The “roots” of the Atlantic Challenge movement come from the teachings of Kurt Hahn (1886-1974), one of the twentieth century’s greatest educators. Hahn firmly believed in the value of experiential education and that self discovery comes through challenge. David Byatt, Atlantic Challenge International Trustee from the UK, had the good fortune to be educated by Hahn in the late 40’s, and to teach at Hahn’s school, Gordonstoun, for over twenty years. David has this to say about Kurt Hahn:

“In this sheltered age when we in the Western world live life shielded from the challenges of nature, we do not develop our talents for dealing with situations to the degree that our fore-fathers did unless we are extremely fortunate in our upbringing. Most of the western population lives in towns and cities and all the basic needs of life are provided without effort, thus removing the challenge of living. Young people seek a challenge in life and if it is not at hand, they go out and seek it, often with damaging consequences to themselves or to others.

Hahn felt that the way to satisfy this desire for a challenge and to meet it in a harmless and formative way was to send young people out into the hills and onto the sea so that they might be challenged by the forces of nature and learn to meet with them and treat them with respect. In so doing they would learn about themselves and their fellows at the same time.

Although Hahn himself was not a recreational sailor, he understood what experience at sea could do for those who ventured forth, and who are challenged and developed as a result.He used to describe the Moray Firth, where he sent boys sailing from Gordonstoun, as his best schoolmaster, because it was unforgiving of mistakes.”

While a close friend of scholarship, Hahn recognized the loss of vitality of youth in our so information-bound era and called for “a sterner exercise of the thinking faculty.” “It is a sin of the soul to coerce the young into opinions,” he said, “nonetheless I consider it culpable neglect not to impel every youth into life-giving experiences.”