“Summer Patriot Camps” and the Indoctrination of Children
Written by Bill Berkowitz
In July 2011, after the horrendous massacre in Norway that took the lives of 77 — mostly youngsters attending a Workers’ Youth League summer camp — radio talk show host Glenn Beck commented: “And then there was a shooting at a political camp, which sounds a little like, you know, the Hitler youth or whatever. I mean, who does a camp for kids that’s all about politics? Disturbing.”
While you were blithely spending the summer with your children swimming and building sand castles at Orchard Beach, riding the Giant Dipper roller coaster at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Amusement Park, water-parking, and/or hiking in the wild, a bunch of conservative parents – with support from Beck — were having their kids schooled in the Constitution and American history at Patriot Camps across the country.
The Constitutional Champions Foundation, a national non-profit 501(c)(3) organization founded in 2010 in part with seed money from Glenn Beck, sponsored a series of weeklong “Patriot Camps” all across the country this past summer.
Lauren Bans wrote about her visit to the first Patriot Camp in Paxtang, Pennsylvania in the October issue of GQ. In an article titled “Welcome to Camp Idontwantobama!” Bans pointed out that the camps “stated mission is to teach kids the ‘truth about our country’s founding.'”
Invited by Camp director Deborah Seneca, a.k.a. Miss Deb, Bans went “to see how a camp inspired by Beck’s right-wing sermonizing manages to school heartland America on history, culture, religion, values, and three-legged racing, all while maintaining its avowed, and legally required, apolitical stance.”
Bans wrote that while she was unequivocally told “that Patriot Camp was definitely, absolutely, exclusively about history…. [she was] simultaneously warned that if – if – a splash of politics seeped into the bug juice, Constitutional Champions wasn’t responsible.”
It was Beck’s “Founders’ Friday” segment that ran on his Fox News television program, that apparently inspired Patriot Camp, according to Bans.
In a 2011 clip from Beck’s Fox News show, “Miss Deb is sitting in the studio audience, alongside two other Pennsylvania moms, explaining the inspiration behind their camp. ‘One day,’ she begins, ‘we heard you talk on your radio about Obama organizations doing summer camps, and we thought, ‘No, we need to do our own!'”
Miss Deb recounted how after a fruitless search for a suitable camp with a “decent American Revolution curriculum,” they decided to put one together themselves. After telling her story, Beck chimed in with “And I started the fund-raiser for this, right? My wife and I wrote a check.”
Yvonne Donnelly, Beck’s ex-sister-in-law is not only the founder of Constitutional Champions, the umbrella nonprofit that propelled the moms’ Patriot Camp nationwide,” but she’s also the Chair of Beck’s 9/12 Project.
According to Bans, Donnelley “adapted the Pennsylvania moms’ curriculum into a guidebook for volunteers eager to set up a Patriot Camp in their area.” The Patriot Camp Kit – available for $135.99 + shipping and handling — includes: 3 Patriot Camp Handbooks, 24 “Fun Facts” Bookmarks, 24 Mini American Flags, 24 Wristbands, 2 Sacks,1 King’s Crown, 50 Stickers, 24 Constitutional Champions Pencils, 1 Gadsden Flag, and 24 Certificates of Completion.
The Patriot Camp curriculum contains several “learning stations.” One of the learning stations is titled “Redistribution of Wealth”:
- “Divide group in half. One half ‘earns’ Tootsie Rolls by doing 25 jumping jacks”
- “The other half is not required to do jumping jacks, but can relax or do what they want”
- “Teacher suggests that it’s “not fair” that one group has no Tootsie Rolls, then instructs ‘jumping jack’ group to give half of their Tootsie Rolls to the other group to even things up – kids immediately understand that principles behind redistribution of wealth are NOT fair”
- “Emphasize that America guarantees equal opportunity, not equal results”
- “Emphasize that it is our own individual responsibility to be charitable, not the government’s job to redistribute our wealth, or take our money to give to others.”
Bans asks:- “Is Patriot Camp, as one left-leaning blogger for Mother Jones labeled it, an ‘indoctrination camp’? Or does the political stuff just go right over these kids’ heads?” Despite attempts by teachers to infuse little right wing lecture points into activities, she “witness[es] plenty that suggests they [the kids] aren’t absorbing much of anything. At one point during Mr. Alex’s intense lecture about God’s hand in the drafting of the Constitution, a little girl raised her hand and interrupted him. ‘Mr. Alex,’ she pleaded, ‘can you do a magic trick to make me disappear?'”
In another instance, Bryce McMinn, the head of Morning Star Pregnancy Services – an “alternative options” center — was a guest speaker. According to Bans: “Clutching a copy of Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hears a Who!, McMinn addresses the kids using the kind of singsongy voice people use to soothe a yapping dog. ‘This is my son’s favorite book. And what does Horton say over and over in the movie and the book? A person’s a person… no matter how small. That means that when each and every one of you were just little babies inside Mama’s belly, only about the size of my thumb, you had the right to life!
“Now, I mentioned that the right to life is written in our Constitution. Does anyone know where?”
A boy shyly answers, “I think it’s in…the front?”
“McMinn trudges on,” Bans writes: “‘It’s in the Fifth Amendment. A portion of the Fifth Amendment says, ‘No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.’ Believe it or not, there are people who run for all sorts of offices at the local level, the state level, and the federal level who don’t understand that even little babies have the right to life.
“‘And you want to remember when you vote to only vote for candidates who only support the U.S. Constitution, who support the Declaration of Independence and the right to life, like we do.'”
Last summer there were some 150 camps around the country, many sponsored by local Tea Party-affiliated groups.
About the AuthorBill Berkowitz is a longtime observer of the conservative movement. His WorkingForChange column Conservative Watch documents the strategies, players, institutions, victories and defeats of the American Right.