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1 Executive Summary and Recommendations 1 he committee's vision of what agricultural education is and should become at the secondary level if a competitive agricultural industry is to survive in this country builds on the programs and approaches of the past, but goes beyond them in scope and content. The committee's findings point to two basic chal- lenges: first, agricultural education must become more than vocational agriculture. Second, major revisions are needed within vocational ag- riculture. In working toward both goals, educators should borrow from the best current programs, while creating new ways to deliver to more students educational opportunities in the agricultural sciences, agri- business, nutrition, and land resource stewardship. AGRICULTURAL LITERACY It is necessary to understand throughout this report the committee's definition of agricultural education, which extends beyond traditional vocational programs. Agriculture is too important a topic to be taught only to the relatively small percentage of students considering careers in agriculture and pursuing vocational agriculture studies. With this in mind, the committee developed the idea of "agricultural literacy" the goal of education about agriculture. The committee envisions that an agriculturally literate person's understanding of the food and fiber system includes its history and current economic, social, and environ- mental significance to all Americans. This definition encompasses some knowledge of food and fiber production, processing, and domestic and international marketing. As a complement to instruction in other 1

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2 UNDERSTANDING AGRICULTURE academic subjects, it also includes enough knowledge of nutrition to make informed personal choices about diet and health. Achieving the goal of agricultural literacy will produce informed cit- izens able to participate in establishing the policies that will support a competitive agricultural industry in this country and abroad. PRINCIPAL FINDINGS Agricultural education in U.S. high schools usually does not extend beyond the offering of a vocational agriculture program. Only a small percentage of students enroll in these programs. Con- sequently, most high school students have limited or no access to vo- cational agriculture or agricultural literacy programs. Minority stu- dents in urban schools have the least access to these programs. PRINCIPAL CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS The focus of agricultural education must change This conclusion is a reflection of the reality within agriculture and of changes within society. Agricultural education is more than voca- tional agriculture. Beginning in kindergarten and continuing through twelfth grackle, all students should receive some systematic instruction about agriculture. Much of this instruction could be incorporated into existing courses rather than taught in separate courses. VOCATIONAL AGRICULTURE Vocational agriculture is education in agriculture. It has a long his- of three nart. tory in American education. Most programs consist classroom and laboratory instruction, supervised occupational experi- ences (SOEs), and membership in the National FFA (Future Farmers of America) Organization. A broader definition of vocational agricul- ture is needed because technological and structural changes in agri- cultural industries have enlarged the scope and number of careers. In the committee's view, vocational agriculture should give students the skills needed to enter and advance in careers such as farm production; agribusiness management and marketing; agricultural research

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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS 3 and engineering; food science, processing, and retailing; banking; ed- ucation; landscape architecture; urban planning; and other fields. Change within agriculture is an ongoing process that will affect ag- ricultural businesses and institutions. They must adapt to continue serving agriculture. The institution of vocational agriculture is no exception. PRINCIPAL FINDINGS For many years, vocational agriculture programs have had a positive effect on tens of thousands of people: students, their families, and residents of local communities. Through vocational agriculture programs, students have learned practical skills, developed self-confidence, and acquired leadership abilities. White males have mainly made up enrollment in vocational agriculture programs in the past and continue to do so. During the past decade, the enrollment of females has increased. Fe- male enrollment has concentrated in a limited number of specialized vocational agriculture programs. Enrollment of minorities in voca- tional agriculture programs is disproportionately low. Much of the focus and content of many vocational agricul- ture programs is outdated. Production agriculture-farming still dominates most programs, al- though it no longer represents a major proportion of the jobs in the total agricultural industry. Traditional vocational agriculture pro- grams and the students' organization, the FFA, are not meeting the broader needs for agricultural education generated by changes in the food and fiber industries and society as a whole. SOE programs often do not reflect the broad range of opportunities in today's agricultural industry. Vocational agriculture programs are uneven in quality. Excellent programs need to be sustained and built upon. Some pro- grams warrant in-depth study and replication as model programs. Those that do not meet educational needs should be upgraded, consol- idated, or, as a last resort, phased out. Vocational agriculture programs in secondary schools are currently conducted as part of the federal and state systems of vocational education.

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4 UNDERSTANDING AGRICULTURE Restrictions on the use of federal and state funds for vocational edu- cation apply to vocational agriculture programs. The federal and state system of vocational education requires that instruction in agriculture in secondary schools be designed primarily, if not exclusively, for voca- tional purposes. These systems tend to preserve the status quo. PRINCIPAL CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS The success of reform in vocational agriculture programs re- lies on innovative programmatic leadership at the state and na- tional levels. Major leadership challenges include developing the curriculum, re- vising the focus and content of FFA programs and activities, evaluat- ing programs, educating teachers, assuring adequate resources, and creating a more flexible and adaptive legislative and budgetary framework. Major revisions are needed within vocational agriculture. The relevance and scope of the curriculum, SOEs, and the FFA must be broadened. Vocational agriculture programs must be upgraded to prepare students more effectively for the study of agriculture in post- secondary schools and colleges and for current and future career oppor- tunities in agricultural sciences, agribusinesses, marketing, manage- ment, and food production and processing. The quality of vocational agriculture programs must be en- hanced, in some cases substantially. All programs including those now clearly superior in terms of edu- cational achievements-should be made more accessible and relevant. Realistic steps must be taken to identify weak programs and improve them, merge them with other programs, or, as a last resort, phase them out. The establishment of specialized magnet high schools for the agricultural sciences in major urban and suburban areas should be encouraged. These high schools should offer the full range of academic courses in addition to courses in the agricultural sciences, nutrition, horticulture, natural resources and the environment, agribusiness marketing and management, and other related agricultural subjects.

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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS 5 Teachers should seek out and share high-quality computer software and instructional materials and media for agricultural management and planning and for instructional application. The use of high-technology instructional media aids student achieve- ment by enhancing the instructional process. As a goal, all students enrolled in vocational agriculture pro- grams should participate in worthwhile SOEs. In addition to employment-related and entrepreneurial SOEs, stu- dents should acquire supervised experience in land laboratories, agri- cultural mechanics laboratories, greenhouses, nurseries, and other fa- cilities provided by schools. The primary emphasis of supervised experiences in which students participate should be on learning, with appreciation for earning. Students should not be penalized in their pro- gram standing or FFA activities if a suitable high-quality SOE is some- times unavailable, however. The FFA should change its name and revise its symbols, rit- uals, contests, awards, and requirements for membership con- sistent with all applicable federal and state laws to reflect a con- temporary image of agriculture and a broadened and improved agricultural education program. EDUCATION ABOUT AND IN AGRICULTURE CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS The following conclusions and recommendations apply to agricul- tural literacy and vocational agriculture. Programmatic and budgetary policy changes are needed at both state and federal levels if comprehensive programs of edu- cation in and about agriculture are to be implemented. The comprehensive program of education in and about agriculture that the committee recommends will be impossible to bring about if the program is undertaken solely within the existing policies of the federal and state system of vocational education. The committee does not expect that agricultural literacy initiatives, including programs to foster career exploration and teaching science through agriculture, will emerge solely from the vocational segment of agricultural education. If they do, their acceptability to students and school system leaders is likely to be limited.

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6 UNDERSTANDING AGRICULTURE Financial support and technical resources must be directed toward new initiatives if progress is to be made in achieving agricultural lit- eracy goals or reforming vocational agriculture programs. The com- mittee emphasizes that it does not advocate or see the need for the redirection of funds from viable vocational agriculture programs to the support of agricultural literacy efforts. The redirection of funds may be permitted from vocational agriculture programs that are undersub- scribed, however. Agricultural literacy initiatives warrant public sup- port as a part of the educational reform movement agenda. States should establish commissions, preferably appointed by the governor and the chief state school officer, to identify needs and strategies for implementing agricultural literacy pro- grams and reforming vocational agriculture programs. Not only teachers and other specialists in agricultural edu- cation, but also legislators, school superintendents and board members, principals, and science teachers should provide lead- ership in the initiation of agricultural literacy efforts and the reformation of vocational agriculture. State departments of education and officials in leadership positions should acknowledge that leadership for all agricultural education pro- grams need not be under the aegis of vocational agriculture. The subject matter of instruction about agriculture and in- struction in agriculture must be broadened. The dominance of production agriculture in the curriculum must give way to a much broader agenda, including the utilization of agricul- tural commodities, agribusiness marketing and management in a global economy, public policy, environmental and resource manage- ment, nutrition, and health. Exemplary programs in local schools that have broadened the curriculum and improved the attractiveness of agricultural education programs should be identified, studied, and emulated. State departments of education, the U.S. Departments of Agricul- ture and Education, national professional organizations in agricul- tural education, and the National Council for Vocational and Technical Education in Agriculture should take leading roles in compiling and disseminating information about successful efforts to develop new pro- grams and strengthen existing ones. Teacher preparation and in-service education programs must be revised and expanded to develop more competent teach

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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS 7 ers and other professional personnel to staff, administer, and supervise educational programs in and about agriculture. Colleges of agriculture, particularly in land-grant universities, should become more involved in teacher preparation and in-service ed- ucation programs, curriculum reform, and the development of instruc- tional materials and media. The committee recommends that land- grant universities establish a center for curriculum design and person- nel development to accomplish these purposes. The committee further recommends that the U.S. Department of Agriculture encourage the achievement of this goal by providing challenge grants to universities initiating new linkages between departments in colleges of agriculture and agricultural education in the public schools.