Gentlemen Prefer C’s

According to a recent front-page story in the New York Times, the latest innovation of a particularly ambitious segment of the upwardly mobile American middle class is the replacement of the old-fashioned summer camp with getting-into-college camp.  In proportion as the Times is ignorant of One Big Thing, its editors are highly knowledgeable about many small ones, among which the modern education rat race ranks high.  It seems prudent, therefore, for the rest of us to listen up and pay attention to what they have to say.

Summer camp as it used to be—lakeside in the mountains, with enforced training in swimming, boating, shooting, equestrianship, tennis, fishing, hiking, wilderness survival, and singing silly songs around the campfire—was as American as Huckleberry Finn and Nick Adams, though both escaped its disciplining formalities by lighting out on their own for the territory ahead.  I was spared them myself, being given the run of a 200-acre Green Mountains farm instead.  Nevertheless, the idea of the summer camp of yore yielding place to an intellectual boot camp for neutered nerds from the suburbs is, to me, as shocking as the spectacle of a lovely agricultural valley turned into a silicon one.  This newest Upward Bound program for what its patrons themselves would call the “overprivileged” is simply another training course for the Long Island Olympics. ...

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