DECEMBER 12, 1958
NEW YORK—Because not long ago I read an attack on the Encampment for Citizenship organization this column is being written. Last summer the movement developed into two encampments—one here in New York on the 14-acre campus of the Fieldstone School and one in California.
The attack against this undertaking is probably largely because we are not accustomed to thinking seriously about education for democracy. The encampment tries to "teach the meaning of democracy: how it works; freedom and its responsibilities; government, power and public opinion; the nature of dictatorship; the battle for men's minds."
In the encampments an effort is made to bring together young people from the many and varied groups throughout our country. That means all of our citizens—Indians from the reservations; Negroes from the South; Puerto Ricans; people of many backgrounds whose families came to this country, some of them in the early days of our establishment as a nation, some of them very recently.
Here in the encampment a miniature part of America today lives and works and plays together for some six weeks. At the end of this time the young people leave with a broader understanding of what their country consists of from the population standpoint, of what the principles are on which we were founded, of how we have grown from the days of the Revolution, and what our position in the world is today.
To many young people this is an unforgettable experience. They have made the acquaintance of people from other parts of the world and they have learned things about their own country that they knew little or nothing about.
The Columbia University Bureau of Applied Social Research made a two-year study of the encampment and came up with the following conclusion:
"The evidence is unassailable that the encampment youth change for the better and that these effects are produced by the encampment itself.
"They become more appreciative of our traditional liberties, more tolerant of nonconformists, more committed to the defense of the rights of minorities, more optimistic about solving depressing social problems; show increase in tendencies to political action through accepted social channels. On this basis...the Encampment for Citizenship is a rare and successful experiment in democratic education."
Anyone wishing to know more about the encampment can obtain a detailed report of the survey made by writing to the encampment office in New York City.
Scholarships are needed for some of the young people who cannot afford the trip from wherever they live or the living expenses at the encampment while they are there, so money is raised for full and partial scholarships to be given to students who are carefully chosen.
From the students themselves come some rather remarkable comments. An American Indian from a reservation wrote: "For the first time in my life, I felt I belonged." From a Bryn Mawr girl: "For me the thing that made the encampment unique was the group of campers themselves... We all became each other's teachers as well as pupils...Perhaps the proper name for what the encampment represents for me is not the encampment, but the enlightenment."