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Know the West

We are regulating ourselves at last

  Dear HCN,

As a professional in the field of outdoor-adventure education, I appreciated your well-balanced, thorough discussion of outdoor education (HCN, 6/10/96). As wilderness becomes the place for personal growth, team-building and therapeutic purposes, industry regulation becomes increasingly critical. This is evidenced by the toll of teenage fatalities in "tough love" programs such as North Star.

What wasn't mentioned in the article about Aaron Bacon's death is that some outdoor educators have begun to regulate themselves. The Association for Experiential Education (AEE), a leader in the field, has designed and begun to implement a service that reviews and accredits adventure programs based on an exhaustive set of criteria.

If North Star had been seeking accreditation at the time of the Bacon fatality, it would have failed overwhelmingly on criteria regarding program integrity, staff qualifications including first aid training, ethical concerns, risk management, and management and supervision of program activities. It is to be hoped that this movement toward examining and accrediting qualified programs will help parents decide where to send their children and move the field toward the high levels of professionalism that are exemplified by leaders in the field.

Anne J. Morse

Chino Valley, Arizona