|4-H Extension Corner|
|We Aren’t in Mayberry Anymore: 4-H Prepares Kids for the World of Work|
Wouldn’t it be great to live and work in Mayberry?
Everybody shops at locally-owned Weaver’s Department Store and Walker’s Drugs. There are successful small businessmen like Floyd the Barber. My fellow government employees, Andy and Barney, do their jobs to the general satisfaction of the taxpayers. Even Gomer and Goober, despite limited abilities, have secure employment down at the filling station. And Aunt Bee is just one step (and one recipe!) away from being a perfect pickle-peddling entrepreneur.
Every day in Mayberry is "Take Your Child to Work Day." Andy is a great role model as a dad and a boss, always wise, kind and optimistic; so it’s easy to confuse the brilliant success of Ron Howard with the imagined success of Opie Taylor.
But do you ever worry about Opie? He’s a bright and inquisitive kid, and, like so many young people of his generation, he will probably have to leave his small, Southern town to seek his education and find a career.
Flash forward half-a-century and transplant Mayberry to Alabama. What would it take for Opie to succeed?
We can think modern Opie is in 4-H, so our approach to hands-on learning is a great first step as he seeks to prepare himself for the world. We would like to hope today’s Mayberry school district will impart brilliant "book-learning" for the technologically-sophisticated, internationally-connected economy he will have to enter. Maybe he will take Advanced Placement classes and pick up Mandarin or Spanish. Isn’t Opie an Apple kind of guy, who certainly connects with his friends on Facebook?
And because of 4-H, Opie has developed extra abilities at decision making, critical thinking, communication, goal setting and problem solving. Those are basic capabilities he will need to be part of a creative, responsible, efficient and organized work force. That (and having fun!) is the heart of the 4-H experience. I’ll bet Opie is president of his 4-H Community Club, so he gets extra points on team-building and communications.
Opie is always curious, so it’s easy to imagine him going into the sciences. He will have to go head-to-head against kids from Beijing and Tokyo. That will be tough since our Opie is from Alabama. Only 29 percent of our "best and brightest"—high school grads who take the ACT college-entry exam—are even ready for college math and just 21 percent prepared for college science. As a state, our kids rank in the bottom 25 percent in virtually all categories of school math and science.
But our Opie is in luck. Alabama 4-H science programs reach one in four Alabama late-elementary kids. That’s given him an edge in thinking about science, engineering and technology careers. Our citizenship and leadership programs will have helped him become an engaged, responsible citizen and successful leader. Through 4-H, he will have learned about the free-enterprise system and entrepreneurship. And even our emphasis on healthy living helped him avoid issues like childhood obesity and substance abuse, serious barriers to future success.
Looking back, we remember why America loved the fantasy of Mayberry. There was no Vietnam War and no racial conflict, and everyone lived happy and contented lives, centered on small-towns and extended families. But there are amazing opportunities for great joy in our modern world. Opie would certainly have a wider range of experiences and have a broader diversity of friends and neighbors. And, as with 50 years ago, we hope 4-H would have helped give him a solid head-start.
It’s true there is no real-world Opie, Andy or Aunt Bee. Malcolm Tucker, the busy businessman whose car breaks down, is probably the most realistic figure to show up on our black-and-white Philco screen. Maybe we could get him to volunteer to teach kids about entrepreneurship. What do you think?
Chuck Hill is a 4-H Youth Development Specialist.