Adventure Education: Outward Bound
What became prominent as a wartime school for survival in Great Britain developed into a highly recognized educational program that used adventure experience to stimulate personal growth in the decades after World War II. Today Outward Bound has developed into a global movement. Each Outward Bound school has programs that are attended by participants from target groups, such as managers, pupils, students, drug addicts, and juvenile delinquents. Outward Bound has given rise to a whole industry of adventure education. Numerous organizations had been founded as spinoffs of Outward Bound, and each offers programs aimed at teaching personal growth by adventure.
The popularity of adventure education is a measure of personal needs, which are strongly influenced by current social structures and conditions. The pluralism and individualism of today’s private and professional lives have led to a decrease in the validity of social rules and an increase in competing values. Stable social structures and bonds are replaced by the pressure of selfreliance and the compulsion to be responsible for one’s own actions.
As social relationships begin to disintegrate, the acquisition of social competencies becomes more difficult. On the one hand, life offers more possibilities for experience, scope, and decision making in a heterogeneous and pluralistic society; on the other hand, life demands a higher degree of flexibility, decision-making ability, personal responsibility, and interpersonal patterns of behavior. Daily life is strongly influenced by mechanization and the modern media. The consumption of modern media and the interactive handling of information particularly lead to an estrangement from reality. The limits of reality and the virtual world become more blurred. The stimulus satiation by the modern media pushes people into a passive receptivity that leads to a loss of first-hand experience.
In professional life rationality, effectiveness, and achievement are often the only indicators of human quality. In education cognitive achievements are the most important goals. The result is a growing alienation from the body. Apart from this alienation, urbanization hinders first-hand natural experiences and an easy and healthy engagement in physical activities.
A consequence of this need for experience is an increase in leisure activities. People seek activities that promise to provide personal growth, well-being, and self-determination. In this context adventure education develops its effectiveness. Programs in adventure education have become popular not only in traditional educational settings such as schools, but also in training courses for managers or programs for the socialization of drug addicts, juvenile delinquents, or handicapped people. Rafting and canoeing trips, expeditions into the outdoors, and high rope courses have become popular because they teach social and moral values—traits that are difficult to realize in daily life.