The declared purpose of this book is to reflect some of the issues and dilemmas faced by those working in the outdoors today. AfOL sees it as a contribution to the current debate and a focus for carrying it forward. It is not a book primarily aimed at the practicalities of dealing with values. Indeed, some chapters are hardly about either values or the outdoors at all, though they fit well within the book's sub-title. The intended readership is not described, but I infer that it is written more for reflective academics and philosophers than for busy practitioners keen to develop their skills. Whether this best reflects the true needs of the membership of the professional body is doubtful: certainly I have got the impression from NAOE, OEAP and FAO conferences that what the field most lacks is help with 'how to do it'. If so, this book is not a focus for carrying practice forward, though it may well stimulate further debate in academe, where some of the words and concepts will doubtless be more familiar than to me; my 2500-page Oxford English dictionary failed me with homomarronic, engrams, narratological, transderivational, representamens, but taught me how I might abduct a synecdoche and invaginate ecofeminisms with metanyms and semiotics (read on: it's not all like that!).
As with many edited volumes, the book lacks coherence, let alone synergy. No chapter author builds on the work of another, though several are good at creatively synthesising propositions from many diverse sources. I prefer books, like fabrics, to have a warp and a weft, like theory and practice, but this one is more like a bundle of unwoven threads, some of which get lost. Readers are therefore more likely to dip into chapters whose authors or titles strike them as interesting. Unfortunately, not all the titles are helpful in this respect, and there are, alas, no abstracts or index. For example, the first chapter, by Nichols, is entitled 'What is development training?' but the answer is not to be found in the content, nor is there a reference to where else it might be found (try DTAG or Hopkins and Putnam's Personal Growth through Adventure (Fulton 1993) if you don't know). A more appropriate subject for a first chapter would surely have been 'What are values?' and it would usefully have explained their relationship to beliefs, principles, prejudices, attitudes and behaviour, as well as offering a taxonomy of values, as in Beck's excellent book, Better Schools - a Values Perspective (Falmer 1990). Modesty forbids me from also mentioning my Values, Beliefs, Education and Training and Developing Competence in Dealing with Values (NAVET Occasional Paper), except en passant.
The second chapter, by Halliday, aims to establish the importance of values in education, and of values education; like Beck, he challenges conventional wisdom in schools (except that he upholds politically correct convention of using 'her' as the pronoun for 'learner'), seeing outdoor education (sic) as valuably complementary. Barnes himself contributes a useful third chapter, in which he traces the prevailing values in outdoor learning (though he too calls it education) to their ideological origins (Plato, Aristotle, Rousseau, Friere, Dewey, Hahn and Buddhism, commercialism and consumerism); strangely, though, given that two leading providers, the YMCA and Lindley, are avowedly Christian organisations and that there are enough Christian OE centres to justify a consortium, he does not mention the deep Judaeo-Christian roots, apart from a passing reference to 'muscular Christianity'.
Like Plunkett's Secular and Spiritual Values - Grounds for Hope in Education (Routledge 1990), his and several other authors' contributions have a distinctly 'Old Labour' flavour, though this is nicely balanced by Dybeck's illuminating case study of Brathay, where the 'altruistic-commercial' tension has been largely resolved. No author acknowledges that capitalism and consumerism have a sound moral and theological base, though one quotes Michael Novak, a theologian who is one of the best exponents of this. Any practitioner who has problems in reconciling 'traditional' and 'modern' outdoor learning values should take a leaf out of Blake's or Adair's book; ie to view concern for wealth creation (pejoratively dubbed 'greedy profit-making') and concern for people as not opposed but orthogonal or overlapping and certainly complementary, if not synergistic.
Deeming links values with spirituality through awe, wonder and the 'inward' journey undertaken in the outdoors, while Priest and Gass link them to ethics, providing ethical guidelines for outdoor leaders (interesting to compare with AfOL's). Allison's chapter challenges us to question all we do and poses so many questions that I was reminded of the ditty:
The centipede was happy quite
Until the toad in fun
Asked 'Pray, which leg goes after which?'
She lay distracted in a ditch
Considering how to run.
Higgins follows with three equally pointed questions: 'Are outdoor educators trained and qualified to teach values?', 'Does society give us a mandate to do so?' and 'What values should outdoor educators have?'. For me, his was the chapter that came nearest to providing a focus for further debate. It is well worth reading, despite two errors of fact, one of which I must challenge: 'In the UK there is no professional body, nor regulatory body dictating or advising on training and qualification'. But National Training Organisations do just this, and there are three relevant to the values and outdoors.
Loynes, as usual, is stimulating; with scant regard for those who value correct spelling, he starts rather abstractly but illuminates the meaning of experiential learning later on. He does not think that outdoor experiences should be used to impart values for fear of indoctrination; however, I believe this is a debatable point.
Humberstone, I am afraid, lost me in abstraction and unfamiliar words; I could not tune into her argument, even on second reading. The chapter explores the relationship between nature, outdoor education, gender and the environment. I learnt that there is more than one feminism and that critical feminism and socio-ecology, in her view, need applying to outdoor education for the sake of social and environmental justice. So be it!
By contrast, Judy Ling Wong, in breezy and optimistic style, presented a readable and seductive case for the promotion of ethnic environmental participation. There is plenty here on which outdoor leaders would do well to reflect. Rea and Slavkin take us back into the recondite, with an excursion into semiotics and an intriguing outdoor task for girls, of digging up horse bones, which helps them to empathise with the deceased horse; the closing message for the competent outdoor professional is to ensure that he or she cognizantly and intentionally implements the group meaning making process and the role of gender specific contributions.
Cooper seeks to encourage values for sustainable living: 'at a time when formal education is doing little to promote values, outdoor education has a vital role to play in creating a new vision for the future'. This is an educative chapter and it really is about values, containing sound advice on how to do it. It is followed by Barnes on Culture, Community and Centre Management, for whom there is also sage advice, but he does not explain what to do when there is (often, he says) 'a strong anti-commercial sub-culture in an outdoor centre'. Dybeck, in the next chapter, helps, but I think the book is otherwise weak on this important values issue. Harris too, writing on changing values from a schools perspective, and grounding his conclusions in research, is percipient and instructive and utters a good rallying cry for outdoor champions.
Julie Rea's chapter on 'The moral meaning making process of the experiential education activity', takes us back to semiosis, but does allude to outdoor activities and warns of the ethical risks of indoctrination when outdoor facilitators use powerful processes to their own ends.
Maddern's 'Pathways to Manhood - Tackling the Problems of Boys Growing up' is timely and full of the wisdom of the ages. He says that education of the heart and cultivation of the soul are all but ignored in schools, hence the crying need for a 'rites of passage' experience. One hopes that David Blunkett's 'summer activities' initiative will make his dream come true: 'We could live together on a healthy, wholesome, humming little planet that would still be beautiful one thousand years from now'.
Lilley is equally inspiring in his description of the implementation of Tim Brighouse's strategy in Birmingham LEA. He quotes freely from a research project with an SEN class of young people at risk, and from many literature sources - useful stuff for anyone who has to make a case for doing something similar. Allison also describes his research into the way that BSES expeditions construct values for the participants; although anecdotal, again he provides useful material for people developing a business case.
McInnes gives a splendid answer to the question in his title: 'Why Outdoor Adventure Educators should use stories in transmitting values to their students'. He has six pages of references to support his convincing case. I had no idea what opportunities I had been missing in not exploiting this pedagogical technique. But what a pity he gives us no examples of which stories transmit which values. Someone should write a sequel.
I had expected more of Hopkins' chapter, which is not very relevant and falls short of the standard set in his book with Putnam; skip it if pressed for time and go on to Woodyer who discusses 'The Value of and the Values within Outdoor Education for those with Disabilities and Special Needs'. It is a reflective essay by a committed and competent practitioner.
The purpose of Haskell's chapter on 'Experiencing the Buzz of Dandelions Playing' eluded me, so I'm not sure who would benefit from reading it - but that may be because I'm unromantic, so don't let me put others off! Drasdo's concluding chapter on 'Has Outdoor Education any Future?' was written in 1972 but is still relevant to the debate today. He will appeal to those who are antagonist to standards, NVQs, uniform OE courses and all that: for him, variety and idiosyncrasy are the spice of life. His messages chime with me: 'We must structure the various outdoor pursuits qualifications to encourage variety and experiment rather than to secure uniformity of approach'; 'Arrange that young people are able to spend a little time alone without any project whatsoever'; 'We must always try to prevent our programmes from turning what should be natural, direct and immediate into a contrived experience'; 'Goodman's insistence that virtually all trades and professions are better learned by apprenticeship than by college courses has urgent relevance for outdoor education - which is showing a tendency to imitate all the absurdities of ordinary teacher training'; and ' this country may be one of the few in the modern world in which humanistic, multi-cultural, politically useless educational experiments can be argued for, could be afforded, and might even be overlooked'.
It's worth getting the book to look for gems like these.
Reviewed by Bertie Everard
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