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During the 1960s and 1970s, social changes such as the sexual revolution and the shift away from an industrial economy led to many camp supporters feeling that their work was even more important - a way to provide a refuge from an increasingly fragmented and over-civilized world. The 1970s particularly marked a more openly rebellious youth culture at summer camps. Many young counselors and older campers had become disillusioned with American involvement in the Vietnam War and “traditional values.” They were more open about sexuality, more accepting of recreational drug use, and more likely to challenge adult-controlled organized leisure. Many of them were also coming from families fractured by divorce. Camp directors tried to maintain traditional values. For example in 1974, “the director of Maine’s venerable Pine Island Camp told the incoming staff… that camp was supposed to be “square.” But, by the late decades of the century, camps had become less of a pure space as children and adults alike could no longer “fully protect children from sexual pressures and interpersonal cruelty.” (Paris, 2008)


Starting in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the debate over federal camp safety regulations began, bringing parents, government officials, and consumer advocates into the discussion of what made a safe and successful camping experience.  For the first time, the camping community had to answer to criticism about the benefits of summer camping for children. In response to the call for the camp industry to be more inclusive of “different races and socioeconomic backgrounds, and many single-sex camps became coed.” “Speciality camps” were another response to fill this gap. These camps differed from earlier ones because they offered a greater variety of activities, such as horseback riding, sports, fine arts, sailing, and dancing, to a much wider range of people. 


In the mid-1960s, the environmental movement grew rapidly, which allowed summer camps to promote themselves as the perfect place to teach kids about environmental stewardship and a love of nature. This was referred to as "ecological literacy" by David Orr. In the 1980s and 1990s, advocates of camping sought to recreate the rustic lifestyle that was disappearing as a result of industrialization and urbanization. They were fearful of the impact of societal advances such as automobiles, radios, motion pictures, televisions, atomic bombs, computers, shopping malls, and video games on children, believing these changes would lead to social decay and confusion.


Character education programs evolved from the "I'm Okay, You're Okay" self-esteem, value-neutral programs of the 1970s and 1980s. They became popular in schools, camps, and nonprofit organizations such as the YMCA and Boy/Girl Scouts. This led to the creation of posters, flags, marketing slogans, and program modifications to focus on character and values that are still reflected in many youth organizations in the modern day. In 1997, there was a resurgence in emphasizing youth development outcomes from camp. This was in response to research from the Search Institute, which showed that four key assets (positive experiences, relationships, opportunities, and personal qualities) were necessary for children and adolescents to become healthy, responsible adults. ACA implemented this research into all aspects of camp operations.

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