Recently, CNN shared this link. (NOTE: This blog post is in response to the first comment featured in the article. I recognize that the other portions of the article praise 4-H.) The gist of the article is that children who are involved in 4-H are desensitized to the killing of animals, without much other educational value. Apparently, 4-H is a scourge upon the Earth and a source of concern for urbanites who have a conditional dislike for food. (Of course, those who support 4-H would say that it prepares children for the important, and sometimes unpleasant, task of producing food for the other 98% of the population. But hey, what do they know?)
As a former 4-H member, I can see why it would be considered wrong. I mean, I was completely submersed in the horrors of 4-H. I spent years in deep among this corrupt organization. I was a community and county officer, and participated in livestock shows and auctions. If anyone knows the dangers of exposing children to 4-H, it’s me. I mean, listen to their slogan, it just positively reeks of evil: “I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service, and my health to better living; for my club, my community, my country, and my world…and to make the best better!”
And if having a catchy slogan wasn’t bad enough, 4-H actually gives children real-world, hands on experience in areas pertaining to their careers. How dare an organization take of the responsibility of providing children with skills and confidence to make their lives more productive? It’s blasphemy. As if all of that wasn’t enough to constitute 4-H as being “wrong,” I’ll write you a list. A list of all the ways that 4-H single-handedly ruined my life.
- I actually had to learn how to be organized. Organized. Can you believe that? Who would expect that out of a child? And why would I possibly want that life skill in my repertoire?
- I had to talk in front of people. As if expecting a child to be well-spoken, articulate, and confident wasn’t enough…it actually played a role in conquering my stutter. And that speech impediment was a part of me, how dare 4-H help me overcome a quality that I should have been proud of!
- I was expected to get up early during special times of the year. You see, I was blindly-devoted enough to 4-H to help run the food kiosk during the county fair. (I thought I was helping kids, rather than dooming them to a barbaric existence.) During the fair, I was up at 4 or so every morning, to help make sure that the food stand was in proper condition. Then I had to work breakfast. And occasionally had to come back for the supper shift.
- I received college scholarships from 4-H directly, and received more because of my involvement. Apparently, 4-H wanted me to become educated, to better-equip me for spreading my heathenish views on agriculture. And that must mean that the organizations and companies who funded the other scholarships I received (based on community service) are either hoodwinked or evil!
- 4-H sets high standards of care for the animals that are exhibited in its shows. It gave participants a good, solid motivation for practicing the best animal care that they could. It also encouraged the young agriculturalists to educate themselves more on things like animal and crop genetics.
- 4-H not only allowed me to pursue my agricultural interests, but also encouraged my artistic development as well. You see, 4-H isn’t just a “farming” organization. The idea is to give kids a productive (and somewhat competitive) outlet for their interests. In addition to raising rabbits for 4-H shows, I also competed in painting, drawing, and computer-generated art, as well as cooking and woodworking. I won state titles in computer-generated art through 4-H, and because of that I knew I wanted to work in digital arts and communication as an adult. 4-H helped me pick my college, major, and career.
- Because of 4-H, I have a deeper appreciation for the value of individualism. Because 4-H is a very mixed group, you have kids from both urban and rural backgrounds, farmers and non-farmers alike. Not everyone that I knew in 4-H was “like me,” they didn’t all wear boots and spend their weekends shoveling poop or riding in tractors. It gave me a healthy, companionable atmosphere in which to interact with people who had different views and interests than my own.
- I learned how to properly run a (small) business. You see, in order to compete in 4-H agricultural contests (at least in Illinois), you have to have business records that are audited at the end of the 4-H year. If your records are incorrect or poorly kept, you miss out on the chance to win awards and prizes. It was a simple incentive to encourage proper book keeping, financial responsibility, and husbandry practices in young producers.
- I have always had self-esteem issues, and still do to this day. My work and successes in 4-H were vital in helping me build up my confidence. Without the personal milestones I reached because of 4-H, I might not have been able to adapt to college or develop a strong foundation to my ever-evolving career. (And I should note, this confidence wasn’t built through the modern-day “everyone’s a winner” mentality. It was built through hard work, earned achievements, and long hours.)
- Someone has to be equipped for the difficult, daunting, and sometimes-unpleasant task of producing agricultural goods for our country (and the rest of the world). Raising animals for food is fulfilling, but definitely has its hard spots. 4-H allows children to learn about these necessities and processes; it does not desensitize them to it all. If anything, it fosters a deeper understanding and appreciation for the hard work, care, and attention to detail that it takes to raise animals for sustenance.
4-H is not perfect, and in many ways it is incredibly misunderstood. However, to claim that the only major impact it has is the creation of barbaric, kill-happy citizens is ludicrous. I would not be who I am today without 4-H. I’m not perfect, and in many ways I am misunderstood. Yet, looking at myself and everything I have survived and achieved in my 21 years, I’m doing pretty alright. I’m happy with the person I’ve become with time, and 4-H is a major piece of that puzzle.
Were you a part of 4-H? How did 4-H impact you? What valuable experiences and lessons did you gain along the way? How did it shape you as a person? Please share your 4-H stories! This is a great opening for much-needed dialogue surrounding a valuable program. (This program is vital but in many states, such as Illinois, it is in jeopardy.)
If you, or anyone you know, have any questions about 4-H and other agricultural youth organizations, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org – I am a strong advocate of youth involvement of any kind, whether it be in 4-H, FFA, scouts, or any other type of club.