[sixties-l] Political Summer Camps Cater to Extremes (fwd)

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Date: Fri Mar 22 2002 - 03:56:51 EST

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    Date: Wed, 20 Mar 2002 22:39:04 -0800
    From: radtimes <resist@best.com>
    Subject: Political Summer Camps Cater to Extremes

    Political Summer Camps Cater to Extremes


    By Michael L. Betsch
    CNSNews.com Editorial Assistant
    March 15, 2002

    (CNSNews.com) - Whether you're a socialist or a communist, conservative or
    libertarian, there's a summer camp that will help your child start thinking
    in the ^A'left' or ^A'right' direction.
    Even if a child has no political bearings, politically oriented camps will
    make sure he or she returns home with a new outlook on society.
    Camp Kinderland in the Massachusetts Berkshires bills itself as a "summer
    camp with a conscience." It continues to promote the socialist and
    communist values on which it was founded over 75 years ago.
    The camp originally catered to radical, secular Jews seeking a summer
    getaway for the children of factory and sweatshop workers who identified
    themselves as socialists and communists.
    Kinderland to this day emphasizes "group living, cooperative
    decision-making, and noncompetitive but challenging approaches to sports
    and games." Every game ends in what's called a "Kinderland tie," because
    the kids - ages 6 to 19 - are discouraged from keeping score.
       Antidote to materialism
    Alice Shechter, Kinderland's director for 20 years, said the camp is an
    "antidote to the really crass, materialistic society that we live in." She
    said it offers kids a way to "just be themselves."
    Some parents look to Kinderland to reinforce their own ideologies. "They
    understand, I think, that their kids are really the targets of a tremendous
    amount of pressure to just define yourself by what you buy or what you wear
    or how you look," said Shechter.
    At Kinderland, the emphasis is not on a camper's appearance, but rather on
    the ideas that campers have and their potential to change the world.
    According to Shechter, a lot of parents, even parents who are "not
    particularly left-wing," are by the appalled the ideas promoted by modern
    television, advertising and Hollywood.
    She said Kinderland reinforces the values of its founders by "integrating
    ideas with ordinary camp activities." Every summer camp session at
    Kinderland offers fun, sun, and and the development of a social conscience.
       Social themes and youth activism
    Each season, camp activities are built around specific social themes.
    A few summers ago, the dominant camp theme was "youth activism." Campers
    learned about civil rights issues of the 1960s and the violence that
    accompanied that era.
    Even team names and bunk beds were part of this thematic approach. While
    one camper slept in the "Harriet Tubman" bunk, others played on teams named
    for various civil rights organizations - including the The Young Lords, a
    Latin-American revolutionary group, and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating
    Committee, a 1960s civil rights group later accused of communist infiltration.
    "Youth activism is not something that happened in the 1960s and then
    stopped," Shechter said. "We try to pull out of them or ask them to
    describe some of the ways that they themselves are activists and then we
    also connect that to past activism."
    On the topic of child labor, for instance, Shechter said campers might talk
    about all the ways that they as children can make a difference. "We talked
    about boycotting certain products," she said, including Nike, Disney and
    the Gap.
    Through typical camp activities such as the Kinderland carnival, children
    might visit a booth where they can knock down cans and dump a bucket of
    water on a counselor. "The theme of that booth might be ^A'knock out child
    labor'. It isn't very deep, but it's just a little reminder that you can
    have fun and do good at the same time," said Shechter.
    Allowing the campers to identify with activist organizations teaches an
    important lesson, Shechter said. The children " learn about people who are
    not in any particular danger themselves, but go out on a limb on behalf of
    people who are in danger or are oppressed."
    As part of its instruction on "alliances," the camp has tackled homosexual
    advocacy -gay-straight alliances in particular. "We talked about how
    straight people will make alliances with groups that support gay rights and
    are not homophobic. Because, basically, when you support the rights of
    everyone ... you're supporting your own rights as well."
    Campers also heard from a family involved in PFLAG - Parents and Friends of
    Lesbians and Gays. The family "talked to the kids about what are some of
    the issues around being a family that has a gay child...All of a sudden
    they're just aware that it's a bigger world and that all they've found is
    Kinderland does have some homosexual counselors, Shechter said.
    The camp also promotes feminist issues as part of its regular
    program. While campers may learn that "abortion is about a woman's right
    to choose," Shechter said that's "really best left to the parents and
    children to talk about. I mean we're 99 percent summer camp," she added.
    More recent camp themes include globalization and the World Trade Organization.
    "All of those issues about world trade and child labor are much more
    current and pronounced issues in camp [now], whereas maybe 20 years ago we
    were still talking about labor in general. Now, there's much more of a
    sense of urgency about globalization and sweatshops and outsourcing of
    manufacturing and so on and so forth," Shechter said.
    Following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, Camp Kinderland expects this
    year's summer camp to address civil liberties and how it feels to have a
    dissenting (anti-war) voice in the face of strong public opinion.
    Shechter said one topic of discussion may be, "If you want to go against
    the tide, how does that feel?"
    Camp enrollment totals about 175 and scholarships are available through the
    camp. Tuition, for those who can afford it, runs about $2,500 for a
    four-week session, while seven weeks costs about $4,000.
    Allegiance to the camp is strong. Shechter said campers return year after
    year, many of them following in the footsteps of their parents and their
    Kinderland dismissed suggestions that the camp brainwashes kids, by
    encouraging them to understand and advocate the liberal social agenda. "I
    never feel that," she said. "I think that kids learn how to speak their
    minds at Camp Kinderland," she added.

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