School camps: We report, you decide

Lord of the FliesIn campaigning for the State election John Brumby racked his brains wondering what he could promise for the state education system and, at some cost, came up with . . . school camps. Can’t say I thought it was the most important thing that could be done with a few additional millions of dollars in education, but what would I know?

School camps are all the rage in Australia’s private schools, or at least Victoria’s ones. They raise equity problems at state schools because they’re expensive. Not so much of a problem at the more expensive end of the private school market. Indeed some schools have you spending literally over a thousand dollars on carefully prescribed camping kit.

Of course if kids want to go on these things that’s well and good.  But lots of kids don’t.  But there seems to be a strong consensus in schools that these exercises are Very Good. So much so that some schools actually spend a term or a year in semi-camp conditions – although obviously for that period of time it’s a cross between a camp and a boarding school. This also seems to be growing in popularity.  I recall Prince Charles going to Timbertop, but now there are quite a few similar operations.

I heard the Principal of one Melbourne girls school say that their year 9 exercise where all the girls go away for the entire year really matures the girls. I’ve also heard of horror stories in which eating disorders surge and bullying reaches new heights.

Anyway, as you know Troppo shares virtually all of its basic philosophies with Fox News, most particularly our commitment to open and honest deliberation. In what may (but almost certainly wont’) become a series of such posts, we ask . . . . What do you think (Oh Troppodillians)?

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Tony
10 years ago

I went to two private schools and had to go on camps two or three times every year from 1972 until 1978. I hated them at the time. Looking back, and quite probably through rose-tinted hindsights, they weren’t too bad.

meika
10 years ago

Camps area good idea because bullying is exactly what you need to succeed.

conrad
conrad
10 years ago

I can’t help but think of Lord of the Flies.

KS
KS
10 years ago

“I heard the Principal of one Melbourne girls school say that their year 9 exercise where all the girls go away for the entire year really matures the girls.”

Shouldn’t you expect a girl of that age to mature over the period of a year almost regardless of where she had been? Wouldn’t you notice the change more if they had been away for a period?

observa
observa
10 years ago

Couldn’t afford them in my day except for a couple of Scout camps which were a mixed blessing when diarrohea ripped through one of them and it had to be called off, unbeknownst to me and a couple of mates who’d decided we were best out of there for the day and took off on our own. Oldies get upset at the darnedest things. You show a bit of Baden Powell initiative, an intuitive understanding of quarantine and what merit badges do you get for your troubles?

Public schools have a problem nowadays rounding up enough non-working parents with Police Clearances to help teachers stave off the lawyering classes so that mainly leaves it all up to the privates who can afford to pay or else the student exchange. MasterO in Grade7 had a ball staying with a farm family out in the Mallee and ditto his host mate later on the big smoke. He discovered driving the battered farm ute down to the School Bus pickup gate, as well as spotlighting rabbits with a 22 among other adventures, to the shock horror of some the leafy burb parents of his school mates. I couldn’t believe the number of mums who travelled to the Mallee town to book into Motels to be with their sooky lot for the week or else got a phone call after one night to come and pick up their teary little woozies. Most of the footy dads I know were left shaking their heads at the number of dads who went along with their wives in that and you couldn’t blame schools for putting that sort of outcome in the too hard basket.

Rex
Rex
10 years ago

I understand there’s some very well turned out facilities in Nauru that are underutilised at present. Has the State School system thought about that option or are they just moaning for the sake of it?

Yobbo
Yobbo
10 years ago

You think you’re being funny Rex but the facilities in Naaru are far more comfortable and accommodating than your average boarding school. It’s not like were were keeping Asylum Seekers in concrete dog boxes, despite the bleating of the usual suspects.

Yobbo
Yobbo
10 years ago

In fact, while we’re on the subject, for our year 7 school camp we were housed in the Albany Quarantine station – the immigration detention centre of it’s day. And when we wouldn’t go to sleep at the designated time, they put us in a bus and made us run 5km back to tire us out.

Rex
Rex
10 years ago

Well in my days they schooled us in an old WW2 Nissan hut on a disused airfield. Each morning we’d have to cross the minefield, swim the moat and scale the razor wire fence just to reach the classroom. Every morning the teacher would lead us in prayers for those who didn’t make it. It was tough but I look back on it fondly.

wilful
wilful
10 years ago

I went to Timbertop for third form (aged 14). Timbertop (and the more recent imitators, such as MLC Marshmead) are not the same thing as a school camp, not at all.

I can’t say Timbertop ‘made a man of me’, but overall it was a very defining experience, and mostly positive. It’s quite ‘real’ (or it was then, I fear they’ve made it ‘safe’ now), you do have to struggle to overcome serious physical and mental challenges that you’re otherwise unlikely to face in your life if you’re from the comfortable classes. For example, our six day hike covered 145 km of mountainous terrain, not seeing another soul, no adults for the entire period. All 220 kids do the mini-marathon (28km), everyone’s completion gets celebrated. All hot water, all heating is (was) from firewood that you have chopped and collected. Countless other examples.

Small things for most of the worlds children, but for comfortable and wealthy kids from Melbourne, pretty radical. Certainly made you think.

Of course there was bullying and bastardisation, but they happened even moreso at Corio, I think they can be kept distinct.

A specific issue with Timbertop which I don’t understand, am a bit chary of, is their recent introduction of “positive education”: http://www.ggs.vic.edu.au/Positive-Education/Overview.aspx with Pr. Seligman of University of Pennsylvania. Sounds like new age mumbo-jumbo to me.

Patrick
Patrick
10 years ago

Positive education is pretty good I think, actually. It certainly has the potential to be mumbo-jumbo but can also be used very constructively; it boils down to working out what you get a kick out of and working out how to build more of that into your day and goals so as to help you achieve more, without fighting yourself every inch of the way.

A self-awareness tool in short.

mozzie
mozzie
10 years ago

Timbertop in the 60’s – my experience agrees broadly with wilful.
2 kids through private school camps (not Timbertop), and one did a stint at a junior years camp as a student “leader” – generally Ok experiences (as reported).

As far as self awareness, I’m less convinced, but the high level of “mumbo jumbo” helped develop healthy cynicism about what standards and qualities are professed compared to what is delivered.

mozzie
mozzie
10 years ago

BTW Charlie Windsor was at Timbertop as a “tutor” rather than as student (who live in self contained “units”. At the time he was IIRC a university student (Oxford?). He would have had comparable experiences at Gordonstoun (sp?), though.

meika
10 years ago

sooooo… Camps are for learning how to rough it for those from backgrounds unaccustomed to its joys, and thus discover self-reliance or resilience or something, but in a secluded bushland setting far from Macquarie Fields.

We I went on school camp in Tas it was just like going camping with the family except the farm was different, or we went up into Cradle Mountain at Easter and got snowed on for five days while hiking through cloud.

Of course this wasn’t an ersatz 6months slumming-it experience.

I remember reading somewhere sometime that ZaZen meditation techniques which involve randomly bashing sitters while they meditate with large bits of wood in the early early hours of the morning, developed after the monasteries become popular with certain sections of society and had to suddenly deal with a large intake of teenage boys….

Stephen Hill
Stephen Hill
10 years ago

Went on a few camps – one in primary, two in high school – to Myall Lakes and somewhere around Bathurst for agriculture. While they were fun – I’d worry if too much was made of them.

I’d rather see money invested in

– ensuring every public school has a teacher with foreign language aptitude so that the main foreign languages can be offered as HSC options. I would have loved to learn a foreign langauge – at actually would have come in handy with some of my work (a lot more than Woodwork that is for sure) but there wasn’t the capacity
– ensuring every public school has a teacher that can teach 4 unit Maths and 4 unit English
– ensuring music can be taught properly – that there are a few electric instruments – so you aren’t stuck playing triangles, tambourines and recorders (leave them to the Spinal Tap manager)

Maybe

– the ability for students to see a couple of theatrical productions before they graduate

murph the surf.
murph the surf.
10 years ago

Re Za Zen meditation -” randomly bashing sitters while they meditate with large bits of wood in the early early hours of the morning…”
The Sensei will draw the students attention to their faltering concentration by tapping them with a piece of split bamboo – it makes a loud niose but doesn’t cause real discomfort.
Bashing with a piece of wood ? humm….
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keisaku
You will note that if you have strong feelings that is a reason to not be hit.
I assume this means following the line that we need to remove our consciousness and moderate our feelings in all ways.
I have a friend who spent 4 years in a buddhist training monastry in southern Tokyo.The discipline this taining requires is far beyond most people let alone children and involves a lot more than masochism.

Respect for Teens
Respect for Teens
7 years ago

Camps should not be compulsory. I have a son in year 11 who has been to camp every year with school because they say it’s compulsory, and then disliked each camp. I feel that by year 11 he really does know his own mind, he knows his likes and dislikes, he has tried it many a time. Rather than be forced to attend yet another, I think it’s time his thoughts and feelings were respected and therefore I don’t feel he should be made to go again this year. Not sure how the school will respond but it’s something I will tackle with this year.