Most famous for their fundraising cookie sales, the Girl Scouts of America counts 50 million American women as alumnae and boasts a current membership of 2.7 million girls. Nearly 1 million women volunteer as leaders and mentors within the organization. Troop Capitol Hill is an honorary Scout troop comprised of members of the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate who are former members. Important leaders of this group include Senators Kay Bailey Hutchinson and Barbara Mikulski.
The history of the Girl Scouts mirrors the social, economic, and political progress women have made in America since the beginning of the twentieth century. Inspired by the founder of the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides, Sir Robert Baden-Powell, Juliette “Daisy” Gordon Low (1860–1927) organized the first Girl Scout troop on March 12, 1912, in Savannah, Georgia. In 1915, the organization was formally incorporated. As early as the 1920s, members could earn badges in areas such as Economist and Motorist. Also during this time, troops for Native Americans and Mexican Americans were founded.
The 1930s saw the division of the group into three age divisions: the now widely recognized Brownie group as well as Intermediate and Senior ranks. Also during this time, the first cookie sales took place. During World War II, Girl Scouts volunteered to assist with war efforts on the home front. During the 1950s, the Scouts continued to grow in membership and formed racially integrated troops.
In the 1960s, the Girl Scouts advocated civil rights and passed resolutions banning discrimination. In the 1970s, feminist leader Betty Friedan served on the Girl Scouts’ national board of directors, and in 1975, Dr. Gloria Randall Scott became the Girl Scouts’ first African American president. The 1980s saw the introduction of the Daisy Scout age rank, which serves girls of kindergarten age. Moving into the present, such badges as Global Awareness, Adventure Sports, Stress Less, and Environmental Health were established to reflect current concerns.
In 2000, the Girl Scouts Research Institute was formed with the goal of producing research and programs focusing on the developmental and social needs of girls. The Girl Scouts have avoided the controversies regarding sexual orientation of its members and leaders that plagued the Boy Scouts organization.
- Kutler, S. J. (Ed.). (2003). The Girl Scouts. In Dictionary of American history. New York: Scribner’s.
- Schultz, G. D. (1958). The lady from Savannah: The life of Juliette Low. New York: Lippincott.
- Soto, C. (1987). The Girl Scouts. New York: Exeter Books.
Global Awareness Exchange
Global awareness exchange refers to programs and projects that aim to increase understanding and contact among peoples of different countries through the exchange of information, people, and ideas. Global awareness exchanges are based on the philosophy that better understanding among citizens of different countries will promote such altruistic goals as world peace, cultural sensitivity, human rights, and global teamwork. This entry examines types of global awareness exchange and the benefits and risks associated with such exchanges.
Global awareness exchange activities can take many forms, such as reciprocal exchanges of students, researchers, businesspeople, activists, and others, in which participants from one country travel to the other; internationalized grassroots campaigns on issues pertinent to the global economy, such as workers’ rights, fair trade, and immigration; and Internet and videoconferences among peoples from different countries. Common types of programs that focus on or include a component of global awareness exchange are study abroad programs sponsored by an educational institution such as a college or high school; fellowship programs for research and study abroad funded by foundations such as Fulbright; fellowship and exchange programs sponsored by private, altruistic organizations such as the Rotarians; international exchanges of people belonging to a given religious denomination or church; and grassroots advocacy campaigns such as those carried out by the nonprofit “Global Exchange.” A global awareness exchange can last from a few days to several months.
Global awareness exchange programs are directly related to the constantly evolving movement to internationalize educational systems and to the growing importance of cross-national contacts in fields such as business, law, education, and medicine. The main benefits of global awareness exchanges are a better understanding and empathy for foreign cultures, increased international contacts, and increased knowledge on how to solve common problems.
Yet the benefits of such exchanges for countries in development are often considered within the context of the risks. Such risks include the “brain drain,” whereby educated citizens depart but never return to their country of origin; growing inequality between those with and those without access to the Internet and other technological advances; and the adoption of inapplicable models discovered in a foreign country but impractical or unavailable in the country of origin. Furthermore, yet to be resolved are the ethical implications of spending scarce educational funds on projects and programs focusing on global awareness while millions of people worldwide do not have access to even minimal formal education. Despite these possible risks and ethical dilemmas, however, most governments, educational institutions, activists, and businesspeople worldwide consider global awareness exchange necessary and beneficial.
- Clifford, B. (2005). The marketing of rebellion: Insurgents, media, and international activism. New York: Cambridge University Press.
- Enders, J. (2004). Higher education, internationalisation and the nation state: Recent developments and challenges to governance theory. Higher Education, 47, 361–382.
- Hofstede, G. (1991). Cultures and organizations: Software of the mind. New York: McGraw-Hill.
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