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APPENDIX BAgricultural Education · · - 1n America Agriculture was first taught for- mally in the United States in Georgia in 1733. There, colonists were trying to learn native methods of cultivation and identify the crops and techniques best suited to their new home. In 1734, the Salzburger fam- ily established what was probably the first specialized school of agri- culture-an orphans' school in Ebenezer, Georgia, where children were taught to farm successfully (Moore, 1987~. In the first half of the nineteenth century, some schools offered in- struction in agriculture. But as was true for most practical skills, ag- riculture was taught principally by parents, who passed along to their children the skills and knowledge they needed to take over the family farm or manage their own farm. The passage of the Morrill Act in 1862 set the stage for more formal agricultural education. This act reflected the importance that policy- makers placed on agriculture. It provided for the support and mainte- nance of state colleges where citizens could be taught agricultural and mechanical arts (Tenney, 1977~. Early public support for agricultural education varied in format. In 1862, Massachusetts became the first state to enact legislation encour- aging agricultural instruction, while Tennessee became the first to re- quire it in 1891. Connecticut was the first state to provide funds for state schools of agriculture in 1881, followed by Rhode Island in 1888 and New Hampshire in 1895. Alabama provided funds for regional schools of agriculture in 1897. In 1901, Wisconsin became the first state to provide funds for county agricultural high schools or independent 54
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APPENDIX B 55 agricultural schools. And it was Virginia, in 1908, that first funded agricultural departments in public schools (Warmbrod, 19621. Throughout these years the campaign for agricultural instruction was local and rural. The efforts of the Grange in the 1860s represented the first organized, political attempt to create what is known today as agricultural literacy (Cremin, 19611. Agricultural education in the nineteenth century differed signifi- cantly from other occupational education in content and approach. An emphasis on science characterized most programs. Rural educators viewed instruction in science and nature as a way to make public edu- cation relevant to rural life. The high school curriculum in many states included agronomy, lab- oratory and field work, rural engineering, and farm mechanics (Crosby, 19121. These early programs served two purposes: one related to the out-migration of youth to the cities, and the second to the need to pro- vide new skills and learning potential to those children that remained on the farm (Rosenfeld, 19841. The federal government stepped into the picture in 1907, when the U.S. Congress passed the Nelson Amendments to the Morrill Act. These amendments provided the first federal funds to prepare teachers of ag- riculture. In effect, the amendments supplemented states' legislation by providing an institutional base for preparing teachers (Swanson, 19861. During these years, vocational agriculture began to develop the phi- losophy and traditions that characterize it today. Agricultural educa- tion has always been much broader in scope than the occupational pro- grams designed for business and other industries. In 1909 the U.S. Office of Experiment Stations published a paper on high school agri- cultural education, urging that "the standard agricultural courses, whether in ordinary high schools or in special schools, should not be narrowly vocational, but should aim to fit the pupils for life as progres- sive, broadminded, and intelligent men and women, citizens and home- makers, as well as farmers and horticulturalists" (True, 19291. A 1911 analysis by F. W. Howe, an agriculture specialist with the New York Department of Education, describes some of the issues faced by educators in the early years of this century. They recognized that the nation's well-being depended in large part on a flourishing agri- cultural sector. But they were uncertain how instruction about agri- culture vocational or otherwise should be integrated into general education; at what age such instruction should begin; and who should bear the cost (Howe, 19111. These questions remain very much on to- day's agenda.
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56 APPENDIX B THE EARLY GROWTH YEARS A growing number of schools added agriculture to their curricula through the early l900s. In 1900, about 400 high schools offered in- struction in agriculture or its applications to botany, chemistry, or zo- ology. By 1912, 2,000 high schools offered such instruction. In 1915, this number had doubled, and 11 states appropriated funds specifically for agricultural education in high schools. A single teacher in each school was usually responsible for agricultural education. Most of those teachers had been employed to teach science (True, 1929~. By the 1915-1916 school year, 28 secondary schools of agriculture at state agricultural colleges, 124 public normal schools, and 74 special agricultural schools receiving state aid offered agricultural instruc- tion. Four hundred twenty-one high schools under state supervision had vocational agriculture departments; about 2,600 public high schools that were not state funded offered agriculture. Twelve private agricultural secondary schools taught agriculture, as did 149 private secondary schools. In the racially segregated education system of the era, agriculture was also taught at 107 secondary and higher schools for black students (True, 19291. In 1917, Congress further defined the federal role in agricultural ed- ucation with the passage of the Smith-Hughes Act, which included spe- cific provisions for agricultural education. The passage of this act marked the point at which "vocational agriculture" diverged from and largely replaced general agricultural education in the schools. The act established a federally funded vocational education program that in- cluded very specific provisions for agricultural education. Not all edu- cators agreed with the shift toward a more vocational approach, and some schools did not adopt the new vocational agriculture programs. The vocational agriculture programs that developed after the Smith- Hughes Act were intended to prepare young people to be or to work as farmers. The goal was to provide a curriculum more relevant to their needs than the academic programs used in city schools. But the pro- grams did more than prepare farmers; they also helped to spread knowledge throughout farming regions about how and when to use agricultural innovations and which soil and animal husbandry prac- tices might overcome longstanding problems. With a distinctive mission, vocational agriculture developed an equally distinctive approach to instruction. Teachers of vocational ag- riculture sought to engage students in tasks that taught process and content. This was done through a mixture of classroom instruction, work experience, and entrepreneurship. Teachers encouraged students to make independent decisions and take initiative. Programs were de
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APPENDIX B 57 signed so students could see directly how their newly acquired skills and knowledge improved production (Rosenfeld, 19841. Typically, curricula covered a wide range of topics. The new voca- tional agriculture programs were not rural versions of the vocational trade and industrial education programs being established in the cit- ies. Farming was not simply a job, but a way of life. The challenges of farming were as varied as the American landscape, and the hundreds of commodities and products that the landscape yielded. Nor was the farmer an employee who needed education in skills that subsequently would be used under the guidance of management in a structured work environment. Farmers were independent business people and entrepreneurs who made and acted upon many decisions, and then lived with the conse- quences. To make these decisions intelligently, farmers needed to know much more than practical skills, such as plowing and planting. They needed analytical problem-solving skills to decide what to produce; how to use available land, labor, and other resources; and how to overcome adversity. They also needed to understand and apply scientific knowl- edge and experimental methods, financial analyses, and sound busi- ness practices. Agricultural educators strove for three basic goals in their curricula and programs. They tried to be comprehensive in coverage, scientific in method, and practical in impact and focus. One important innova- tion to achieve this complex union of characteristics was the use of "supervised farming," which agricultural educator Rufus W. Stimson pioneered. Stimson first used this approach when he became director of the Smith Agricultural School in Northhampton, Massachusetts, in 1908 (Moore, 19851. The 1917 Smith-Hughes Act incorporated the method into vocational agriculture nationwide. The act contained a provision that "in order to receive the benefits of such appropriation, . . . such schools shall provide for directed or supervised practice in agriculture" (P.L. #64-347J. Another important development was the founding of the Future Farmers of America in 1928. The FFA grew out of the boys' and girls' clubs of the early 1900s and soon became an integral part of high school vocational agriculture for boys. By working closely with business and industry, the FFA provided many rural young people with an opportu- nity for economic, political, and civic leadership. The FFA also pro- vided parents and other members of the community opportunities for involvement in a variety of educational and recreational activities di- rectly linked to local farming and business activities. The growth in the organization closely matched growth in enroll- ment in vocational agriculture programs. The FFA grew from 105
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58 APPENDIX B chapters in 18 states in 1928 to 8,577 chapters in the 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands in 1986 (Tenney, 1977; National FFA Or- ganization, 19864. Approximately 75 percent of students enrolled in vocational agriculture courses belong to the FFA, and approximately 95 percent of vocational agricultural departments sponsor an FFA chapter (see Chapter 3 for further details on vocational agriculture and FFA enrollment trends). After vocational agriculture was incorporated into vocational educa- tion, changes followed quickly (Warmbrod, 1962~. For example, David Snedden, one of the period's leading vocational educators, criticized vocational agriculture for not providing a sufficiently specialized edu- cation (Snedden, 19181. Citing the contemporary corporation as his model, Snedden urged agriculture educators to narrow the breadth of their curricula and teach farmers to rely more on experts for informa- tion and decisions. Despite these pressures to become more like industrial education, vocational agriculture, with its own support system in rural commu- nities and the agricultural industry, retained its distinctive identity among federal vocational education programs. Gradually, however, changing attitudes toward vocational education affected it. College be- came much more accessible, and schools' curricula reflected the need to prepare students for advanced education. College-bound and voca- tional students began following different educational paths. By track- ing college-bound and vocational students after graduation, educators learned more about the types of students who pursued the two paths, and the types of jobs the students took after graduation. As a result, science and academic skills came to be considered preparation for col- lege and assumed a lower priority in vocational agriculture (Rosenfeld, 1984). In 1963, Congress enacted a new vocational education law that re- shaped vocational agriculture and altered its relationship to other vo- cational programs (P.L. #88-2101. Four elements of this law proved particularly significant. First, it aimed federal vocational education funds to meet labor market de- mand and replaced funds earmarked for specific occupational areas with one block grant. The practical results of this were that vocational agriculture had to compete for funds with seven other occupational ar- eas, and labor market projections came to drive state funding alloca- tions. Second, the regulations promulgated under the new law divided vocational agriculture into areas of specialization. Agriculture teach- ers had to classify students by specialized agricultural codes and mea- sure program success by students' employment in specialized areas af- ter graduation. Third, the new law placed greater emphasis on persons with special needs, such as the handicapped or disadvantaged stu
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APPENDIX B 59 dents. Finally, the new law officially broadened the purpose of voca- tional agriculture to include "off-farm" agriculture. At this point, the term supervised farming was changed to the still-current "supervised occupational experience," a term that encompasses a far broader range of activities, including construction, secretarial work, and agricultural research (Crawford and Cooper, 19864. Later changes in federal legislation have placed further emphasis on the special needs of women, members of minority groups, and handi- capped and disadvantaged students. The Carl D. Perkins Act, approved by Congress in 1984, mitigates some of the effects of the 1963 law by expanding the measures of success to include "basic employment com- petencies" instead of employment alone (P.L. #98-524~. These compe- tencies include many of the strengths on which vocational agriculture is based: basic problem-solving skills, entrepreneurial development and attitudes, and practical applications of scientific concepts and experi- mental methods.
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