Anything Goes

Frederick Douglass once said, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”

Are you one of the more than 1,000 members of the Facebook group “Summer Camp Professionals”? ( ) If you are, then you might be familiar with a conversation that is happening called “Anything Goes”.

Where do you stand on the use of personal technology at summer camp?

Not familiar with it? Let me fill you in a bit.

Longacre Leadership, a multi-week summer program for teenagers, has recently released an “Anything Goes” policy in regards to technology. ( )

The policy says: “Smartphones, music players, tablets, e-readers, even laptops--they’re all fair game, all the time. The era of No Devices is over.”

Now, Longacre did not make this decision lightly. They are fully aware of the disadvantages of isolation, staying up late, disparities, liability, and inappropriate use. But the truth is, according to their statement, “parents and kids are demanding it.”

This week, I watched a fascinating TED Talk by Steve Baskin, executive director of Camp Champions in Texas. His talk spoke of the importance of Unplugging Our Kids at summer camp:

Steve points out an odd counterintuitive hypothesis: One, we live in a world defined by technology and the change it creates. Two, this world requires a set of skills in order to be successful. Three, summer camp, when devoid of these technologies, may very well be the very best place to learn these skills.

He illustrates this with an example: Neil Armstrong’s moon landing and how we’re all becoming like Neil Armstrong. The astronaut was enveloped in a cocoon of technology that allowed him to walk on the moon. That same technology was beaming him into every single living room that had a television.

In that moment, he was connected to every single person in the world who watched him, and yet, in that same moment, he was more isolated and alone than any human being had ever been.

The technology actually prevented him from fully experiencing his surroundings.

The comments and conversations on Summer Camp Professionals are profound and challenging, as are the words of Steve Baskin’s talk.

How about you? Where do you fall in the “unplug at camp” conversation? How is your camp wrestling with the ideas of technology for Summer 2013?

Cory Harrison has directed resident camp programs for more than 10 years with The Salvation Army and the YMCA. Currently, he is the Director of the YMCA Camp Benson in Northwest, IL. He is a life-long camper, an avid reader, and daily cereal eater. Reach him via Facebook: