AgriCULTURAL History in the Classroom
Williams, Chansi, Alston, Antoine, The Agricultural Education Magazine
A man without history is like a tree without roots. (Marcus Garvey, founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, 1917).
From the First Morrill Act of 1862 to the founding of the Future Farmers of America (FFA) in 1928, historical events have not only shaped current issues in agricultural education, but they also hold the keys to understanding the future of the field. Without any knowledge of the strong history of agricultural education, students would lack access to the documentation of the foundations which were laid to prepare them as leaders in the agriculture industry. One major aspect of this history that is often overlooked or misunderstood is the contribution of various cultures in the development of agriculture, a component that the primary author of this article has termed "AgriCULTURAL" history.
Simply stated "AgriCULTURAL" is a term created to describe the importance of educating all students in an agricultural program about the contributions of ethnic minorities to agriculture. This can be achieved by integrating a multicultural curriculum within the classroom. Tackling issues like cultural diversity in agriculture should be a major concern for educators because barricades still exist between the agricultural industry and minority participation. For the context of this article the focus will be African-American students.
Today, African-Americans comprise a very small percentage of the agricultural workforce in the United States. According to Foster and Henson (1992) the agricultural industry is the foundation for any society. However, in the United States ethnic minorities and women involvement in the field of agriculture is limited. Various demographic estimates indicate that ethnic minority populations are steadily increasing, and more of these students will need to be recruited into agricultural related careers in order to sustain the agricultural industry for the future and to help ensure that the United States remains competitive in the global economy (USDA Fact Book 2000). As agricultural educators, it is important to link relevant facts of the past with present opportunities for the future. Wakefield (2003) indicates that students should have access to documents displaying the role of Blacks in Agriculture and FFA; additionally, they should be given the opportunity to take part in FFA events.
If agricultural teachers do not start to define their roles as educators in more diverse ways and acknowledge the history of Blacks in agriculture, African-American students will continue to miss out on the growing employment opportunities in agriculture due to a lack of awareness and interest in the field. According to Luft (1996), agricultural teachers need training in multicultural education because more than likely, they will utilize their pedagogical skills in classrooms which are comprised of a wide of array of students, often different from the teacher's own racial or ethnic background. The needs of culturally diverse students should be a priority for all agricultural educators (Luft, 1996).
An important aspect in educating agricultural students about cultural diversity lies in creating a warm and inclusive classroom environment. Imagine African-American students sitting in an agriculture class, and never observing any sign that African-American professionals in agriculture exist? Or, even more problematic, imagine a classroom discussion that never acknowledges the contributions of any ethnic groups at all, particularly those of African-Americans? What might be done to reverse these images? One of the first ideas that come to mind is a lesson plan that elaborates on the contributions of African-American agricultural scientist such as George Washington Carver, botanist/crop scientist, Dr. Alfreda Webb, the first AfricanAmerican female veterinarian, and Dr. Frederick D. Patterson, who was the founder of the only black School of Veterinary Medicine in the United States at Tuskegee University. …