Academic journal article The Agricultural Education Magazine

What Can We Learn from Agricultural Education before the Smith-Hughes Act?

Academic journal article The Agricultural Education Magazine

What Can We Learn from Agricultural Education before the Smith-Hughes Act?

Article excerpt

School-based agricultural curricula are currently being pushed in multiple directions. Programs have been turning towards various guiding principles, including career training, agri-science, and post-secondary preparation as well as agricultural literacy. The pressure to teach agriculture from any of these directions (or worse, from no direction at all) comes from a variety of influences. The work of school-based agricultural education is guided at the federal and state levels by the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. The focus of this legislation is career training and post-secondary preparation. However, local programs are also guided by initiatives within their states, communities, and from agricultural industry. For instance, the CASE (Curriculum for Agricultural Science Education) initiative has become popular with some programs because of either local or state influences. Yet, CASE is not universally popular because not all states believe that agri-science is the best principle of school-based agricultural education. The cumulative effect of these pressures is a patchwork of agricultural curriculum and possible confusion for teachers as they try to effectively deliver agriculture programming.

While our current context (era of accountability and continued urbanization of America) is unique in the history of school-based agricultural education, the situation of teachers having a variety of differing guiding principles to choose from is not new. Agricultural teachers before 1917 were in much the same situation. Before 1917, school-based agricultural education curriculum was not guided by federal legislation. Agriculture teachers were free to choose their own principles to guide their program. This was also an era of tremendous growth for school-based agricultural education programs as thousands of local communities decided to include agriculture as a part of their school curriculum. The focus of the agriculture curriculum varied greatly from school to school.

So what were some of the guiding principles of school-based agricultural education before 1917? We do not have many records of what agriculture teachers taught in those days; however, if we turn to the agriculture textbooks available at the turn of the 20th century, we see a variety of principles that are still being taught today such as problem solving, vocational value of agriculture, and experiential principles in agricultural education. Other published principles are not normally found in textbooks today, such as the importance of having moral education, universal peace, aesthetics, and liberal education in agricultural education.

For example, many of the textbooks talk about how school-based agricultural education can be utilized to develop citizenship skills in youth. The school and agriculture program represented a crucial agent of change in the local community. The community could be built-up through developing the leadership skills of students, improving of quality of life in a community, connecting with community stakeholders, developing community infrastructure, and contributing to universal peace. Many of these ideas are linked to the time period of rural communities and agriculture before 1917, including the role of the progressive era, Country Life Movement, and outbreak of World War One (Martin & Knobloch, 2005). …

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