It's Not All About Climbing Rocks: Reorienting Outdoor Educators Toward Social Justice
Abstract: The field of outdoor adventure education was born in the Western world in the twentieth century because of several specific factors. These factors include, but are not limited to: changing Euro-American attitudes toward wilderness, Kurt Hahn's character education schools and the pervasiveness of white supremacy. Today, outdoor adventure education is widely popular among the white middle class. According to current instructors in the field, outdoor education is for the purpose of individual development, learning in a wilderness setting and teaching students how to be environmental stewards for wild places. These purposes result from underlying, sometimes false, assumptions about the nature of wilderness education and the students themselves. Based on these assumptions, outdoor education – as it is practiced today – perpetuates the oppression it was built on. Dismantling and eliminating this oppression can be started by reframing field instructor training to be less focused on physical risk management and technical skills, and more focused on anti-racist and social justice skills.