Americans have been sending their kids to summer camp since the 1880s, providing a (mostly) palatable mix of fun and learning — and giving tapped-out parents a much-needed break. So perhaps it isn't surprising that a Tampa Tea Party group has latched onto this storied U.S. tradition to teach kids about history, economics, and... the evils of socialism and paper currency? Here, a brief guide to America's new Tea Party summer camp:
What is the Tea Party summer camp?
Tampa Liberty School is a weeklong day camp for kids ages 8 to 12. It's run by the Tampa 912 Project, a Tea Party–affiliated group aligned with Glenn Beck's 9/12 Project. The camp itself is organized by conservative writer Jeff Lukens, and will "impart the principles of liberty as discovered and implemented by the founders of our country." According to the St. Petersburg Times, those principles include "I believe in God," and "I work hard for what I have and I will share it with who I want to. Government cannot force me to be charitable."
Why a summer camp?
Today's public schools are too politically correct, says Lukens, and kids need to learn the truth in their extra-curricular activities. Lukens was inspired by a similar camp in Kentucky, and vacation bible schools. But though Liberty School is being held in a Christian school, it isn't all about faith. "We want to introduce a younger generation to economics and history, but in a fun way," says Tampa 912 Project chairwoman Karen Jaroch.
What other principles will Liberty School impart?
"Timeless and incorruptible" ones, gleaned from the organizers' understanding of the Constitution and other writings of the founding fathers. And how will these lessons be taught? Here are some examples:
The gold standard is superior: The camp will have a store where kids can buy things using hard, wrapped candies (representing gold), or a paper currency that will lose its purchasing power throughout the week. "Some of the kids will fall for it," Lukens says. "Others kids will wise up." Max Read at Gawker finds "the idea of a My First Federal Reserve setting monetary policy... rather endearing." But Salon's Alex Pareene is confused: "What will children buy at the 'store' if they already have candy?"
"America is good": The kids will start by sitting quietly in a bare room (Europe), then progress through an obstacle course to a festive party room (the New World), where red, white, and blue confetti will be thrown about. Then the kids will have to clean up the confetti, to teach them that freedom requires work and responsibility. Maybe, says Gawker's Read, but I bet the smart ones "use their hard, wrapped candies to pay other kids to clean up the confetti."
Socialism is bad: The campers will blow bubbles from a communal tub of soapy water, then use squirt guns to shoot other kids' bubbles, tallying the number they pop. Next, they will switch to individual bubble containers, popping their own bubbles, to learn "that you can do a lot more with individual freedom," says Lukens. Huh? says Kirsten Boyd Johnson at Wonkette. Everyone knows "popping other kids' bubbles is way more fun than popping your own."
Will parents really send their kids here?
Well, it's a great bargain, at only $15 total for five 3-hour days. Earlier this week, eight of the 40 available slots had already been filled. If the camp is a hit, its organizers want to offer more sessions, either over the summer or during the school year, possibly even in public schools during Constitution Week. "We plan on coming back and coming back and coming back," chants Lukens.
What are the chances the camp will produce young Tea Partiers?
Well, the campers will turn out to be either "insufferable, proselytizing Ayn Rand adolescents" or "black-clad teen-age loners who love Death Metal and hate their parents," says Heather (Digby) Parton at Hullaballoo. Either way, am I the only one who sees "the irony of indoctrination into individualism?"