Education in the great outdoors

 

The following comments were posted at hcn.org in response to the Jan. 21 "Learning by Living" special issue.

What will sustain the Outward Bound school is real adventure that the students spearhead (HCN, 1/21/13, "Outward (re)Bound"). Not peaks or rivers the instructors want to climb or paddle, but objectives that the students embark upon, fueled by their own passion. Autonomy is a scary thing in our society. If we do not have rituals that help youth become adults, they will forever be children.

As a society, we need to see that we cannot keep them safe. Some children have wild hearts. If we do not give them adventure, they will find or create their own. Given the choice, would a parent prefer losing a child to a mountain or river adventure, or to drinking and driving, or depression? All roads have their perils. It is better if we adults choose which peril has the potential for positive effect and be proactive about our choices. Ultimately, we are responsible for helping children become healthy functioning adults. However, we have to be adult to know and understand (adventure's) value, and once we do, we will fund high quality programs.

Ken Wylie
Calgary, Alberta, Canada


As a former Outward Bound instructor circa the late '70s and '80s, I care deeply about what I once knew to be Outward Bound's core educational philosophy and pedagogy (HCN, 1/21/13, "Outward (re)Bound"). I say that because I witnessed, time and again, the efficacy of its educational mission in action in a wide variety of school settings around the world. From that perspective, it's particularly interesting to read Emily Guerin's article, as I've often thought that somewhere along the way Outward Bound lost its relevance. Where it once was the leading "brand" in outdoor education circles, it clearly suffered and lost its luster. The article comments on the structural challenges that confronted OB as it moved from a decentralized to centralized organizational model and its recent reversion back to local governance and oversight.

This may be a positive step; however, at a deeper level, I would argue that Outward Bound still suffers from a core identity problem that is more complex than simply the wilderness versus urban question. All you have to do is visit the current school websites to see that the message and programmatic offering is not coherent from school to school. So, institutional change has happened at the structural level, which may be positive, but until the deeper identity question is resolved and agreed to by all critical stakeholders, I worry that Outward Bound will not maximize its potential in a world that needs it now, perhaps more so than ever before.

Ian Yolles
New York, New York

Good article (as usual, HCN). However, I was struck by the part about the students being "far more sympathetic to someone trying to have their livelihood and their cows" and referring to the ranchers "pulling the students one way" (HCN, 1/21/13, "Let the place teach").

Mr. Sizemore could have quoted the facts to both the students and the ranchers concerning what exactly does affect cattle mortality. For example, wolves account for fewer cattle losses than almost every other predator -- wolf kills are just 3.7 percent of the total cattle lost to predators. Only bears kill less.

It's also a fact that respiratory problems, digestive problems, calving problems, weather-related, unknown non-predator, other diseases, lameness/injury, coyotes, mastitis, metabolic problems, poisoning, dogs, mountain lions and bobcats, theft and vultures individually cause more cattle deaths than wolves.

These are just a few of the facts you can glean from the National Agricultural Statistics Service, Agricultural Statistics Board, United States Department of Agriculture report, released May 12, 2011. This report is released every five years as a cooperative effort between the National Statistics Service and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service-Wildlife Services and Veterinary Services.

Of course, facts have a way of not being as exciting as the mythology of the wolf and its reintroduction.

Gary Cascio
Santa Fe, New Mexico