Over the last several months, I pondered what would be the better title for the theme article for this issue of the magazine. I pondered such titles as "Where has Career Education gone?" or "For whom the bell tolls, it tolls for Career Education" or "Those were the good ole days for Career Education." Obviously, these are cliche titles that some of us seasoned educators remember relative to other aspects of life. I realized that all of these could be an appropriate title for what I have written.
It was the best of times when I was teaching about careers in agriculture at the secondary school level in North Carolina in the late '70's. I became certified in career exploration through NC State University. Yes, I was teaching and working toward adding this area to my agricultural teaching certificate. Everyone knows that going to school and teaching school is a very demanding role to play but my strong will to be as effective as I could gave me the strength to continue.
My career education program in the Durham County Schools reinforced my philosophy to help budding teenagers to explore the world of work and to determine those areas that most interest them. Because my students in this career exploration program were 8th graders, I had an enormous task of helping these young minds to value education, agriculture, and being a productive member of society when they grow up. Using the Tarboro Curriculum, I introduced students to careers in cluster areas: Agribusiness and Natural Resources, Environmental, and Marine Science. It was amazing how these students dove into the activities of the different occupational clusters and these students learned and showed appreciation for the jobs studied (Table 1). As you read this, I am sure that you know that my heart was really in the agricultural and environmental clusters.
Obviously, there are many agricultural and environmental occupations that were not covered. However, many of the students involved in the career exploration program signed up for the 91 grade agriculture program. Like many agricultural programs, students learned more in-depth subject matter in the 9th grade.
During my Ph.D. program, I hypothesized that interest was learned (Baggett, 1982). My hypothesis was based upon the work that Donald Super, a psychologist, published in 1976. He theorized that interests are learned and that people do not have innate interest from birth. To make a long story short, my reserach found that students do learn interest in agricultural careers after having been exposed to career information. As part of an experimental design, I used the Vocational Education Production teaching material titled "Careers in Agriculture." Interestingly enough, female students had the highest gain score between the two sexes. Christie (1996) conducted a similar study and made similar conclusions. These two studies reinforce the need to have career education as part of any instructional program in the agricultural sciences.
These are the best of times. If we continue to build career education into the agri-science education curriculum, these are the best of times. I've been there and done that and there are many teachers …