Children’s Boot Camp: More Than Machinery, We Need Humanity


When I started watching this video, and I saw the warning that “images may be disturbing to some viewers”, I initially thought “Whatever. I have thick skin, I’ll be fine.” Needless to say I was not prepared for this video at all. Initially, I was ok, wondering why the kid’s face was blurred out, and why he looked like he was crying.  As the screen zoomed out, I noticed the tire around his shoulders, and the female instructor shouting at him. At this point I was still ok. I figured it was some kind of mini boot camp, and he just looked like he was crying because he’d been training hard and was nearing exhaustion. But then the camera zoomed out further and I saw the three other instructors shouting various commands at him and screaming at him from only inches away from his face. Just as I was beginning to think, “Ok, this is getting excessive,” the kid let out a scream that ought to make any decent human being’s blood run cold; but the instructors didn’t let up, and actually got a bit louder to shout over the kid’s screams. The kid fell to the ground and still the instructors didn’t let up. Eventually he gets back up, and takes a couple of steps, and lets out a series of screams that are just a blood curdling as the first, and that continue until the end of the clip.

I opened up this window, and then sat there for a solid twenty minutes as I vainly tried to wrap my mind around what I had just watched. Surely I saw similar things on a fairly regular basis during boot camp, but seeing this happen to a child of only 13 or 14 years of age, and in this context, was different. In an actual boot camp, there is the excuse that inducing stress in this manner is essential to training because it simulates the stress of combat. Whether or not this excuse is actually a justification for this sort of behavior in boot camp is a topic for another paper; however, it is clearly not a justification in this context. Consider for a moment where they are: this is a physical fitness camp for children and teens. How does ordering this kid to say “I love my sergeant” or “aye aye sir” or any of that help him become more fit? In fact, how does trying to induce this kind of stress in any manner help this kid become more physically fit?

Sure if you watch the TV show “The Biggest Loser” Jillian Michaels can be a bit over the top, but if you notice, she tends to be constructive in her criticisms. She tries to inspire the contestants to keep going in order to improve themselves. Swarming this kid and ordering him to say, “I love my sergeant” etc. etc. and continuing to apply psychological pressure long after the kid has obviously broken, has less in common with “The Biggest Loser” than it has with the abuses at Abu Ghraib in 2003 and 2004.

Despite all this, what really struck me about this video was not so much the obvious psychological distress that this kid was being placed under, as it was the realization that none of the instructors had any sort of compassion or showed any remorse when the kid finally broke down. This is the very essence of dehumanization in the military; the dehumanization doesn’t stop with turning the “enemy” into a subhuman caricature, but continues on and spills over to render military subordinates, recruits, and apparently even children, as being less than human and undeserving of even basic human regard.

To sum up I will quote Charlie Chaplin in the movie “The Great Dictator”:

  • “More than machinery we need humanity. More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost… Soldiers! Don’t give yourselves to brutes! Men who despise you, enslave you, who regiment your lives, tell you what to do, what to think and what to feel! Who drill you, diet you, treat you like cattle, use you as cannon fodder! Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men – machine men with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines! You are not cattle! You are men! You have the love of humanity in your hearts. You don’t hate! Only the unloved hate – the unloved and the unnatural!”

This is the message that all troops need to hear. All of the hardness and toughness in the world is worth nothing if you have no love of humanity. All of the fighting for some abstract concept of a “country” is meaningless if you’re willing to torment the people who make up the country that you’re trying to defend.

Safety and Peace


  • S.

    It’s so hard to watch this without getting completely pissed…

  • oorah

    These boot camps are for kids/teens who are trouble makers. They are not your typical fitness boot camp.

    • GreenGrassFoolsMeErryDay

      That is a good point, but that does not change the fact that they are children and that they should be treated as such. The kids should not be put through this type of training.

      • oorah

        We’d be better off as a society if we don’t view youthful thugs who hurt others as errant children. ‘Boot camp’ like these should be reserved for the worst violent offenders.

        • GreenGrassFoolsMeErryDay

          No! That is bad, and you should feel bad. Who declared you judge jury and executioner? What ever happened to the legal system?

          • oorah

            Ah the use of ad hominem fallacy. Please read the statement again. And quote me on where I say the kid in the video deserved it.

            The justice system can be a joke. A teen assaulting someone to the point of the person being crippled or dead but still being viewed as errant children to avoid the harshest punishment allowed by law is B.S. And the violence they are capable of doing is no less significant than an adult- I’ve seen that first hand. Teens will jump you, beat you or stab you just for the hell of it. Again, this isn’t some kid who stole candy- this is some serious stuff.

            Some courts actually sentence people to ‘boot camp’ or parents send them in- this is how it works. And then there are private boot camps that have little to no regulations. Some of these are run by corrections or police departments.

          • NINJA_PUNCH

            First off, it’s not an “ad hominem”. Ad hominem is someone saying “you’re an asshole therefore your argument is invalid”. “GreenGrass” actually hasn’t committed a fallacy. However, you’ve committed something of a Red Herring by asking where you said that “the kid in the video deserved it”. Frankly, you didn’t say that and no one is accusing you of having said it. What you said is “these boot camps are acceptable”, and what GreenGrass has said is “no they’re not”.

            Now then, you really need to make up your mind on what you’re arguing here. First you say “the justice system can be a joke”, then you note that “some courts actually sentence people to ‘boot camp'”. So you try to defend the use of boot camps by saying that the justice system can be a joke, and then cut your feet out from under yourself by noting that the justice system is the one sending children to these camps, even going so far as to note that many of these boot camps “have little to no regulations.”

            You really need to pick a position and argue it.

            Safety and Peace

          • Sgt No Name

            Boot camp may be the answer to the concept of inter grading punishment and/or rehabilitation. That’s why people came up with them.

            Teens are more extremely narcissistic which is one of the traits in a number of teen violent criminals. I don’t believe in using these tactics on a teen commits non violent acts, but for those who committed grave acts of violence like beatings, this method may be needed to ‘put’ them in their place.

            I can’t comment on the kid in the video. However, some parents sent their kids to these camps for just talking back at them or violating curfew. This to me is messed up.

          • S.

            I think that there are better ways to rehabilitate a violent child. I think that this method will make it worse, instead of putting them in their place. I think it will make them want to do the same to others. Kind of how the military is right now :/

            So essentially this makes them worse. We need to dump these places and come up with a better solution. I vote science camp.

          • Sgt No Name

            The only way this sort of boot camp (many are private) will stop is when parents take accountability for their kids instead of trying to hold the responsibilities of raising and disciplining their kids to someone else such as schools, teachers, or some military styled boot camp when they ‘can’t handle it anymore.’ If you wonder why crime rates among youth is higher these days that is the reason why.

          • S.

            That is not the only way at all. There are many other solutions, one of them making it illegal to have places like this. Or to regulate them more.

            And the crime rate among youths is lower these days. I think the reason is because our culture is improving. Here are some stats, feel free to look up more. These come from the Bureauof Justice.

  • BigNasty

    Tough meat if I come off blunt, but the entire point of this “boot camp” is to
    rehabilitate those kids that think discipline can be suppressed by sheer
    arrogance, whilst making the responsibly for the adults that can’t handle these
    types far more easier. This kid may grow from this perspective of learning and
    realize that his actions do not merit praise. If you don’t aggressively teach
    discipline on a regular basis, then you’re letting them win over you. The same
    way as people who think that they can do recreational drugs and think that they
    can’t be caught, because there’s no actual enforcement of that law.

    And knowing kids nowadays, he probably deserved it.

    • Air Conditioner

      …the stupid… it… it hurts…

      • BigNasty

        It’s so resounding to hear baseless assertions with no actual ground. It’s just funny how people can get away with one-line statements, while making themselves look “stupid” as well.


      I’d find it much more likely that he would learn that you can get away with murder (figuratively speaking) so long as you’re surrounded by a group of people who will back you up and back up your story. That it’s ok to do whatever you like so long as everyone else is doing it. Frankly, the idea that the child would actually “grow” from this sort of experience is so unlikely as to be laughable.

      Further, aggressively teaching discipline, as you put it, is extremely counter-productive in most cases. I’d argue that if you spent less time teaching children what to think, and more time teaching them how to think, you wouldn’t have nearly as many problems. That is, if you spent less time trying to force people to think, and act in a certain way, and spent less time being an authoritarian, the kids wouldn’t need to spend as much time rebelling against that authority. Sure while there are a couple of things (i.e. not killing people) that need to be made perfectly clear, in general you could do a lot more in the way of raising a decent child by actually providing an example to be emulated, rather than trying a “do as I say, not as I do” style of parenting.

      As a parting note: What difference does it make if people do recreational drugs? If someone can shoot up heroin (for example), and still do excellent work at their job, and maintain decent relationships with friends and family, then what difference does it make to you? Why is it their problem that you don’t like it?

      Safety and Peace

      • BigNasty

        Let me clarifly.

        The usefulness of authority in some cases is credible, but to think that it is “counter-productive” is not something that is usually taken lightly by the authoritative figure, whether it may be a very caring parent, or an aggressive D.I. who’s giving orders for the best of his recruits to “succeed” (figuratively speaking, of course). What this kid do to be in boot camp was obviously very offensive enough for him to be there, and it’s not morally subjective to say that he should not be there if we don’t actually know why he’s there.

        Morality is just an ethical theory that asserts what’s good and what’s wrong, and children tend to stay far away from what hurts them if you portray its significance enough times, which means that they are considerably capable of deciding what to do by themselves.

        And I used the drug tid-bit to see if anyone would be bearfaced enough to not call out the Idleness in U.S. Law. Looks like that isn’t working out too well.

    • S.

      It’s me personal opinion that this type of “discipline” would make troubled teens worse. I think that there are much better alternatives that are much more efficient and most importantly, nicer. But that is just me.

  • Turbo40

    I already know I’m going to get a lot of shit for this because I’m going in a different direction, but just let me explain.

    Okay my comment has nothing to do with the current discussion but I wanted to add the following. First off, I applaude you for being the first person to ever bring up the film, The Great Dictator. I love that movie so much, it also has one of me favorite endings ever. Not to drone too much into personal details but I remember watching the film Seven Samurai by Akira Kurosawa, before going to bootcamp. It’s without a doubt the best depiction of the warrior mindset I’ve ever seen. If you have not seen it, watch it. Anyways, speaking of film, the Marine Corps fondly reminds me of a combination of three great movies that I’ve seen. Pulp Fiction, Goodfellas, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

    I’ll explain, the reason why I think of Pulp Fiction is because of the randomness (and frequent use of the F word). Througghout the movie, is much like what you will encounter in the USMC. Honestly, it is. Second for Goodfellas, I remember my drill hat in boot camp asking us if we think the USMC is like a gang. I agreed, I mean it is kinda. But after five years, looking back I would say yes, no doubt. All the machoism, the backstabbing, uncertainty, only having a few people to trust. Not to mention I feel Deeply for Ray Liotta’s real life character Henry Hill. Being a mediator. How I hated being the level headed guy and getting situations resolved. I despised it. A LOT. So many dick swinging contests. Lastly, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s. Nest, because of all the craziness and lunatic personalities I met in the Marine Corps. With an overbearing condescending leader controlling a large group of misunderstood personalities while one man tries to fight back.

    I know this is far from the arguement by others but I wanted to interject with that response. And please don’t take offense to my grammatical errors I wrote this from my phone. But anyway, for the arguement I don’t know what to say. It’s all about perspective I guess. I don’t know for sure.