By Leonard Lauriault: QCS Religion Columnist
The accomplishments of our school’s athletic teams are readily acknowledged, with trophies finding a place of honor in the halls of academia. This is good because individual and team sports help develop good citizenship including community involvement and service to others. Athleticism also should be supported as a means of developing positive moral character and beyond that, godliness (2 Timothy 4: 8).
Other methods that develop these characteristics are often much less celebrated. Our school also has academic teams that participate in district, state, and national competition, some of which quietly took place during the March Madness of high school and college basketball. One group of academic competitors I’m slightly familiar with is the FFA judging teams (that’s Future Farmers of America), which are generally associated with vocational agriculture education programs.
Educational programs such as vocational agriculture combine all the tools of the three R’s and science. Often, those who struggle with these basics can identify with them through vocational applications, instilling greater interest that leads to learning.
Vocational education also puts our young people ahead of the game, preparing them to wisely make critical life choices. Some might not recognize the value of learning the difference between plants like Flowering Stalk and Creeping Charlie. But, it teaches young people to discern between things that stand upright and things that creep along the ground (Job 1: 1; Genesis 3: 14). Judging between the best of livestock, fruits, or vegetables encourages our youth to choose the “best” rather than settle for “better” when they make important decisions for themselves and the future of our community and country. Additionally, they might learn that “good” is sometimes as superlative as one can be or do (Matthew 19: 16, 17; 1 Timothy 2: 1-3).
Young people in FFA study and prepare themselves to compete with teams from other schools on a vast range of topics. Schools aren’t categorized by size, as they are in athletics. And there are no defensive strategies a team can use to keep their opponents from doing their best. Each young person competes unaided by other team members. Personal scores are then tallied to compose a team score teaching members that team success is dependent on individual participation and performance.
An April 12 Quay County Sun article (accompanied by a picture) reported that during Spring Break (the same weekend as the NCAA Final Four) Tucumcari’s FFA Horticulture/Produce and Nursery/Landscape Teams won the competition at the New Mexico State FFA Convention. Additionally, the coaches of our FFA judging teams, Doug and Glenda Sours, received the prestigious coaches of the year award.
All of Tucumcari’s FFA teams did well at the state convention, thereby winning the horticulture sweepstakes. This allows them to attend the national FFA convention this October in Indianapolis when our First Place teams will compete for National Titles (truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity). Non-competing attendees will participate in workshops to hone their skills. As with most extracurricular activities, FFA travel and activities cannot be fully funded by the school. Fundraising is possible within school guidelines. So, supporting this and other FFA trips, as you have for many other such events, would be a great community project.
Let’s also acknowledge academic competition as much as we do athletic success. Academic achievement awards, like those earned by our FFA Judging teams and coaches, should be at least as prominently displayed as athletic trophies in our halls of academia. After all, isn’t that the primary function of our school system?
Parents have the greatest responsibility in educating their children. Ephesians 6: 1-4 describes the best character-building and citizenship training young people could ever receive. If parents took the lead in this aspect of their children’s education, increased self-esteem as well as respect for others and authority would result, as would lower rates of drug and alcohol abuse and teen pregnancy (because only THE responsible sex would be practiced — that done ONLY within responsible marriage, Hebrews 13: 4). Also, the schools could concentrate on their original purpose of developing responsible, productive citizens by teaching the three R’s and science and encouraging lifetime success through academic competition. (Did you know that some agriculture classes can qualify for the science curriculum if the agriculture teacher is certified to teach science? Local help is available to gain that certification.)
By the way, it’s the future farmers of America who will feed the world (including you). Shouldn’t preparing them for that responsibility be a public priority? Shouldn’t we give a ‘boost’ to educational extracurricular activities as is done for athletics?
Leonard Lauriault is a member of the church of Christ