What Happened to Summer Camp?


So this morning I started to wonder what happened to camp. It seems to me that summer camps in general have just disappeared. For a moment I considered the theory that maybe the ghost who live in the abandoned cabin did really take all the campers away and now there are none left, but for some reason I was not 100% convinced that theory would hold up.

Now let me be clear, when I say camp I mean real camp. The kind of summer camp where you sing cult-like chants that were written before the invention of a dictionary and where clothes end up getting burnt to ashes (ask me about that later). The kind of summer camp where you made crafts that only your grandma could appreciate and where you would inexplicably find yourself in the water rather than in the canoe you were supposed to be in. What I do not mean is math camp or science camp where kids sit in a classroom doing the same exact things that they would be doing during the school year, but because it’s “summer camp” they eat their lunch on the playground instead of in a cafeteria.

I can say this is true because I still get mail from summer camps who still don’t know that I am an adult, admittedly an adult that still enjoys eating Fruit Loops every once in a while. All of the mail I get for summer camps are academic camps, which to me is a way to trick kids into going to school over the summer.

Now I have a few theories on why summer camps have disappeared, none of which are factually sound but indulge me anyways:

First off there’s the theory that kids are just more advanced nowadays and they are capable to skip straight to the soul sucking part of education without having to “waste” the first few years of their lives learning how to play. Now this may seem true to all the grandparents who believe that their three year old was born a genius, but this buzzfeed post seems to prove otherwise.

Secondly, there’s the theory that parents are trying to be protective of their kids. They make sure that their kids never touch anything sharper than a the side of their pencil case or dirtier than the handle of a tennis racket. This also is quite true and also the reason that cups of coffee at McDonalds now have warnings that the contents may be hot. I envision at some point in the near future parents setting locks that prevent their children from going to the backyard the same way parents currently lock their iPads to limit screen time. As a 19 year-old with no kids, I must give my expert opinion that while it may be great to protect your kid from every scratch and inkling of foul language, at some point they will experience these things and will be woefully unprepared. The kids I know who have grown up using knives and playing with fire have a much better understanding of how to stay safe compared to those who encounter them later on and don’t know how to safely handle them.

Lastly, there is the theory that parents feel that they are giving their child a leg up by making them well rounded. But the truth is that we need (and colleges look for) well rounded human beings, not students who are semi-versed in every subject. We need kids who are willing to design and build things by themselves, not follow directions that tell you how the pieces fit together. We need kids who will ask questions themselves, not just answer multiple choice questions. We need kids who will read stuff that they find interesting, not just books that they were assigned by someone else.

Now this next bit that is going to make me sound like an old fart. We NEED camps, because without them we end up living in a bubble of a society. I’ve grown up knowing my fair share of brilliant kids who are socially inept and I fear living in a future where everyone is like this.

So here are my thoughts, the thoughts of an 19 year old individual with no knowledge about parenting or child development, let’s bring back real summer camps and thank you to the adults who helped make going to summer camp possible.