All across the country, weeklong camps inspired by Glenn Beck, the Tea Party, and crazy love for our Founding Fathers are giving kids a crash course in American history. For the most part, it’s harmless summer fun: dodgeball, tug-of-war. You know, camp. But that’s not all they learn. Lauren Bans visited the very first Patriot Camp, in central Pennsylvania, and got a re-education she’ll never forget:
If I’m being completely honest, I have to admit I wasn’t sold on the idea that this would be a politically neutral history camp. In fact, I envisioned a kind of “Take back our country from the black guy” ethos permeating the place, the same attitude that dotted the 9/12 March on Washington, a movement that likewise billed itself as nonpartisan. This is partly because of Beck’s financial hand, but also because the first time I ever saw Miss Deb was in a 2011 clip from Beck’s show on Fox News, which she had posted on the Patriot Camp website.
In the clip, Miss Deb is sitting in the studio audience, alongside two other Pennsylvania moms, explaining the inspiration behind their camp. The inspiration, it turns out, was Glenn Beck. “One day,” she begins, “we heard you talk on your radio about Obama organizations doing summer camps, and we thought, ‘No, we need to do our own!’” She goes on to describe how she and the other moms searched wide and far but couldn’t find any decent American Revolution curriculums, how they were so excited by Beck’s “Founders’ Fridays”—a recurring segment on his show—that they decided to write one themselves. When she finishes, Beck adds: “And I started the fund-raiser for this, right? My wife and I wrote a check.”
The Becks gave a “generous donation,” according to Yvonne Donnelly, Beck’s ex-sister-in-law and founder of Constitutional Champions, the umbrella nonprofit that propelled the moms’ Patriot Camp idea nationwide. Donnelly was in the studio that day, too, nodding as Beck described his contribution. (Soon after this episode aired, Beck was criticized for a remark he made on-air about the massacre in Norway, when a right-wing terrorist killed sixty-nine people at a camp for leftist teens: “It sounds a little like, you know, the Hitler Youth or whatever. Who does a camp for kids that’s all about politics? Disturbing.”)