The New York Times Styles Section (May 26, 2019) featured this lead article entitled Starting Them Young with Capitalism. It reported that parents are sending their children to summer camps that are specifically designed to stimulate their entrepreneurial mindset. Kids as young as 8, are taught howto monetize their hobbies, create a personal brand, and write a business plan.
Tell me I’m not the only one who thinks there’s something wrong with this picture? Summer camps used to be about getting away from doing what you ordinarily do and get exposed to something you haven’t done or even imagined before.
I went to Scout Camp for the first time when I was 11, it was a life changing experience. I learned how to escape from an overturned canoe and felt like a hero when I’d accomplished it; and how to find my way out of the deep woods at night using only a compass; how to listen to stories sitting around the campfire. hypnotized by the flickering flames, listening to the wood crackle and watching the sparks exploding into the night sky… I was a NYC boy, raised in a tenement and had never seen the sky so brilliantly illuminated before.
My troop leader was a WW II tank commander and when he told campfire stories, they were replete with sounds, gestures and actions that could make me tremble. It is where I first learned about the power of story, rituals and ceremonies in launching the imagination…of course it was long before the IPhone, Internet, even TV were invented.
I may be an old hippie romantic, but I think instead of sending kids to camp and teaching them how to better use technology to acquire wealth, we send them to camps that teach them how to live happier and healthier lives. A life more in balance, where the heart and spirit are opened to exploring the depth of one’s humanity. The pursuit of capital gains as life’s purpose, breeds a culture that makes greed and corruption tolerated, even socially acceptable.
Our children are exposed to it every day; send your kids instead to a camp that will expand their repertoire of what else their purpose and passion might be. There are lots of camps that still do this and do it well; camps where kids leave their computers and internet connections behind and discover new ways of experiencing joy. Among these are places like Camp Winnarainbow founded by another old hippie, it teaches kids circus and theatrical acts, songwriting, poetry, ecology, crafts, and taking new risks in an atmosphere of mutual encouragement and respect.
Before we make our kids titans of industry, let’s teach them that there is more to life than monetizing it. If we can teach them loving kindness, we can change the course of history.