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Commentary: Why the World Needs More American Farm Boys

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By Gary Truitt

When it comes to toughness, resourcefulness, endurance, flexibility, innovation, and just a down right get it done attitude, two groups come to mind: Navy Seals and farm boys.  Now let me say at the outset, I am using this term in the generic sense. Yes, farm girls have the same qualities as farm boys, but I am not going to spend the rest of this column explaining that or making sure every group and subgroup gets mentioned. If this offends you, stop reading right here, because things will only get worse.

A news story from the UK has filled me with a good deal of fear and trepidation about the future of our world. The staff at Leeds Trinity’s school of journalism have been told to “write in a helpful, warm tones, avoiding officious language and negative instructions.” Lecturers have been told not to use words in capital letters when setting assignments because it might frighten students into failure.  This is just the latest in such mollycoddling moves by academia. Students at Manchester have voted to ban clapping over fears noise could trigger anxiety and suggest using “jazz hands” to show appreciation.

Just two weeks ago I sat in a ballroom with several hundred adults as we honored 42 young people who were receiving scholarships from the Indiana 4-H Foundation for achievements in communications, citizenship, leadership, and a variety of other categories.  Hoosier Ag Today presented the communications scholarship to a very bright, talented, and accomplished young woman from Wabash County. Growing up in a rural area she participated in a number of 4-H livestock projects as well as many community leadership programs — experiences that prepared her to succeed in the real world.  Something tells me she is not the kind of person who would be intimidated by capital letters.

Animal activists are always decrying 4-H animal projects claiming they cause emotional trauma and stress to young people.  Yet, it is just that kind of stress, along with the hard work, discipline, and  responsibility such projects demand, that builds character and prepares them for what life throws at them. This month in Louisville hundreds of young people demonstrated that farm boy attitude by managing a wide array of animals in the North American livestock Exposition.  Many of those critters outweighed their handlers by 1,500 pounds and are also not known for being aware of their human handler’s emotional sensitivity.

The Leeds memo also urged faculty to refrain from using the word don’t. Now, think for a moment, how different would your life be is you were never told don’t? On a farm the word don’t is used quite a bit — like don’t touch the electric fence, don’t go into the pasture where the bull is, or don’t stick your hand in the auger.  With less than 2% of our population involved in agriculture, fewer and fewer people have these kind of life skills.

Now, in case you missed it, the school at the center of this controversy is a JOURNALISM school. What does that say about the kind of media we will have in the future? It is up to us, farm folks. We need to raise up a generation of farm boys who have the kind of fortitude and tenacity to take on the world and not flinch. History is full of examples of how farm boys made a difference in our world.

Judging from the kind of political correctness and temerity that pervades our society today, we need a generation of farm boys and girls who are not afraid to tackle the future head on.