Ethical Adventures: Can We Justify Overseas Youth Expeditions in the Name of Education?

Article excerpt

Abstract

In the UK an increasing number of young people go on overseas expeditions which vary in length from one week to three months. In recent years a number of accidents and fatalities have led to media coverage questioning the educational value of such experiences. This paper examines some of the issues arising from increased participation in such expeditions. A brief contextualisation is offered prior to raising a number of questions and issues regarding ethical issues associated with overseas youth expeditions within an educational context. These include issues associated with acclimatisation to high altitude, cultural sensitivity, pedagogy, finances, and drugs. The second part of the paper considers certification and accreditation of youth expeditions in light of these ethical issues and examines some of the complex issues associated with the multidimensional nature of both expeditions and any such accreditation or screening process. The paper concludes that a forum to address ethical issues raised demonstrates some of the traits of becoming a profession and could help to contribute to either a sound justification of practice or changing practice to be justifiable.

"...an intelligent society recognises that the benefit (ana fun) that children gain from outdoor encounters outweighs the risks. "

Furedi (2001: 48)

In the UK an increasing number of young people go on overseas expeditions which, vary in length from one week to three months. Some involve a "gap" year, usually between school and university. This article examines some of the issues arising from increased participation in such expeditions.

Observations are anecdotal but initial responses to these issues suggest that they may be applicable to a number of outdoor providers world-wide. Comments and discussions are welcome.

Some have suggested that we live in a postmodern society, some prefer the term "high modernity", regardless of preference few could disagree that the nature of the societies and communities in which many people live has changed (Edwards, 1994). International travel is increasingly accessible to more people and as a result a globalisation of outdoor education is taking place. In some respects this is positive and has led to sharing of ideas, perspectives and diversification of outdoor education philosophy and provision. Some of the rich discussions as well as experiences to come from this will potentially shape future directions of outdoor education. The increase in international travel opportunities has led, in the UK, and some other countries, to youth expedition providers springing up to meet the new found trend of exploration and adventure overseas. While there has been a long tradition of youth exploration in the UK (since 1932 when the British Schools Exploring Society was founded) the last twenty years has seen a boom of commercial and "non-for-profit" organisations. These providers vary in their claims, objectives and areas of operation. From the Arctic to the Antarctic, Mongolia to Chile-few countries in the world have not been "youth expeditioned". Before going any further a note on terminology is necessary. Outdoor education is a phrase used purposefully as most of these overseas youth expedition organisations state overtly educational objectives. In addition to these organisations there are a number of outdoor recreation providers and such like, to whom these issues are also applicable. This paper concentrates on outdoor education-it seems axiomatic that organisations promoting themselves as educational should be able to articulate and provide evidence of the educational processes and outcomes the young people are engaged in. The subject of educational accountability is one for further exploration.

The summer of 2001 was notable for press coverage of fatalities during such expeditions. Seventeen year-old Amy Ransom was a member of a World Challenge expedition to Vietnam involving trekking. …