TAMPA — Here's another option now that the kids are out of school: a weeklong seminar about our nation's founding principles, courtesy of the Tampa 912 Project.
The organization, which falls under the tea party umbrella, hopes to introduce kids ages 8 to 12 to principles that include "America is good," "I believe in God," and "I work hard for what I have and I will share it with who I want to. Government cannot force me to be charitable."
Organized by conservative writer Jeff Lukens and staffed by volunteers from the 912 Project, Tampa Liberty School will meet every morning July 11-15 in borrowed space at the Paideia Christian school in Temple Terrace.
"We want to impart to our children what our nation is about, and what they may or may not be told," Lukens said.
He said he was not familiar with public school curriculum, but, "I do know they have a lot of political correctness. We are a faithful people, and when you talk about natural law, you have to talk about God. When you take that out of the discussion, you miss the whole thing."
Tampa Liberty is modeled after vacation Bible schools, which use fun, hands-on activities to deliver Christian messages.
One example at Liberty: Children will win hard, wrapped candies to use as currency for a store, symbolizing the gold standard. On the second day, the "banker" will issue paper money instead. Over time, students will realize their paper money buys less and less, while the candies retain their value.
"Some of the kids will fall for it," Lukens said. "Others kids will wise up."
Another example: Starting in an austere room where they are made to sit quietly, symbolizing Europe, the children will pass through an obstacle course to arrive at a brightly decorated party room (the New World).
Red-white-and-blue confetti will be thrown. But afterward the kids will have to clean up the confetti, learning that with freedom comes responsibility.
Still another example: Children will blow bubbles from a single container of soapy solution, and then pop each other's bubbles with squirt guns in an arrangement that mimics socialism. They are to count how many bubbles they pop. Then they will work with individual bottles of solution and pop their own bubbles.
"What they will find out is that you can do a lot more with individual freedom," Lukens said.
While the Liberty school is the first of its kind in the Tampa Bay area, Lukens said a group in Kentucky ran a similar school, and he learned from their ideas.
There is room for 40 students in the Tampa school and as of Monday, eight had signed up. The fee is $15.
"We've had classes for adults," said Karen Jaroch, who chairs the Tampa 912 Project. "Now we want to introduce a younger generation to economics and history, but in a fun way."
If the school is successful, Jaroch and Lukens will look for ways to run more sessions, either during the summer or after school resumes. In fact, Jaroch said the group might try to bring its curriculum to the public schools during Constitution Week in September.
"We definitely teach the Constitution, especially during Constitution Week," said Linda Cobbe, a school district spokeswoman. She said the district would need to make sure the organization does not have a political agenda, and that they would need to be approved by SERVE, a nonprofit agency that clears volunteers in the schools.
Lukens said it is too early to speak in detail about what will happen after July 15. But, he said, "we plan on coming back and coming back and coming back."
Marlene Sokol can be reached at (813) 226-3356 or firstname.lastname@example.org.