I first attended Nobles Day Camp in a group for rising second graders, and eleven years later, I've returned to that same group. Granted, I've worked as a camp counselor for the past two summers, responsible for the kids' welfare through a range of sports and art activities. Occasionally, I see a camper comment on another's appearance, differing by ethnicity, cultural customs, or other characteristics. Although I intervene to prevent insult, these remarks arise out of pure curiosity, far detached from the intolerance surrounding America's societal divisions.
I've learned to recognize how intolerance settles in as children grow, prejudice adopted from adults, from the enraged protests on TV, from the messages our own leaders convey. This intolerance manifests alongside ignorance. For example, according to a survey The Vanguard orchestrated last January, 73% of females and 34% of males at my school considered themselves feminists, that is before we provided social political activist Gloria Steinem's definition of feminism: someone who believes in "complete social and economic equality between men and women." On this definition, 94% of women and 80% of men at the school identified as a feminist. The long-term solution lies not in enforcing a stronger education about feminism on specific genders or communities, but from instilling feminist values in today's youth, normalizing an inherently equal society. Accordingly, I've sought to preserve that open-minded culture at camp.
Last summer, I painted a new sign for my campers' meeting area: the rainbow gender equality flag overlaid with the words "Safe Zone." Most kids responded with puzzlement. "Does it keep us safe from bugs?" one girl asked.
I answered with the full truth. "Not exactly. Just be yourself, and you'll be safe. We treat everyone equally at Nobles Day Camp."