Masters and slaves

Natalie Solent links to a BBC story about a World War II-era camp for delinquent boys “run on ideals of radical democracy and unconditional love by conscientious objectors.” School attendance was voluntary “and the school hut was set on fire on several occasions.”

In the end it was health and safety concerns – and one too many fires – that caused the government to put an end to the experiment. The boys were removed and the camp deemed unfit for human habitation.

. . . But others say Q Camp failed because the children themselves didn’t want to share the responsibility, but wanted to feel the adults were in charge.

So much so that they organised themselves into two groups, masters and slaves – the ones who wanted to control and the ones who wanted to be controlled.

Natalie writes:

The funny thing is, though, that I can see something in the idea of leaving the smashed windows unfixed because “it was better to leave the jobs until the boys responsible agreed to do them.” But how did that square with buying the horse-thief his own horse?

Many of those who ran the camp went on to be leaders in social work and child psychiatry.

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  1. Any long-term follow up? It’d be nice to have some idea of whether this experiment was a disaster, a boon or somewhere in between.

    Also, I wonder at the accuracy, completeness and honesty of the records. This sounds like just the sort of social experiment that is judged a success before it starts precisely because the proponents are also running the experiment. Given the record of horse-thievery and arson, I find it difficult to believe that there wasn’t more and worse that wasn’t recorded.