you’re wondering how far our fears of Â accidents, predators and insurance claims can take us from sane to nutty, read on:
Â .Dear Free-Range Kids: Since all three kids are now back from the various camps they’ve attended this summer, I’ve been doing some reflection.Â I don’t recall summer camps being nearly as overprotective when I was a kid.Â We could do things like go to the bathroom on our own, at least.Â But in the scout camp that my younger girls attended, all activities were done with a group and kids were never to be out of sight of their counselor.Â The one exception is if you wake up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, you “only” have to wake up a “buddy” to go with you (and this included the camps where they slept in a cabin/lodge that had a bathroom right in it)..Then I discovered it got worse.Â At the Y camp they attended later in the summer, you had to wake up the counselor and *two* other people to use the bathroom at night.Â I tell you, if I were a counselor, the first time someone woke me up to use the bathroom, they would *all* be getting up and using the bathroom.Â It’s crazy that someone who gets paid $35/day to work basically 24/7 can’t even get through a night without being woken up multiple times just because someone has to go.Â .In fact, this traveling in groups of threes (called “treadies”) applied to all situations (because, I’m told, if one person gets hurt Â — which happens frequently on 50 foot trips to the bathroom, I suppose — then one person can stay with that person while the other person goes to get help)..I suppose I should be thankful that at least during the day a counselor didn’t always have to be part of this “tready,” but it applied anywhere the kids went, including from the pool to the lockerroom.Â My daughter complained that she nearly had to pee in the pool because she couldn’t find two other girls to go to the locker room with her.Â I’m thinking forcing kids to pee in the pool poses its own safety issues, no?Â Anyway, the locker room is roughly 20 feet away – and clearly visible from – the pool.Â .And then my fifteen year old went to science camp at the University of Illinois where it was stated upfront that never would the girls (it was an all girls camp) be allowed out of the dorms without counselor supervision.Â The whole program had to troop everywhere together – to classes, out for evening entertainment, you name it..When I was twelve through fourteen I attended a music camp at U of I and we *had* to be on our own.Â We didn’t even have counselors, just RAs like the university students have in the dorms.Â There were about 50 kids per RA and we all had different classes at different times in different buildings.Â And in the evenings and weekends we had complete freedom to walk the campus, go to local restaurants and entertainment spots, etc.Â I even had an older friend who lived in Champaign who picked me up for a day each time (and his name certainly wasn’t on any “approved pick up” list, because there was no such list)..And speaking of pick up, I had to present my ID to pick up my fifteen year old from this camp, I guess because at the tender age of 15, she’s not able to recognize her own parents.Â .
The mom goes on to say that there should be some Free-Range camps (and, for that matter, Free-Range schools and after-school programs) where parents sign waivers saying, “I allow you to give my child some age-appropriate freedom and if something goes wrong I won’t sue.”
The big question is how to get there?
The first step is trying to dial back the idea that kids are in constant danger so they need constant supervision. Then it’s insisting that the insurance companies accept the idea that not all accidents can be prevented. I don’t know how to do that, but that’s an issue.Â And so is the perception that insurance and/or laws DO forbid unsupervised time, even for kids who are 15. Some freedoms are yanked for no reason other than, “It’s probably not allowed.”
So our work is across the board: Reminding society that kids until now have always had some unsupervised time, that this doesn’t make them outrageously unsafe, and that stunting them is costly psychologically and even monetarily (extra layers, extra lawyers).
Please let us know what new security precautions your kids had at camp, and if you have come up with a way to fight back the ones that don’t make sense. – L.
Unless you’re dealing with disabled kids I think the kids can manage to hopefully not be stupid and get in big trouble. For those disabled kids can do the same stuff,yes but sometimes disabled folks need more help because they don’t think the same way as someone who isn’t disabled.
I think this rule of requiring campers to take two buddies and a counsellor (or even ONE buddy) in order to go to the bathroom at night, is actually dangerous in itself, because sleep deprivation can compromise safety. Think about it–camp is full of somewhat risky activities–swimming, boating, maybe horseback riding or mountain biking, climbing a rock wall or high ropes course, maybe ziplining, and of course, the ever-popular campfire. Suppose you asked a parent, out of context, “would you want your child to have a good night’s sleep before engaging in these activities?”; or “would you want your child’s counsellors to have a good night’s sleep before supervising your child doing these activities?”; the answer would probably be “yes.” But, a camper who’s feeling sleepy from having been woken up multiple times in the night to act as a “bathroom buddy” might miss an obstacle while mountain biking, and fall, or feel lethargic while swimming, and miss the wave that’s coming and swallow enough water to have a problem. Meanwhile, a sleep-deprived counsellor might miss a drowning child while lifeguarding, or accidentally attach someone’s zip-lining harness too loosely, or not see where they’re going during a campfire, and accidentally knock over a can of kerosene, thereby causing the fire to spread.
Even if that doesn’t happen, inadequate sleep makes people feel irritable, which leads to short tempers, arguing, and bullying, and all of these things make it a lot harder to have fun at camp. Also, I used to get sick at camp (with colds sore throats, et cetera) quite often when I was growing up, just from living in close quarters. This was from 1994-2000, so we were allowed to go to the bathroom alone back then, even at night, but throwing sleep deprivation into the mix would have probably REALLY tipped the odds in favour of more people getting sick, and staying sick, because sleep helps the immune system. Now, I’m not trying to encourage “worst-first” thinking in the other direction, but so often, when the powers-that-be come up with a new safety precaution that’s supposed to prevent things from happening that aren’t very likely, it causes a lot of problems that are a lot more likely–and that’s not even touching the age-old argument that summer camp is supposed to promote independence, but overzealous safety rules undermine that.
Here is the list of rules for a rather prestigious summer music camp I attended last year. Enjoy!
Examples of additional rules: No cursing in front of under 18 students, no rides from faculty, no movies above G, even in your room, seperate bathrooms for teachers and students, no students and faculty eating together in the dining hall, and the list goes on. A person I know who went to drug rehab said that his program wasn’t even that strict.
By the way, two years ago, I attended a two week program as an exchange student with the European Union Youth Orchestra, and the students, ages approximately 15-25 were allowed to drink, smoke ( all on the premises too!), and go wherever they pleased without informing anyone during down time. Many students hung out with the teachers at various local bars until 2:00am every night. I hope the U.S. can accomplish ( or get back to this ) someday in my lifetime.
“I donâ€™t recall summer camps being nearly as overprotective when I was a kid. We could do things like go to the bathroom on our own, at least. ”
When I was in camp in the mid-70’s, trips to the bathroom after lights-out weren’t made alone. This was partly to ensure that kids weren’t running around the camp in the dark, and partly because it WAS dark… Some nights there was enough moonlight to find the path from the cabins to the plumbing, and sometimes there wasn’t. Then again, this particular camp had a rifle range then, and I doubt it still does.
When I was in AF tech school in the mid 80’s, the high altitude caused some people to get recurrent nosebleeds. When that happened, the person with the bleeding facial apparatus had to walk across the base from the training facilities to the base medical clinic Airmen trainees were not permitted to walk across base by themselves in this circumstance… someone else had to leave class, walk across the base with the bleeder, wait at the clinic while the cotton padding stuffed up the nose to stop the bleeding, and then walk back. I know this because the person who gets to go along is the person who can best make up missing class, and in my trainee class, that was me. But if adults (adults who were being trained to handle high explosives, I might add) can’t be trusted to walk across a secured government facility in the daylight in suburban Denver…
And I forgot to add that the second camp took place in Austria.
I see a flaw in the treadie rule. One kid stays with the injured kid while the third kid goes for help. What if (s)he gets injured? We need at least four. But wait, what if the fourth gets injured, better make it five. But wait what if…
If Jason and Freddy are hiding in the woods, they’re going to slaughter all four of you, anyway. And four people is not enough to wrestle down a nocturnal grizzly with a case of the midnight munchies.
If not even one adult can handle this simple task, what good is two other people? By the time your fears are of this magnitude, it’s probably best not to attend, work at, or even run a summer camp.
If I were that unlucky kid, I think I’d just sneak out of the cabin and pee behind a tree.
I meant to say: What good ARE two other people?
(And this daughter of a high school English teacher will now crawl under a rock . . . )
As someone who works in the camp industry, the “rule of threes” is not just in case of injury or to protect the kids’ safety. It is also to protect staff members. We advise our staff never to put themselves in a situation where they are one-on-one with a camper, out of sight of others. So a counselor can have a one-on-one conversation with a camper at a picnic table, provided that they are in sight of other people. But they shouldn’t be alone in the cabin or alone in the bathroom, one-on-one with a camper. We don’t want to put a staff member in a situation where a camper says they did something inappropriate, and not have anyone else who witnessed the situation.
@Lightbright: And have to register as a sex offender for the rest of your life??
That is a whole other issue. Why should we be so darn fixated on the off chance that counselors are going to be falsely accused of sexual harassment, or abuse? How often do these false accusations happen?
And when they do happen, why do we react purely emotionally, and treat the accused as guilty until proven innocent, especially in the case of potential sexual abuse? And why does the false-accuser usually get away with it?
And let’s just say that there manages to be one twiseted counselor in the bunch. Does this event happen often enough to justify so many restrictions on all of the decent counselors and campers?
You seem to be getting at another set of deep-rooted cultural issues of ours that also need addressing.
Yeah, one of my kids’ overnight camps this year said the kids were not allowed to go to the toilet without an adult. That seems just wrong to me!
But if we complain too much, they’ll probably just stop doing overnight camps all together. Because you can’t please everyone, and nobody wants to get sued. :/
I’m a cub leader (ages 8-10.5) in the UK and my rules for going to the toilet in the middle of the night are as follows.
You need somthing on your feet. (after kids have stepped on nails, sharp stones etc in bare feet)
You should take your torch (flashlight) with you
If you don’t feel comfortable going alone then wake up a freind from your tent (we only insist on this when the toilet block is a significant trek away)
Shut the tent door behind you so your tent mates don’t freeze.
That’s pretty much it.
If we are out somwhere in public (say at a local zoo) then they will go around in groups of 4 but on the camp site itself no such rules apply (as long as they stay within the boundaries we set which are essentially the distance I can expect them to hear the recall airhorn easily)
“When I was in camp in the mid-70â€™s, trips to the bathroom after lights-out werenâ€™t made alone. ”
When I was having multi-day school trips in the ’80s in Europe we were told to pack a flashlight in case we had to go out in the dark…
Guess what, nobody got hurt.
Not only is sleep deprivation a consideration. Many kids will just wait (or try to wait) until morning, rather than wake the whole cabin up to use the toilet. Even assuming no accidents, it isn’t healthy to lie there holding it when you need to go. And some of the kids will decide never to camp overnight again, because that rule is just not natural.
I should have mentioned above the the overnight camp my kid went to (where an adult was required to accompany you on every trip to the bathroom) was in a cabin, with modern indoor plumbing. No feeling around in the dark woods trying to find the outhouse.
If this is the direction camps are going in, I’d much prefer the “buddy” rule, where you could at least ask your sister or best friend and not have to involve a strange adult in your personal business.
@Amber — That, in and of itself, is a problem too. Choices are now made based on fear of what MIGHT happen. It’s ridiculous that we actually need to worry about being accused of inappropriate acts.
Years ago, one of my first criminology classes had a professor who had pretty much done it all. On the first day of class, he told a story about when he was first in the industry, working as a guard at the local jail. The rule was that you were never alone with a prisoner. One day, one of the prisoners who was flying high and had just been brought in had to be moved from one cell to another that was segregated from the rest of the population, other guards were busy, the prisoner was handcuffed, and he would only be alone with the guy for a few moments at most, so he figured why not? He took the guy to the other cell, got him in, and then that was when the guy stuck his fingers in his eyes and started screaming bloody murder. My professor said he just stared at the guy thinking “what the f*ck” and how was he going to explain this? He said that as his very short career flashed before his eyes a voice behind him said: “If I hadn’t seen that for myself, I never would have believed it”.
My point being, these are kids & young adults. Not wasted criminals who will do whatever they can (even maiming themselves, apparently) to get one over on someone. There is a distinct difference between the two, yet we’ve reached a point where we make decisions regarding our kids the same as we would regarding drug addicted prisoners.
When I went to Cub Scout Camp with my dad back in 1965, it was an all-boys camp. Of course, the Brownies (girl equivalent to Cub Scouts) had their own camp which was an all-girls camp. So here us young boys were with our dads in the forest and not a female around. So because of that, we could basically dress and undress outside our tents and it was perfectly acceptable. I remember seeing my dad, and other dads, butt naked outside as they were changing their clothes! Same with us kids. Now I haven’t been to any Cub Scout Camps since but my guess is that nudity outside your personal tent would be unthinkable nowadays and would result in arrest and conviction if it did occur despite of no females being present. I mean, heaven forbid that a little boy sees a grown man naked. He might get scarred for life! And heaven forbid that a grown man sees a little boy naked. It would definitely compromise the boy’s dignity (as the “experts” would say) and the man just might be tempted and then pose a danger to the young boy (as all men do…..sigh). Back in 1965 however, NONE of this nonsense was an issue. We have gotten so prudish and paranoid nowadays when it comes to kids!
I also remember exploring the woods with the other kids and without a dad or counselor present. The 60s was a fun time to be a kid!
Our 7 year old attended a Girl Scout day camp. She missed out on an activity because a girl in her unit needed to go to the infirmary and TWO girls had to go with her – the rationale being that if they kept the sick girl at the infirmary, then the other two made a pair of “buddies” and could return together to the unit. Unfortunately the girl kept waffling on going home or not, and SHE needed a buddy if she decided to go back to the unit, and a staff member didn’t count as a buddy – so my daughter and the other girl had to sit there for 2 hours, missing activities for the rest of the day (by the time the sick girl decided she felt better, it was 10 minutes until the buses left).
Now, given that these were 6 and 7 year olds in the woods on a large piece of property, I think it’s sensible for them to have buddies to travel away from the unit without counselors. What we thought was absurd was the fact that they made our kid and the other girl wait around for TWO HOURS for the sick girl to make up her mind on what she wanted to do, wasting 1/3 of a day at camp sitting around the infirmary. Staff should have made that decision immediately rather than leaving it up to the little princess.
IANAL, but I doubt the ‘not sue’ part of the waiver would not be enforceable. I’m reasonably sure a lawyer could get around it. I’m pretty sure that’s why it never seems to happen.
How do you even enforce the bathroom rule? My own personal experience is that I don’t wake up fully when I get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, I’m still half-asleep and almost sleepwalking. If I were at that camp, even if I had the best of intentions of following the rule, I wouldn’t wake up enough to remember it and would just use the bathroom by myself and then return to bed.
I set up mini camp experiences for my kids and kids we know bc of junk like this and it’s pretty free range. I hire a fun instructor and have the parents sign a liability waver and that’s about it. Had a mom one time for an overnight camp ask for the rule of three to be imposed and I said politely but very matter of fact, No. If that’s the rule for your kid, fine, tell him (he’s 13/14) but the rest of the kids needn’t follow it. If you have the time I highly suggest this method. I’m not giving money to dumb camps, my kids get a really cool experience and it’s cheaper. I also get to set the dates, times and locations. Woot woot!
“Be the change you want to see in the world”
Free range parents please find this book and read it – you’ll LOVE it!! I’m not the author or publisher or anything, just a fan.
It’s called Hey Mom, Can I Ride My Bike Across America.
It’s probably not in any library (too dangerous an idea, I suspect) but look on abebooks.com, thriftbooks.com or amazon or Barnes and noble. So worth the search!
In today’s world the author of the book (a male teacher – eek) would be in jail. Back then he was a friend, role model and amazing person.
*****Shout out to Lenore, he’s still around and teaching. Please get in touch with him and chat. His wife (also a teacher) is equally awesome. It’s a good reason to trek to SoCal… ;)******
If three kids have to go everywhere together in case someone gets hurt, what happens if the third person (the one who’s supposed to go and get help) is hurt while going for help? Who will help her?
What if she’s attacked by bears, or zombies, or chupacabras? One child alone can’t fight them off. Two might, especially if they’re armed with a high-powered rifle and a pitchfork, but one kid alone would be toast.
Our rules were a few feet away from the cabin/tent, aim away from walking areas, and go for distance.
I love my external plumbing.
>>Our rules were a few feet away from the cabin/tent, aim away from walking areas, and go for distance.
I love my external plumbing.<<
Yeah…….that was why the boys' section at my childhood summer camp constantly reeked of urine. There were no rules against going to the bathroom alone; the boys were just lazy, and the male counsellors looked the other way. It really took away from otherwise fun events like Carnival Night (camp tradition where the boys put on a carnival for the girls). I think this falls into the category of "just because you can, doesn't mean you should."
The only organized camp we did this summer was for our 14 year-old daughter who begged us to go to teen camp. They went on bus trips daily to either beaches, parks, water parks, and adventure/ziplining -type places. I know I signed waivers, but the whole premise of the camp is to give the kids some freedom but with clear expectations.
I have no idea who the chaperones were as they didn’t spend time with the kids unless needed. The teens bought food there (or brown bagged) and toileting was never discussed. Because they are old enough to figure it out. These overcomplicated rules baffle me. My kids would be mortified to wake a counselor up to go to the bathroom- sounds more like jail!
“I had to present my ID to pick up my fifteen year old from this camp, I guess because at the tender age of 15, sheâ€™s not able to recognize her own parents.”
This always irks me. My kids could recognize me from a perfect stranger, and could verbalize that, at about 2. Having to show ID to pick up your 8 year old is outrageous. 15 is unbelievably outrageous.
My story from last year was already discussed, but this post reminds me of how the cabin mom called me to tell me to come get my kid (i.e. kicking my kid out of camp) because she kept wanting to cover up with her sleeping bag. In Cabin Mom’s opinion it was too hot to cover with a sleeping bag. My kid was 9yo and more than capable of pushing off the sleeping bag if she felt hot. (PS I refused to come pick her up for that reason, but they managed to send her home the next morning for similar stupidity.)
>>I see a flaw in the treadie rule. One kid stays with the injured kid while the third kid goes for help. What if (s)he gets injured? We need at least four. But wait, what if the fourth gets injured, better make it five. But wait what ifâ€¦<<
I see another flaw in the treadie rule (besides the fact that "treadie" isn't even a word). This is particularly a problem with girls, but I suppose boys experience it too. Anyway, three is an awkward number with any age group, but especially with kids. If you need at least three people to go ANYWHERE, and, say, Sarah and Susie are best friends, then anyone who gets assigned as a "third" with them, is going to wind up as a third wheel. Now, if a child reports being third-wheeled at day camp, or school, or whatever, most adults would tell that child to distance him-or-herself from the BFF's, and either make a new friend, or play alone. But, wait!!! That's against the rules of the YMCA camp in this story, so Third-Wheel Sally has to choose between responding to social cues and possibly having a decent time at camp, but breaking the "treadie" rule, or feeling like an unwanted intruder for the sake of following said rule. Summer camp is supposed to foster self-confidence and improve social skills, but this dynamic doesn't promote either one of those things.
Now, it's possible to tell the kids to mix it up, and not just hang out with their BFF's all the time, but there are going to be times where that falls by the wayside–when the adults need to get everyone organized quickly, on "pick your battles" days when people are feeling grumpy and sniping at each other (possibly from sleep deprivation), and so on and so forth…..so, kids are going to naturally gravitate to their BFF's, and someone's going to get hurt, and then in swoops a well-meaning adult starting a "sharing circle" or what have you to address the problem…..that they themselves (indirectly, unintentionally) created with the "treadie" rule. Then you have kids doubting their ability to function in social situations, when they had it right the first time–if you're feeling excluded, go elsewhere. That's not to say there's anything wrong with having a BFF and wanting to spend time with that person. I was in that situation on a band trip my last year of high school, to New Orleans, where we had to roam in groups of FIVE……all week. I think it might have been cut down to "just" three the day we went to the Audobon Zoo. Anyway, I'd been on the receiving end of some exclusionary behaviour from some old friends of mine, and I'd had enough, so I pretty much just hung out with my then-best friend Leah all week–not excluding anyone who wanted to be with us, and we of course always made it back to the group/to the next checkpoint on time, but we mostly preferred to hang out amongst ourselves, because we were both kind of introverts. The chaperones didn't like this. Eventually, I told them, basically, "I'm eighteen years old, and therefore an adult. Leah and I have proven we're responsible by being where we're supposed to be, every time. It's my last year at this school, and my last band trip, and I'd like to enjoy it." They backed off, and realized that the "problem" of two girls hanging out together, while otherwise behaving responsibly, wasn't really a problem. But, a child attending summer camp under the "treadie" rule might not have the ability to stand up for him-or-herself like I did.
My eyes hurt from rolling them so hard.
Like someone pointed out, if one kid walks on a landmine on the 10 meter trip to the bathroom down the hall, the second kid stays with the fallen hero and the third goes on a trek to get the medic with some bandaids, then surely this third kid could easily fall prey to the snipers, now that she’s alone?
Also Lenore, four times the same picture seems like overkill to me 🙂
>>My eyes hurt from rolling them so hard.
Like someone pointed out, if one kid walks on a landmine on the 10 meter trip to the bathroom down the hall, the second kid stays with the fallen hero and the third goes on a trek to get the medic with some bandaids, then surely this third kid could easily fall prey to the snipers, now that sheâ€™s alone?
Also Lenore, four times the same picture seems like overkill to me <<
That's another really good point. If the camp is so dangerous that everyone has to go everywhere in threes, even to the bathroom, then I think I'd be looking for a safer camp, where there's no need for any such rule.
I don’t want to give away the wonderfulness that is this camp. But you want free range: Camp Onas in Pennsylvania. I went there as a kid and my kids now go there every summer. It is EXACTLY the same then as it is now. Freedom!!
“Also Lenore, four times the same picture seems like overkill to me ”
Lenore anticipated you, this way no picture of a girl will be alone out in the woods 🙂
>>â€œAlso Lenore, four times the same picture seems like overkill to me â€
Lenore anticipated you, this way no picture of a girl will be alone out in the woods <<
That's the whole point–because needing to go to the bathroom at night in teams of four, is also overkill.
The YMCA is infamous for these kinds of policies (although I have seen the “rule of three” relaxed for nighttime bathroom outings). Smaller camps tend to be much more flexible that ones run by giant organizations. But, unfortunately, they don’t have the same access to financial aid, and can’t accommodate as many children.
“then one person can stay with that person while the other person goes to get help”
Why do the three children need a counselor to help them do this? I could understand this if they were toddlers which at a summer camp they would probably not be, but older kids out to be able to take care of themselves by traveling in twos or threes without a counselor.
Also, much of this identification stuff during pick up time has to do with the divorce rate. The camps have to make sure the noncustodial parent who is not supposed to pick up the kid, doesn’t pick them up. Noncustodial parents have picked up kids when they are not supposed to and then sometimes even absconded with them.
These camps sound as if the children have even less freedom/responsibllity than kids who stay at home. What a shame. In the ’50’s, for Girl Scout and YWCA camp, we slept in tents, used an outhouse (with a flashlight, of course), and had the run of the camp as long as we told the counselor where we were going.
And, of course, way to make friends: ask someone who just fell asleep to get up and accompany you to the bathroom!
To all humans on this site: Please do not respond in any way to James Pollock. His inanity / useless words MUST BE STOPPED. He must be shunned, ostracized, outlawed for his terrible words and comments. All good people must recognize our need to stop him from commenting.
I wonder if James Pollock really is Warren.
My comments on James are generating comments. Please continue to reproach him, condemn him, ostracize him, avoid him, blackball him, shun him, boycott his views, excommunicate him, reject him, oust him, expel him.
I am opposed to all his statements as they pollute the internet and mankind.
HE MUST BE STOPPED. STOP POSTING. GO BACK TO YOUR DEEP DARK HOLE.
That’s so you can have a group grope in the bathroom, right?
@Trollbuster: Are you kidding me? IMHO Warren was way less annoying than James Pillock – at least with Warren I felt he actually stood for something, meant what he said, instead of James’s endlessly dragging on a discussion and disagreeing for the sake of disagreeing, even when his arguments make no sense at all anymore.
This isn’t only ridiculous. It’s harmful. This is training that is detrimental. This buddy system is way over the top. This is teaching people that they’re helpless without others.
Arguing for the sake of argument
People who do this will often address minor, irrelevant aspects of the argument. Their intention is clearly to annoy you.Â
Talking too much and reacting emotionally is perceived as arguing for the sake of arguingÂ
Here’s a list to simplify things
1. Listen to the other’s argument
2. Ask questions politely, identify the central elements of their argument
3. Respectfully offer objections
4. Let the other person respond
5. Either you offer more objections or you respond to other’s questions
Oh lord. I went to music camp when I was in high school (at the University of Wisconsin in Madison)….we were expected to walk all over the university campus like we had a damn clue where we were going (most of us did after a day and those of us that had been coming multiple years would help those that were otherwise lost), get ourselves to classes, and you know, ACT LIKE RESPONSIBLE PEOPLE. Now, granted, attendance was taken for every class/event and if someone went missing there were counselors set aside that dealt with it….but it didn’t happen because, you know, WE WERE TREATED LIKE RESPONSIBLE PEOPLE! In fact, we were allowed a couple hours of freedom from maybe 4-7 where we could go anywhere we damn well pleased within walking distance as long as one of our floor counselors knew roughly where we were headed. And this was from roughly 1993-1998 so none of us had cell phones or laptops and email was hardly a thing (in my last two years, it was starting to be more commonplace). I’m wondering what it’s like now…I’m almost scared to find out.
â€œWE WERE TREATED LIKE RESPONSIBLE PEOPLE! â€œ
This is exactly what I’m talking about. People are encouraged to become what they’re treated like.
The converse of this is also true. If you’re treated as if you are a helpless irresponsible person that is too stupid or emotionally frail to do anything on your own, you are encouraged to grow up that way!
I can’t pin all of the blame for this on this over the top buddy system. It’s only a drop in the bucket.
Imagine that a child listens to a mantra 24/7 for 15 years. The mantra is, â€œYou’re too stupid or emotionally frail to do anything on your ownâ€. This buddy system is only one voice in a sea of thousands. This mantra/song is being orchestrated by a team of lawyers. It’s not the lawyer’s fault either. This is because NOBODY IS IN CHARGE!
These events are just unfolding with the flow.
“Also, much of this identification stuff during pick up time has to do with the divorce rate. The camps have to make sure the noncustodial parent who is not supposed to pick up the kid, doesnâ€™t pick them up. Noncustodial parents have picked up kids when they are not supposed to and then sometimes even absconded with them.”
All true, but there’s a very simple way to deal with this. Just ask, “is there anyone who *shouldn’t* be picking up your child?” So then the responsible adults are alerted in those particular cases to keep their eyes out. Also, I think kids, especially high school kids, can be given some credit for knowing who they should or shouldn’t go with. If a kid seems nervous when a particular person shows up, there may be need for further investigation, but as long as the kid’s like, “hi, mom”, I think we can trust her to know who her mom is without needing an ID.
Good gracious, Trollbuster, I really do suggest you write to your elected officials and beg them to repeal the laws that require you to read Mr. Pollock’s postings – what a torture that must be for you!
Oh, wait, you mean there are no such laws? Then you are so obsessed with him because…?
@Donald–To be fair, my childhood summer camp also had the buddy system, BUT it was just for swimming. I don’t think that was over-the-top, but I agree with you that forcing kids to go everywhere at summer camp in twos and threes, is too much. My camp also encouraged kids to find “magic spots” (special places around camp to find solitude) and journal their experiences if they felt like it, and for a few years, the camp even provided journals for kids who didn’t have their own. A 24/7 buddy system (or “tready system”) would preclude any kind of quiet reflection, and that quiet reflection can sometimes lead to real growth–even if you’re just taking some “alone time” to cool off after an argument. An introverted kid (like I was) would completely hate never being allowed to be alone, and I’d even hazard to say that a more extroverted child should LEARN to be alone, so they can entertain themselves at times when their friends or siblings aren’t available to hang out. But, back to the “argument” argument–what happens in that case at a camp that requires the buddy/tready system ALL the time? Are the kids forced to try to come to a resolution on the spot, while everyone’s still angry? Sometimes that just doesn’t work.
I’m criticizing the buddy system as described above. I’m not against all of them. I’m against the legal and safety tsunami that caused the one described above.
Human beings are driven by a force to always improve. It’s in our nature do so. 100 years ago, things were very unsafe. The safety team did a wonderful job. However, 100 years later they don’t say, â€œOur job is now done. Let’s disband.â€ They don’t do that at all. They keep going past the point of ridiculous.
Insurance does the same.
Lawyers do the same.
The casualty in this fiasco is the children.
“This is training that is detrimental. This buddy system is way over the top. This is teaching people that theyâ€™re helpless without others.”
Which is exactly what they’re intending to teach, that you’re a herd animal and you should never do anything without the direct approval and control of some person set to be in authority over you.
“To all humans on this site”
As opposed to…dogs? Cats? Zombies?
>>Iâ€™m criticizing the buddy system as described above. Iâ€™m not against all of them. Iâ€™m against the legal and safety tsunami that caused the one described above.
Human beings are driven by a force to always improve. Itâ€™s in our nature do so. 100 years ago, things were very unsafe. The safety team did a wonderful job. However, 100 years later they donâ€™t say, â€œOur job is now done. Letâ€™s disband.â€ They donâ€™t do that at all. They keep going past the point of ridiculous.
Insurance does the same.
Lawyers do the same.
The casualty in this fiasco is the children.<<
Then here's an idea–don't call yourselves a "safety team" from the beginning–call yourselves a "camp improvement team." That way, once safety has been addressed, you can move on to something else without disbanding the whole team and putting people out of a job. The camp is never going to be perfect, because it's made up of different people, and different issues are going to crop up through the years (such as evolving technology that might need to be restricted at camp, higher rates of childhood obesity, anxiety, and other problems that helicopter-parented children might bring to camp, et cetera). If the team keeps harping on "safety" to the exclusion of all else, then they eventually start grasping at straws, until it's "One kid got mauled by a bear, one time, at summer camp; therefore we need a 24/7 buddy system, NO, a 24/7 TREADY system!!!" Also, I feel like there's less accountability if the team only has one function–if the increased "safety" results in a camp full of anxious kids who are afraid to do anything, then the "safety team" can just turn a blind eye to that, or say that it's not their problem…..even if they created the problem.
@lollipoplover that would be worse than jail. In jail you generally have a toilet right there in the cell and you just get up and go.
You have it right David. For years Major League Baseball had a policy that fans assumed the responsibility for any injury from objects flying off of the field of play. That has changed. I was at a game where a woman was leaning against the backstop netting with her back to the field when she was hit in the head with a foul ball. The home team paid her a settlement.
“For years Major League Baseball had a policy that fans assumed the responsibility for any injury from objects flying off of the field of play.”
They still do. Baseballs leaving the field of play is used to teach law students the nature of “assumption of the risk” in first-year torts class.
If you go to a baseball game, the home team/stadium operator cannot guarantee that no ball will leave the field of play in an unanticipated manner. Since normally the possessor of property is responsible for the safety of people who are invited onto the property, this would give baseball stadium owners two choices: Wrap the entire field in a protective structure, or stop allowing spectators for baseball games. Neither of those two things are agreeable, to either the stadium operator OR the fans who want to watch baseball.
In fact, there are OFTEN times when danger is part of the appeal of doing something… skiing is the other “law school” example. If the owner of the a ski resort makes skiing entirely safe, it’s boring and nobody would want to do it. That’s where “assumption of the risk”, as a legal concept, is born. When assumption of the risk is at work, the people who are doing something dangerous know what the dangers are and have agreed that they want to (do whatever it is they are doing) despite those dangers. You sign your kid up for sports? There’s a form to sign wherein you acknowledge that some participants in sports may be injured. You want to learn how to skydive? There’s a form for you to sign. You want a campsite at Yellowstone? Guess what, there’s a form to sign, telling you that bears are dangerous animals and not cute and fuzzy.
The interesting case involving baseball stadia and flying objects isn’t about an injury caused by a flying baseball. It’s about an injury caused by a flying hot dog.
What’s funny/sad is, statistically, the counselors are the ones you have to worry about in those situations.
I don’t think it matters if it’s called a safety team camp improvement team.
It used to be, “Here’s a problem. Let’s find a solution.” Now it’s, Here’s a solution. Let’s find a problem.” (or make one up)
Okay, Donald, how about just “camp operations team,” then? That way, there’d be no need to seek or invent problems to address solutions, in order to keep everyone employed. There’s a fair bit of work involved in just maintaining the status quo at a summer camp, so the operations team could keep on top of everything from “ZOMG, must protect campers from bears!!!” to just, “Hey, we need more hot dog buns and poster paint; time for a Costco run.”
I am part of running a summer camp. And I also consider how I raise my own children to be relatively free-range. I think free-range parents would both love and hate us.
The potential love: We give kids knives to carve with (as young as four), they work with blacksmith forges, constantly light fires (with and without matches), go off trail tracking the footprints of cougars, etc.
The potential not-love: We also still have the buddy system (even for bathrooms). Our instructors still walk a delicate line supervising kids and giving them freedom.
Part of that is common sense. Another part is choosing our battles with the often convoluted standards of modern society.
How we attempt to apply common sense: When you give a city kid a carving knife who has never used one before, they might lack any foundational experience with tools in general. So, we scaffold them towards competency. When a child is dropped in your charge at day one, you’re not sure what their prior experience is with skillsets that are often foreign in a modern world. For example, how easily they can navigate the “wall of treesâ€ when walking to the bathroom which is not a straight shot from the tents? We use wilderness sites. From many years of experience in the woods and tracking both people and animals, I know the average urban adult could lose their way only 50 meters into some of these areas. Iâ€™ve done search and rescue before, itâ€™s not fun.
That said, my own son at 6 years-old has been known to leave our house, which sits on the edge of a wilderness area, to travel a circuit of over a mile through the woods to go take pictures of bears. He has yet to find one, but he knows these trails better than a city street.
How we choose our battles: The kids I take care of arenâ€™t my own. If I had my druthers, there would be even more “take charge of yourself” experiences at camp than we currently have. Us free-range parents have a different idea of safe then other parentsâ€”it would be awesome if we could rely on only them to fill our programs. I mostly send my own kid to our camp so he can be social and spend less time with bears.
But, we also work with parents who get really upset with us when their 10 year-old did not finish all their lunch, so they must be “starving to death” and we failed for â€œnot properly supervisingâ€ the lunch eating process.
Again, we choose our battles. My favorite quote from the book Dune, â€œ’When strangers meet, great allowances should be made for differences in custom and training.â€ When we first meet campers there are more rules. As we get to know them better, we thoughtfully remove those rules. We reorganize programs to get more time with students so that we can better understand how they are growing in capability. We also work on our message to parentsâ€”a delicate one where we tell them, â€œyes we are safe, so you do want to send your child to our programâ€ and â€œyes, knives, forging, arrows, fires, cougars, oh, my.â€
Itâ€™s a tough gig, but I like doing it because the kids (and most parents) are awesome. Finally, when there is a helicopter parent who is definitely not a good fit, we do have a staff t-shirt that explicitly says â€œNo Camp For You.â€
such camps do exist. For example, my child is currently attending this one http://nbtsc.org/.
Very good points, Tony.