It’s not too hard to find cultural observers, management analysts and employment consultants lamenting our current crop of teenagers and young adults. An opinion piece in Psychology Today article suggests that they are “cynical, unaccustomed to hard work and having fragile egos because their childhoods filled with trophies and adulation didn’t prepare them for the cold realities of work.” The wired generation. Generation Y-Bother. The Go-Nowhere Generation. Self-serving. Entitled. Risk-averse.
And it’s pretty obvious to me that these people have never spent any time around 4Hers.
The 4H slogan is “Learning by Doing”, and there are endless opportunities for learning and doing in 4H. And no matter where you go and what you do, so many 4Hers, particularly those that show animals, have similar experiences.
The early mornings, hot afternoons, late evenings. The pouring down rain. The bitter cold. The hundreds of hours spent with an animal. And the disappointments. When you’re dealing with animals, there will always be disappointments.
We have schools to recognize academic talent and athletic prowess. What about other attributes, perhaps even more important? Is there room in our culture for the kid who starts their own business, with their own money? The kid who can fix anything? The kid who can wisely and calmly respond to a crisis?
There’s room in my world for kids like these. In fact, as a 4H parent and a 4H adviser, I’m surrounded by kids like these. Kids who know when to take orders, and when to take charge. Kids who don’t stand idle.
4H isn’t about banners or belt buckles. It’s about expectations. It’s about undiscovered talents. It’s about ambition and curiosity, tempered by often harsh reality. It’s about knowing that every kid has a capability and a contribution. But now I’ve come to believe that most of all, it’s about knowing when we, as adults, need to get out of the way.