Teach kids patriotism at shopping camp

Benjamin Barber

TEXT OF COMMENTARY

KAI RYSSDAL: You can add summer camp to the list of businesses being hurt by the sluggish economy. Industry experts say camps are registering fewer kids this summer. Their parents aren't shelling out to send 'em away for as many weeks, either.

Granted, camps aren't as big a deal as say housing or oil. But commentator Benjamin Barber says he's heard of one that might actually help the economy.


BENJAMIN BARBER: Worried your kid can't get into sports camp? Listen to Becky Ross of Louisville, Ky., who declared recently: "Not everybody can be a cheerleader or football player, so here is something for someone with different interests."

That something is a "shopping camp" at the Summit Mall in Louisville. A fashion camp for girls. And Ross, who's the camp coordinator, says not to worry: It's not really about fashion or designing clothes, it's about how to put together and accessorize outfits, it's about "personal development and self-confidence."

In short, it's camp at the mall, where -- announces the camp ad -- you "will visit stores that teach lessons in organization (the Office Depot), how to find information (Barnes & Noble) and the importance of thank-you notes (Hallmark)." Yep, and the day "ends with a graduation ceremony, where campers receive a certificate and goody bag that includes a $40 Summit Mall gift."

If this makes you want to, well, throw up in your shopping bag, please don't. Because there's a serious side, too. I mean, some 6-year-olds might not think going to the Office Depot is their idea of summer fun. But they're going to be America's Plan B when the Bush stimulus-check-plan fails! If we could get every other kid in the country into shopping camp this summer, goodbye recession!

On the "Jezebel" website (devoted to "celebrity, sex and fashion without airbrushing") cynical bloggers wrote stuff about the fashion camp like "Now you pay to shop," and "I'm pretty sure my mom's behind this" and "My soul just died a little."

Well, I say it's time kids figured out patriotism is their thing too. After 9/11 President Bush reminded Americans that the way to be part of the war on terrorism was to get back to the mall. So why not the kids too? After all, consumerism's way too important to be left to the grown-ups.


RYSSDAL: Benjamin Barber is with the New York think tank Demos.

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