By: Hugh Mooney, Regional Supervisor, California Department of Education
For several months I have told people that I am the most optimistic person on the State Staff. For some reason when I say that many people think I am being disingenuous. Apparently, some think I have a negative attitude. I guess that depends on perception. I view myself as a person with a positive outlook because I can see a clear path to progress. For months I have told people that I believed that a few weeks after the election, regardless of the outcome, that progress would be made to provide opportunities for our students to once again be engaged in learning. That we would be able to begin planning leadership conferences, region meetings and competitions that would allow our members to begin to be involved in activities that caused them to be drawn to agricultural education. Boy, was I disappointed. Unfortunately, our elected leaders lack an understanding of Service Leadership. I still have hope.
We have been told that we will follow the science. It is clear that is not the case. Let me provide an example. In 2003, there was much concern about Mad Cow Disease. There had been several cases in Canada. The USDA restricted the importation of cattle from Canada to the United States. Many feeder cattle were being shipped to USA feedlots at the time. This stopped. Cattle prices were very low in Canada because they had no capacity to feed cattle and a very limited market. The USDA was doing everything possible to keep the disease out of the country. In December of 2003, a dairy cow in Yakima, Washington was identified to have Mad Cow Disease. Immediately, cattle prices in the USA were depressed. In a matter of a few days the USDA was able to trace that cow’s origin to Canada. They knew how it was transported, every farm it spent time at and where and when it was born. Based on the science changes were made related to animal by-products being fed to cattle. There were a total of four cases of Mad Cow Disease reported globally in 2017.
Compare the science used to control an outbreak of Mad Cow Disease to the use of science to create restrictions to control COVID-19. We can’t eat inside a restaurant that has high ceilings and air circulation, but we can eat outside the restaurant in a tent with no circulation. We are allowed to attend a protest with no restrictions on the number of people who participate, but we can’t go to church. We close our schools though there is no data that shows schools as a cause of increased cases. In many areas now there is a 10:00 p.m. curfew because apparently the virus is not active until then. With Mad Cow Disease, in merely a few days, they had traced the origin of the cow with the disease found in Washington. With COVID, the President of the United States contracted the disease and we don’t know who he got it from. One must wonder about the science used by our leaders who developed these policies that they believe will keep us safe.
As agricultural educators we must have hope that some day soon decisions will actually be made based on science. Given our leaders past behavior it is a challenge, but we must have hope. Hope that the vaccines will be approved and distributed soon. Hope that therapeutics continue to be developed, approved and distributed. Hope that decisions are made based on actual science. Hope that human interaction, which has always been the difference maker in education, is allowed.
While you are “virtually” teaching, ask your students if they want to go to school. Imagine having your class full of students who love going to school. Students who appreciate how hard you tried to keep “virtual” learning interesting. Students who truly are excited to be in school. That is why we must have hope. Hope that we can make project visits. Hope that we can have planning meetings with our officers. Hope that we can work with students to prepare for CDE’s and LDE’s. Hope that we can attend a leadership conference with our students. Hope that we have an FFA Officer Retreat. Hope that our students once again experience hands-on learning. Hope that our students can show at the county fair. Hope that we can attend a State FFA Conference. Hope that this fall we can make the trip to Indy to attend the National FFA Convention. Hope that we have a CATA Conference.
We all get to make a choice. We can either stay in our home on Zoom or we can have hope. I choose HOPE!
For more information about the California Agricultural Teachers’ Association, visit http://calagteachers.org/