EDUCATED FOOLS, IVORY TOWER ARROGANCE - 4-H Rituals Have Been Trashed

(03/31/2002)

By Bob Weaver

4-H made a great difference in my life, the working on projects and the standing up before my little group that met up and down the West Fork in the 1950's. Several years ago, while speaking before a large number of people, I paused at the beginning of my little talk to express gratitude to 4-H, most of my public speaking jitters having been removed.

It is with anger and disgust I have followed the bureaucratic removal of Native American rituals from the 4-H program, which during my time were delivered with utmost respect. The WVU Extension Service (SEE 4-H stories in Hur Herald) has with ivory tower arrogance decided it is an abuse of Native American culture, based on a single compliant.

My dad used the term "educated fools" to describe such circumstances, but in this case the "right thing to do" or politically correct decision is likely based on what may have been a far-fetched threat of losing $4.5 million from the USDA.

If the concern was of a spiritual nature, it would seem the likes of Dr. Larry Cote and his staff would have turned to the illustrious and profound history of 4-H in West Virginia, or more importantly to the tens of thousands of 4-H'ers who experienced the rewards of the 4-H program. It was in 4-H I learned respect for my Native American brothers and sisters, their hardships, survival skills and spiritual way of life.

Maybe he should have chatted with the 6,000 4-H volunteer leaders, not to forget the 44,000 members.

It is a slap at the most important teaching tools used in the 4-H program, and I believe to the Native American culture from which the best was borrowed to make it all work.

It is a travesty that 4-H parents, members, leaders and alumni have quickly buckled to this decision, described by Dr. Cote as final. The real slam here is not to Native Americans, but to Native West Virginians and one of the most trusted and proven programs for children in America.

The 4-H movement in West Virginia should immediately cancel their relationship with the West Virginia University Extension Service, expand their own foundation, seek funding and continue the course of head, heart, hands and health for generations of children to come.

This would be the "right thing to do."


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