Swan Song

Article excerpt

This is the final issue of The Agricultural Education Magazine to be published during my reign as editor. Previous editors wrote editorials that appeared in each issue of The Magazine. These editorials were interesting and informative. However, during my tenure as editor I chose not to write editorials because I didn't want to use the "bully pulpit" to foist my ideas upon the profession. Also, I wanted to devote as much space as possible for articles from the profession. But since this is my last issue as editor, I have chosen to exercise my editorial prerogative and write an editorial.

The title of this editorial is Swan Song. According to the MerriamWebster dictionary, a swan song is a "farewell appearance or final act or pronouncement." I don't plan on leaving the profession and will be making contributions to future issues of this publication, so this really isn't my swan song. The reason I chose this title is to acknowledge an 1826 book titled Swan Song that was written by Johann Pestalozzi.

Many education experts consider Johann Pestalozzi the father of vocational education. This Swiss educational reformer established an educational model in Switzerland in the late 1700s that gave rise to many of the educational ideas used in schools today. He advocated the teaching of agriculture (and home economics) in schools. He believed students should work with their hands and education should start with the familiar by studying the local community. He thought students should be taught in groups (as opposed to tutoring) and that teaching should be geared to the developmental level of the students. While these ideas and practices are commonplace today, they were not widely accepted when he proposed them.

In the latter part of Pestalozzi's career he was resentful and negative because his educational ideas were not widely accepted and his school had folded because of financial and administrative problems. He thought he was a failure and wrote the book Swan Son to defend his ideas and lament his situation. Pestalozzi's Swan Song was bitter and pessimistic.

My Swan Song is just the opposite of Pestallozzi's. I think agricultural education is in the strongest position it has been in years. Recently I heard an educator state that the 1960 era was the golden age of agricultural education. I disagree. If the 60s were the golden age, then we are in the platinum age today and the future looks even brighter. I feel more positive about the current status of agricultural education and its future than at any time since I started teaching in 1969.

However, there are several issues that must be addressed in order to insure the bright future. We cannot rest upon the accomplishments of the past and coast into the future. We are headed in the right direction but we must be visionary and continue to think outside the box (this may be hard because the recent StrengthFinder work by the Gallup group found agricultural educators to be the weakest in the Thinking area).

Just as Pestalozzi envisioned how education needed to change at the dawning of the 19th century and penned these thoughts in the Swan Song, it is time that agricultural educators envision what needs to change in the 21 st century. If I were to revise the Swan Song for agricultural education today, here are the key points I would make:

1. Agricultural Educators must continue to think globally, but teach locally. While it is commendable to teach about global agriculture and other "cutting age" topics, we can't forget to first meet the needs of the community in which our programs reside. An agriculture program that first teaches what is important in the local community and serves as a resource for the local community will thrive. Pestallozi emphasized that education should start in the community some 200 years ago. In the rush to standardize the curriculum in some states and teach high tech, global content we may have forgotten the importance of maintaining strong community ties. …