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Unread August 21st, 2005, 11:52 PM
Da Friendly Puter Tech Da Friendly Puter Tech is offline
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Join Date: Jul 2004
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Default Re: Ethics of reality tv show

Hey Dr. Reid,

THank you for the well considered reply to my post. I watched the two first episodes of the show only, and then would not support the show after that.

However; after watching the two first episodes I felt confused about a few ethical issues - confused enough to spend an afternoon looking for more information.

The things that I was thinking about at the time was:

1. Yes - most of the kids in the program seemed destined to go somewhere really horrible if help was not given. So I "get" the argument that forcible intervention might be better than no intervention. At the same time there *has* to be a limit to how, when and where forcible intervention is used. I think the show itself skirted on that limit, and quite possibly broke it. There are quite a few examples of programs that use forcible intervention, and then somewhere along the line goes way over the line, and become highly destructive and cult like. I dont know if the show in question, or the school shown on that show has gone that far, but I do think their ethics in the way they used forcible intervention are questionable at best.

2. What the living !@#& was the parents thinking when they subjected the kids to be on the air with this kind of sensitive material?

3. Even if the parents were too stupid to realize that having this private material on a show isnt a "smart" thing, what self respecting professional would allow it?

Here are some of the things I found out when I dug a little deeper.

ABC considers this show part of the "wish fulfillment" of their reality tv shows. They show these kids being sent away for a few weeks get "fixed", and everyone is happy. ABC claims that the only payment the families got for the kids participation is that the kids participate in the program for free. This is about 22K per kid so that is still a handsome payment. As you said - I am also certain that the parents have signed miles worth of forms to make this "legal". ABC probably has protected themselves up the wazoo with this show.

Brat Camp is set in the Oregon wilderness, and the actual program is called SageWalk wilderness school. The sagewalk website tells us that a wilderness camp experience for the kids costs around $22000. Which on its own is a handsome payment I would think. I wonder how much of the 22K is pure income..... http://www.sagewalk.com/

When I started to dig deeper into sagewalk I found a few interesting connections. Sagewalk is part of several such wilderness schools in Oregon and Utah. Oregon and Utah both have limited rules that governs such camps and that is why those two places are so attractive to set up the camps.

In the last 5 years or so at least 2 kids have died while at these camps because the caregivers had to restrain them. There has also been questions around the medical attention given these children. Apparently the caregivers are predisposed to calling complaints of pain "acting out", and in a few situations medical attention has not been offered as fast as it should have been.

Sagewalk itself has not been implicated in those situations. However, at least 1 of their current counselors listed on their website has worked for the schools that were implicated at the time when they were implicated. This might be "guilt by association", but I still find it curious! Especially curious in light of the fact that these "counselors" allow a show like brat camp to be filmed.

When reading up on the general "jungle drum" online about these schools it is not surprising to find some ranting about the greatness of the schools, and some ranting about the terror of the schools. Given the stories of terror out there though, I would be predisposed to think that the counselors occassionally misuse their power over these kids, and that always creates an ugly situation. (if the forcible nature of the program isnt on its own a huge misuse of power, and quite possibly very traumatic).

In the end though - I might agree that if the program used force wisely, and didnt seem to break any other "rules" of ethics then it is possible that the force in this situation could be justified - even if it makes my sensibilities go all a-twitter. However; I see so many ethical rules or guidelines blasted to smithereens with this show I am unlikely to think the force wasnt as well a break of ethics.

If you do look into it Dr. Reid, I would be very interested in hearing what you come up with.

Warm regards,
Da Friendly Puter Tech
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