---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 20 Mar 2002 22:39:04 -0800
From: radtimes <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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
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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