Monday 13 August 2012

Girl Guides Drop Queen & God from Pledge

The Australian Girl Guides movement has decided to modernise the pledge that its members give assent to. The changes are interesting. While the media has been quick to discuss the removal of any allegiance to God and Queen, it has overlooked what ultimately replaces the focus of their allegiance, the very foundation of their actions and life. The modern 10-14 year-old Aussie girl will now look largely to herself in order to judge the quality of their life and character.  Yes, they will 'serve their 'community' and 'country' and help others, but the test by which they will measure their life is by being 'true to themselves'. They will also 'develop my beliefs', but note that these don't guide. 

The pledge will no longer have any reference to God or the Queen, but will be a vow to serve country and community. The move follows about 18 months of consultations with thousands of members of the country's largest volunteer girl groups.

The national director of the Guide movement, Belinda Allen commented:

"We are open to girls of all cultures, all belief systems and we feel that to develop my beliefs is much more inclusive of our multicultural Australia".

The old Girl Guide pledge:

I promise that I will do my best.
To do my duty to God.
To serve the Queen and my country.
To help other people and keep the Guide law.

The new Girl Guide pledge:

I promise that I will do my best.
To be true to myself and develop my beliefs.
To serve my community and my country.
To help other people and keep the Guide law.

While in a diverse society like Australia it is understandable that some members (or perhaps more likely their parents) don't want to swear allegiance to God, this in my view is more reflective of a view that faith is seen as peripheral to the life of the individual, community and our country. There is a significant shift here in the commitment being made from the pursuit of virtue and the living of a 'good' life for the benefit of others and ultimately for God and Queen (representing the nation), to something that reflects the individualism of our age.

As MacIntyre reminds us in 'After Virtue', the modern man or woman is '...what I myself choose to be...'. But who we are, and what is for my good, is always to be for the good also of others, and take place in relationship to other inhabitants of varied life roles including daughter, cousin, citizen and servant of God (or some other god). Well, it certainly has been seen this way by diverse nations for over two thousand years. To ask these girls to swear allegiance to community and country while being true to 'self' is symptomatic of this age, where in western nations we see our responsibility as to self alone. In my view this is a sad day for the Guide movement.

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