Boot Camps and their Purpose

Here’s the honest truth about boot camps, folks: I taught at a Florida youth boot camp for the grand total of two and a half years before it was “renamed” due to the Martin Lee Anderson incident in the panhandle. If you are unfamiliar with the Anderson case, it went essentially like this – guards at a separate boot camp (not ours) were taped disciplining Anderson during routine procedures at the facility. Things got out of hand, and eventually Anderson died. There were extenuating circumstances, like reports of ammonia inhalant swabs being forced up the youth’s nose to revive him and so forth. But here’s the real bottom line for those of you who have never been inside a boot camp gate: This isolated incident is NOT typical of what happens on a day-to-day basis.

Are things military in style at boot camps? Yes. They have to be structured inasmuch as the recruits and residents are mostly convicted teen felons. Due to their previous environment, they have not had any real structure or stability to speak of, and the boot camp specializes in both of those ideas.

Do teens do push-ups and other similar exercises for disciplinary purposes at a boot camp? That is the decision of each individual drill instructor, but usually, yes. These boys aren’t committed to a boot camp facility for stealing penny candy, you must understand. Normally, their pasts have involved narcotics, and the exercise, among other things, helps to void their system of the toxins that they have ingested. Plus, the physical regimen prescribed to them at a boot camp facility acts as a supplement to the academic side of things (this is where I come in).

What kind of education do teens receive at boot camp? The answer here is, “the same kind they would receive in public school, only better.” Boot camp education is more tailored to suit their individual needs, improve the skills they lack, and counteract their negative perceptions of learning that they may have developed from prior experiences. Without pause, I can say that the education I witnessed students receive inside a boot camp was the finest and most effective that I have ever seen, bar none. You see, there are no classroom management issues in a boot camp. And when teachers can teach, students can learn. Again, the finest educational environment I’ve ever experienced. Many parents were clamoring to send their mildly troubled teens to our program so that they could be improved both behaviorally and academically. Unfortunately, recruits and residents actually had to have a criminal past in order to get into the boot camp’s enrollment.

In the end, here’s the main, focal fact that the public should be aware of regarding boot camp programs: Each one is different, but when operated correctly and effectively, they can be a wonderful tool for the success of previously troubled teens.