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Education must enable young people to affect what they have recognized to be right, despite hardships, despite dangers, despite inner skepticism, despite boredom, and despite mockery from the world.

- Kurt Hahn

Our History and Why it Matters Now

When you imagine world peace, what do you see? Outward Bound Co-founder, Kurt Hahn, saw societies full of informed and motivated individuals willing to do anything to stand up for what they believe is “right.” So what is “right?” Justice and social-correctness can come in many forms, but none of those forms include fascism, deceit, racism, or any type of prejudice. Sadly, all of these have been on the rise in countries across the world in recent years, so we think it’s a perfect time to revisit Outward Bound’s history and reinforce the role we’re playing in shaping the future.

Kurt Hahn

In 1920, Hahn, a German-born Jewish educator, co-founded and served as headmaster of the Schule Schloss Salem, a private boarding school which sought to educate and nurture students to help them become compassionate and responsible members of society. In 1933, as the Nazi regime began rising to power, Hahn became increasingly outspoken in his criticism of Adolph Hitler and his supporters. It was at this time that Hahn publicly called on his students and their families to stand up against the Nazis and pick a side. In doing so, he established the Salem School as an anti-Nazi and anti-fascist institution. This act, as well as Hahn’s personal views and ethnic background landed him in German prison, from where he was later exiled to Britain. There, during the Second World War, Hahn co-founded Outward Bound to help young people develop character and resilience through overcoming challenges and have the confidence to stand up to the threat of fascism and other social injustices. 

Outward Bound’s history is clear: our organization was created as a tool to foster inclusion, diversity, and resilience. Although much has changed over the years, we’re still working for the same cause, and we have no intention of slowing down. In light of recent events and challenges around the world, it’s important to reflect on Outward Bound’s rich history and renew our pledge to cultivate resilience, leadership and compassion in all the communities in which we serve. 

Just like the students and families who bravely stuck with Hahn’s Salem School in the 30s, we have a responsibility now to continue building the future they envisioned. Hahn saw a future without the threat of a fascist takeover, where responsible citizens could live comfortably with one another and achieve their goals at a high capacity. Thanks to our staff, participants and communities, Hahn’s goal is still in sight and progress is made every day. 

Article contributed by Adrian Schaap