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Kids Sorting Fact from Fiction at Camp Inquiry

This summer I had the pleasure of speaking and spending some time at Camp Inquiry, where kids spend a week learning about science and skeptical inquiry. If you have kids, you should definitely look into it for next year.

In addition to my talks, James Randi, Jennifer Michael Hecht, Ben Radford, and Ron Lindsay also visited with the (incredible, thoughtful, intelligent) kids. Ron, who was a lawyer before becoming the head of CFI, even performed a mock trial of Socrates, with Socrates played by a girl who did a great job. At the end of it, the kids all voted on whether or not Socrates was guilty . . . happily, s(he) was set free, though there was hemlock on hand just in case the vote went the other way.

Apparently there will be some more videos coming, and I’m really looking forward to one in particular: one of the campers created a faux UFO, which we filmed in an attempt to make our own viral UFO sighting video. It looked pretty convincing, I think. I mean, well, you can do a lot of interesting stuff in post-production. I’m sure it’ll be a big hit.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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15 Comments

  1. Eh, no thank you. I’d rather not send my kids to an atheist camp because I feel that although it’s true that god does not exist, it’s still indoctrination.

    Here’s what I’d rather do:
    – I want to cultivate their ability to think critically and make up their own minds so I’d like to allow them to evaluate various worldviews and concepts that exist on their own without me saying “god doesn’t exist”. Although this camp teaches critical thinking, it does so with an Agenda in mind. Not good.
    – For camp I’d rather send them to camps which teach overall life skills like Space Camp, Boy Scouts, or some other interest group camp (science/art/music/whatever they’re interested in) rather than worldview.

    Although an atheist myself, I’m not particularly interested in camps that have an atheist (or “Skeptical” as we’re calling it these days) agenda. I am not going to force my views on them – I want them to make their own decisions about what they believe.

      1. The camp’s mission statement says otherwise.

        I’m sure this camp can promote positive thinking patterns and has a nice atmosphere for kids, but it’s just not what I think my kids would benefit from. They’re critical thinkers already and they’re actively pursuing their interests.

        I don’t feel the need to send my kids to worldview camp.

  2. I’m curious as to how the program at this camp differs from Camp Quest. (My youngest went to Camp Quest this year and loved it.) It looks like an emphasis on guest speakers – is that the norm, or just happened at this session?

    And, Doctordoctorprofessor, no Boy Scouts for my kids. The Boy Scouts discriminate against gays and non-theists. Not to mention that I have daughters and they won’t take girls, so that’s another strike against the Scouts. Camp Quest was about critical thinking and tools for figuing out things for yourself, and about expecting claims to be backed up with evidence. I didn’t see any evidence of an agenda.

  3. My kids (now 8 and 10) have gone for two years and have LOVED every minute of it.

    The camp isn’t about atheist indoctrination at all. My impression from what the kids say they do is that it is about questioning and examining all of your beliefs including atheism. They told me that there were fellow campers of many different religions there.

    It is an environment where thinking and questioning is prized. I find they come home with much more confidence in their own abilities to think and decide for themselves rather than unquestioningly following the crowd or authorities. They also have more awareness of bullying that can come from groupthink and have tools and confidence to stop it. For example, in the past they may not have sympathized with a Jewish or Muslim peer in their school being bullied, now I think they would stand up for them.

    When your not very bookish eight year old boy comes home excitedly telling you all about Socrates and wanting to go to the library and get books about him you know it is a unique environment.

    1. I guess for people who consider “The arts and sciences, the skeptical perspective, and ethical character development” to be indoctrination, the world is a scary, scary place. How dare we teach children anything!

      For the record, all the kids I met had a blast. I interviewed a bunch of them, and every single one said he or she wanted to return next year. They didn’t seem worried at all — actually relieved, that people would treat them like the intelligent, thoughtful people they are.

  4. “We work toward helping youth confront the challenges of living a non-theistic/secular lifestyle in a world dominated by religious belief and pseudoscience.”

    I never said that we shouldn’t treat children like intelligent, thoughtful people…thats rediculous. Im just saying I think its obvious that an atheist agenda is present here.

    What if the statement read like this:

    “We work toward helping youth confront the challenges of living a theistic/non-secular lifestyle in a world dominated by atheists and science.”

    If it read that way, you would most certainly say that a religious agenda was present, right? So how is the original any different?

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