OUTWARD BOUND: Schools of the Possible by Robert Godfrey

OUTWARD BOUND: Schools of the Possible

Email this review


You thought Outward Bound meant survival training? (Which, now and again, someone doesn't survive?) Sensitivity training via physical straining is more like it today--or, in the psychopatter of the book, ""a diverse group of individuals. . . are immersed in a situation which automatically generates a high degree of intimacy and an unavoidable dependency."" There's also, today, ""a rich diversity of offerings""--not only the basic regimen for teenage boys, but also programs for women and adults of all ages, for delinquents, the handicapped, etc. If this sounds like institutional PR, that's about what it is. Godfrey, a former OB instructor and present ""consultant,"" takes the reader through a course at each of the six OB schools in the U.S. and looks in at the Dartmouth campus center, injecting some back-up data en route. (OB was founded by Kurt Hahn, headmaster of Gordonstoun; originated in shipwreck-survival training for young British seamen; established its first U.S. center in 1962.) The first three courses chronicled--involving mixed groups of ten adults each--do expose the reader to the program's purposes and the participants' reactions. On a mountain trek in the Southwest, the instructor sits by--after three days of priming--and lets the group fritter away valuable time making two simple decisions (""There will be lots to talk over this coming evening. . .""). The group rafting North Carolina's Chattooga River (""the same river on which Deliverance was filmed!""), faces the challenge of a prospective drop-out, the all-too-accurately named ""Swimmer's Rapids,"" and more. Off the Maine coast, a strongly feminist leader (""Any volunteers for helmsperson?"") provokes resistance from group-members of both sexes. We learn, apropos of a cracked bone, that there's such a thing as ""acceptable risk"" (nowhere are the fatalities mentioned); we see participants repeatedly overcome their fears (and, on occasion, refuse the ""challenge""); and we're privy to lots and lots of self-examination. The last four sections offer different wilderness settings (e.g., winter in Colorado), entailing different skills, but otherwise play variations on now-familiar themes. The book is half recruitment-bait, half fund-raising fodder, but not uninteresting as a cultural artifact--and most intriguing when you're forced to wonder what you'd do in someone's terrified place.

Pub Date: March 9th, 1980
Publisher: Doubleday