Tap Tapley, the legendary Outward Bound instructor, is said to have described the crux of the experiential outdoor experiential learning school’s approach as “inducing anxiety and then releasing it in a constructive manner.”
And for a half century, Outward Bound courses have done just that – putting students in challenging and uncomfortable situations with real and immediate consequences. Students find themselves climbing mountains, paddling rivers, exploring remote canyons, traveling in the wilderness in winter conditions or sailing. Students learn skills to survive and thrive in these settings. But more importantly they learn about themselves; compassion and empathy for others; their capabilities; and tenacity and resiliency in pursuit of challenging goals.
But this model is pretty much the exact opposite of the scene at many residential colleges today, especially our most elite ones. Instead of challenge, much of the debate on college campuses today turns on ideas about intellectually “safe” spaces, where students don’t have to encounter ideas that make them uncomfortable or engage with those with whom they disagree.
Just last week, Harvard University, a school regarded as a breadbasket of future American leaders, decided that free association, allowing its students to decide what clubs they want to join, threatened its ideas about inclusivity. (Yes, obviously richly ironic, given what it takes to get into Harvard in the first place.) Meanwhile, the college curriculum has at many schools become basically an a la carte experience, where students can gravitate toward courses that reinforce rather than challenge their worldview.
Read more at US News.