have to live with the badges as long as we use their program.
Another thing that everyone (in the church knows) is that the Activity Days program for girls is what the girls do instead of cub scouts. When I was that age we had the Merrie Miss program, and one of the things I remember about that program is, that as we met goals outlined in the booklet, we earned pearls to add to our embroidered wall hanging. I don’t know where mine is, but I did it. My oldest sister had a bandolo, and earned pins as she met her goals. My sister in law who is currently 16, did the activity day program and earned gems to glue to a chart.*
A few weeks ago I was called to be the activity days leader in my ward, and as far as I know the girls currently are given no official intermediary awards. They work on the program for four years and receive a necklace at the end of it all.
I have wondered if the lack of awards in the current program is intentional. It could be due to expense, but I suspect that it would be due to idealogical reasons. We don’t want to teach the anyone to be hungry for awards, and accolades. Simply living the gospel should be it’s own reward. Since, unlike the BSA, we run the girls program ourselves and we are able to make it align with our ideals. And so the girls don’t get patches, or pins, or pearls, or gems.
Here’s the thing though, the other thing I remember about being a teen and pre-teen was my seething jealousy of the boys. Not only did they do more frequent, bigger, more fun activities, they had big dinners to celebrate their accomplishments, and they earned all sorts of neat badges, pins, and beads. While I was constantly assured verbally that boys weren’t more important, or better, or anything like that, the things that I saw communicated to me that boys deserved more time, attention, and praise than the girls.
We can’t expect young girls to have the sort of maturity to look at that disparity and say “well the boys might be doing [insert activity here] but I’m learning to avoid pride and develop satisfaction in learning and giving service for it’s own sake.” The more likely result is to learn to feel like the church, their leaders, and ultimately God think that girls don’t deserve the same sort of time, attention, and praise as boys. In short we may hoping to teach girls a more complete sort of christian humility but are inadvertently teaching them that God loves them less.
I intend to work out some sort of intermediary award of my own. I’ve been racking my brain for something that would both be inexpensive enough to fit within the official budget, yet appeal to the girls in a meaningful way. Any ideas?