Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Getting What You Pay For

Sure, there has been a lot of arguing online and elsewhere about summer sleepaway camps and what value they might have for both campers and parents. I'd like to look at the "worth" of camp through a different lens right now--the lens of the 9 days.

I'd imagine that parents have a picture in their mind of just what a camp is going to provide for the (sometimes exorbitant) money it may charge. Yes, there will be some Judaic learning going on. However, most parents will add to that sports activities of all kinds--free swim, instructional swim, softball, baseball, basketball, hockey, track, gymnastics and field activities etc.. In addition, I'd imagine that most parents are going to add to those sports activities what I'll call creative activities--all types and sorts of arts and crafts and musical activities (both song and dance). Then add in nature activities, camp trips to points of interest nearby, competitions, both intra-camp and inter-camp, including color war.

So, if kids are totally immersed in a frum environment for the summer, just what is it that the camp is offering during the 9 days for the money charged ? I've heard that camps still provide swimming--or at least some do--under the guise that it's only instructional swim (which I guess is not supposed to be seen as pleasurable). Reading the fine print on those sites listing what is forbidden to do during the 9 days, creative activities would appear on the forbidden list, so no arts and crafts. Certainly song and dance activities would be forbidden. Taking pleasurable trips would be forbidden. Those high-spirited intra and inter camp competitions would be forbidden. Most movies and films and live performances would be forbidden.

Okay, someone tell me what is left for the campers to do for the long days and nights they are in camp over the 9 days? For those campers only attending the second session of camp--the month of August--9 out of their 28 days in camp (approximately 1/3 of the time they are there) are not going to be "fun." If those camps are serving only milchigs, except for Shabbos, then some campers are going to be truly miserable for those 9 days--camp milchigs is heavy on the starch and light on the "real" fish or on fruits and vegetables. If the camp makes a siyum every day, then the campers are going to be learning early how to circumvent the requirements. If the camp holds that no laundry may be done during the 9 days, no fresh clothing may be put on, and no fresh linen may be put on the beds, you are going to have a whole lot of those kids wearing sticky, icky clothing and getting into beds that have been sitting in un-airconditioned bunks gathering dirt, mold, pollen and who knows what else. If the camp holds strictly to showering as a limited or non-existent activity during the 9 days, you are going to be having some truly uncomfortable campers, never mind what the smell will be like.

Then there is this--camps are not reknowned for their fully stocked libraries. Substituting reading for other activities will be highly limited, and will apply only to those campers who brought some reading material with them. I suppose that campers could find a tree to sit under and play games on their cellphones to pass the time.

In short, sleepaway camp and the 9 days seem to me to present a conflict: most of what a camp provides its campers could be seen as ossur during the 9 days. I'm past the time of sending children away to camp--anyone out there whose children are in such camps and who know firsthand what the camps do during the 9 days, please chime in. Given that $5000 for a whole summer as the camp charge has been documented as "pretty average" in many places and by many people, that would be about $100 a day for the summer camp experience. Are the camps providing sufficient services of a "camp type" to be worth that $100 a day during the 9 days?

And let me end off with this: if the camps are providing many of the activities which would fall into the pleasurable category, then why do we have this non-sensical divide--not okay in the city but okay at camp.


Anonymous said...

Hiking? Spending time with friends from out of town?

ProfK, during the 9 days do you stop every single type of enjoyable activity? Do you forbear from chatting on the phone with your girlfriends? Do you cry and read sad books the whole time?

There are many things children can do during the 9 days that are in no way forbidden. It sounds like you want to put more of a damper on them than is necessary, or that you've really got an ax to grind against camp.

If you are arguing that camp is too expensive and not cost-effective, that is an entirely different post.

ProfK said...

Sorry if it was not clear to you from the posting, but I'm talking here about cost versus "purchase" as regards camp during the 9 days. If only a few of the activities that are being paid for are available during this time period, then why is the cost the same as if those activities were being given?

If you shopped around for a health club and found one with 25 different machines/classes available you would feel you are getting what you paid for. If the club told you that one week out of three only 5 machines/activities would be available wouldn't you ask for a lower price given that you are getting less for your money? Shouldn't camps fall into the same category? You are purchasing something and you are not getting what you purchased for the run of your contract--shouldn't the price go down?

Since you are saying that there are many activities which are not forbidden for campers, please name them. What costs $900 that is being provided?

Abba's Rantings said...

i don't remember there being so many restrictions the way you describe it. we still had swim twice day (but instructional both times), full sports schedule, arts and crafts (why would this be assur?), etc.

life doesn't come to a standstill in the city during the 9 days and don't think it does in camp.

" If those camps are serving only milchigs"

they have a siyyum every night, so still plenty of fleish to go around

"Given that $5000 for a whole summer as the camp charge has been documented as "pretty average""

that would be below average for MO camps. in many cases well below average.

tesyaa said...

You are purchasing something and you are not getting what you purchased for the run of your contract--shouldn't the price go down?

ProfK, the Nine Days are not a surprise. This is not like paying for cable service and having service interrupted unexpectedly. If you choose to sign up your kids for camp and includes the Nine Days, you know that restrictions of one sort or another will be observed. There is no deception involved.

Realistically, the price can't be cut for the Nine Days. The staff still has to be paid, the facilities still need to be maintained. If there are one or two big trips/events per session, they can be rescheduled after Tisha Bav.

I think you're stretching with this one.

JS said...

My memory is that other than only instructional swim and a change of the learning schedule to discuss the 3 weeks/9 days/churban there wasn't really anything different going on. There were a lot of siyyums too because God forbid anyone have to forgo meat for more than a day or two.

As for "learning early how to circumvent the requirements" - welcome to Judaism! We're all about learning the rules and then learning every which way to circumvent them. What do you think putting on clothes for 2 seconds or leaving them on the floor for 2 seconds is? You think that really makes them not freshly laundered? Judaism is a schizophrenic religion of taking on as many stringencies as you can while finding as many loopholes as you can. The key is picking the right stringencies and loopholes so you look frum and not like some irreligious shaigetz.

I also don't get why you think there are so many restrictions. No creative activities? No showering? No fresh bedsheets? Never heard this in my life. Also, the restrictions are far less for children and are merely done as a teaching tool.

What exactly do the 9 days look like in the ProfK household? Or are you trying to make a point that these restrictions have gotten out of control (at least on paper if not in practice)?