Jay Greene wonders if school should be more like camp. At camp, Jay’s kids learn an enormous amount, including a large amount of traditional academic content. “But unlike school, the kids love it,” he notes. “Don’t get me wrong, they like school quite a bit — but they love camp. They love it even though they are made to do all sorts of challenging or sometimes unpleasant things that they rarely do at home. They have to do all of the cleaning, they serve and clear all of the meals, and they fold their own clothes. It can be broiling during the day and freezing at night. They help tend farm animals. They climb to the top of a high tower. They go for long hikes.”
How are these camps able to teach kids a lot, get them to work hard, and get the kids to love it, while schools struggle to do any of these things, Greene wonders, at a lower cost than the average public school? For starters, it’s all those young energetic counselors.
They don’t get paid very much but tend to be enthusiastic, bright, and energetic. Some will later be doctors or lawyers, but they are happy to be counselors for a few summers in the meantime. It’s easier to get talented people for low pay for a short time than for an entire career.