Michael's Monthly Column "Throwing My Loop"

Throwing My Loop…    

By:  Michael Johnson  



      For the past few years, something has puzzled me.  Well, actually a lot of things puzzle me these days, but one in particular stands out…and that’s Ag kids.  Ag kids puzzle me.  Consider this… 
     If you were to ask any psychiatrist or psychologist why we have such problems with young people these days – if we would ask, “Why do young people engage in violence, commit destructive acts, reject authority, join gangs, rob, steal, and vandalize and do all sorts of bad things?” Their answer would be something like, “Well, it’s because of their adolescent culture and ‘peer pressure,’ the need to belong and feel accepted by those around them.  This powerful force overrides parental authority and what we typically consider good behavior.” All that sounds good - but I’m puzzled.
     While it’s true we do have problems with youth, including Anglo, Hispanic, and African-American, have you ever noticed we seem to have less when those kids are Ag kids – no matter whether they are Anglo, Hispanic, or African-American?  If you go to a rodeo, roping, barrel racing, or mutton busting, have you noticed most, if not all, of the kids (Anglo, Hispanic, African-American) will have their shirt-tail tucked, make eye-contact, say sir and ma’am, and are remarkably well-mannered?  Why is that?  How come “peer-pressure” doesn’t make Ag kids do all sorts of wacky things?
     I’m not naïve enough to think that all Ag kids are perfect.  They’re not – any more than all brain surgeons, all certified public accountants, or all bankers are perfect.  But it does seem there are an inordinate number of really good young people involved in what we might label “Western culture.”  I have asked several of my friends why this is so…
     “It’s because of their parents,” says Bubba.  “Ag kids know if they cross the line, their daddy will hit’em with a board!”  Then Bubba always tells the story about when he got a whipping at school, he got one when he came home…his daddy beat him with a sledgehammer or something, and that’s what made him the man he is today.  (The instrument of torture changes each time Bubba tells the tale.)
     A schoolteacher friend has a different explanation.  “It’s because kids in Ag have animals,” she said.  “They have to feed, learn about, and care for something other than themselves.  They are required to be responsible.  They’re too busy to be bored.”  I like that.  Sounds good.  But does that mean we can just give all the bad kids an animal to feed, and our worries are over?
     I constantly hear how bad kids are today.  If you are one of those who thinks they are, make a quick trip to the campuses of Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Univ. of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Murray State in Kentucky, or the FFA Leadership Academy in Kentucky, and a host of others, and you will change your tune. 
     Another explanation for this positive behavior of young people may well be Ag Education.  Teachers in the field of Agriculture still require young people to make presentations, behave accordingly in public, meet and deal with others, and simply strongly encourage students to be good human beings.  May sound corny, but if you are all about motherhood, apple pie, and America, you are on the right track.
     Most of all, have you ever seen an engineering professor, psychology professor, or English teacher with a swarm of kids following behind?  If you go to any academic conference, you rarely find students – especially young ones.  But go to any Ag event and the teachers can’t seem to leave home without at least thirty kids in the van.  And once there, the kids do everything that needs to be done and they do it well.  Nothing builds self-esteem and feelings of accomplishment like being assigned something important to do.  Ag teachers do that for their students.  Every other discipline could take a lesson from them.  Most Ag teachers care deeply about their students doing well in the classroom…and in life.
     When I first began traveling years ago, I dreaded performing before students.  Because like everyone else, I “knew” students were really just armed gangsters passing themselves off as school kids.  My first engagement was truly a surprise.  The kids were wonderful.  I assumed that was just luck and the “bad guys” were just around the corner.  Almost twenty years and 400 schools later, I have yet to find the bad guys.  From Boston to Florida, from Montana and California to Texas and New Mexico, students are hungry for guidance, leadership, and encouragement, and most appreciative that someone would take the time to talk to them.
     I’m puzzled about Ag kids.  I know that caring parents do play a vital role, and that the care and feeding of animals does in fact shape the lives of those young people in a positive fashion.  Yet there is something more.  Perhaps these students are making an internal decision to just be good people.  Unlike some of my friends, I feel optimistic about America’s tomorrow.  After twenty years of being around Ag kids, they have kept me young, brightened my days, and most of all…
Ag kids have given me hope.


Michael heading for the great Sonny Gould

Michael & Blue

Healing Shine

The Rowdy Cow Dog

Please stop
and sign our Guestbook

Send Michael
an Email

Michael Johnson Books
1172 CR 4122  Campbell, Texas 75422  (903) 862-2082

Copyright © 2003 Michael Johnson Books. All rights reserved.
webmaster pswope@candw-webmasters.com