Summer Camps – an ally of a consumerist society


Another academic year has come to a close, here in India. All schools are off for the next 2 months.

This is the time when flyers, billboards, e-mails, radio advertisements, banners, and other modes of advertisement that seem to be eluding me at the moment, streak our city with promises of ‘fun, exciting, educational, creative, life-changing’ summer camps!  Schools, malls, libraries, even large-ish apartment complexes are hosting them. A google search for summer camps 2013, Bangalore, throws up 798,000 results!

Parents are frantic to find the perfect summer camp for their child. Bombarded from every side they wonder if their child will be ‘missing out’ on something stimulating – essential even, if they don’t enroll. Many of these camps are inviting children as young as 3 years!

Most of these summer camps, which are increasingly calling themselves, summer carnivals, are a mish-mash of activities. They are usually a month long and children spend 2 to 3 hours a day being directed through activities ranging from robotics to yoga, to eco-awareness. The camps often promise to build the leader / scientist / artist / socially aware individual of tomorrow, in a fun way.

Summer camps often sell themselves as an anti-thesis to the traditional school system that prevails, BUT, also promise to enhance skills that children can use in this very same school system! They are, in my humble opinion, an extension of the prevailing traditional school system – the one that is failing our children and thereby, us – as a society.

More importantly though, I feel they are symptomatic of an increasingly consumerist society – a society that is failing our children.

Let’s look at some of the implications of a ‘summer camp’.

  • children need to be kept busy by adults
  • children need to be entertained to be happy
  • children learn only in structured, labelled, adult directed situations
  • learning needs to be sugar coated for children to happily accept it
  • the activities offered by a summer camp cannot be a part of the regular school curriculum

I’m sure there are more implications which I have not thought of as yet.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m sure, most people who conduct these summer camps are genuinely interested in children and enjoy sharing their knowledge and craft. This is not a rant against the individual who is conducting a summer camp. It is however, a rant about the fact that each year a circus born out of a consumer driven society, failed school system and a myopic view of what children really need, is played out. Each year we lap it up, putting ever increasing amounts of time and not to mention,  money into it.

If an elementary aged child is interested in learning more about something, by all means, join a workshop. But let’s strip away the sugar-coated entertainment, mish-mash value of these summer camps.

At the end of the day, let’s give our children more credit.

I wonder what ‘Dandelion Wine’, the wonderful book by Ray Bradbury would look like had he grown up in todays world.

Do children belong in summer camps during their summer break, is the question that not many are asking, but should.