Hi Reeders! Just read about a new camp in Austin, Texas. It’s for teens who want to get around the city by public bus.
That’s the whole camp. Teens. Getting around the city. By bus. They consult a map, pay their fare and go someplace. According to TV station KXAN, a mom named Sheila Gordy came up with the idea for what she calls “Urban Explorer” camp when her 12-year-old wanted to start discovering the city on his own. KXAN quotes Gordy as saying, “When you have been catered to for 13 or 14 years and all of a sudden you yourself can get somewhere and you don’t have to ask, that’s really empowering.”
It sure is. It might be even MORE empowering if your parents weren’t paying $310 a week to have you do it with the help of this camp. But in truth, I’m probably just jealous that I didn’t come up with the idea first. After all, I am vaguely famous for letting my younger son, Izzy, take the New York City subway by himself at age 9. If only I’d come up with “Izzy Camp” (or “Camp Izzy Does It”? “Izzy for Real”? “It’s Izzy To Get Around NYC Adventures”?), he could have been raking in $310 a week, per kid, for a couple of years now. He’d take their money, hand out maps and have his little posse head anywhere they’d like. Coney Island. Central Park. The candy store.
Of course, once kids figured out they could do this on their own — most of us parents did, after all — they could save $310 a week to spend on Kit Kats, or college. And that’s why I’m of two minds about this new idea.
On the one hand, it’s crazy. Why pay money for your kids to do what any able-bodied Ameri-kid could and probably should do upon turning 10, which is to use public transportation? Even if they got lost, all they’d need are the same old instructions our parents gave us: Ask for help! You can always talk to a stranger, you just can’t go off with some stranger who approaches YOU.
No adult needs your help finding his puppy, no adult should ask you to get in his car. It’s that straightforward. And seeing as so many kids have cellphones, Mom and Dad are never really out of touch anyway. If kids need help (and even when they don’t), they call. My God, do they ever call. So who needs camp?
On the other hand, maybe this is exactly what they need. The parents, I mean. After all, we have spent about a generation convincing them that their children are in peril if they do ANYTHING on their own. That’s why only about 1 in 10 kids walk to school anymore. That’s why they don’t make their own play dates or meet up at the park unless it’s for a scheduled supervised game.
If this camp can convince parents that their kids are capable of taking care of themselves on an outing, well, it is worth a fortune, because it will be giving the kids — and the parents — an invaluable gift: the gift of a child’s self-reliance.
Once parents see that their kids are not mewling babies surrounded by miscreants, maybe they’ll let the raft down the Mississippi — or at least get themselves to the mall.
Best not to send them with $310.