Wes Crawford

Would You Like Fries With That State Degree Pin?

Blog Post created by Wes Crawford on Feb 7, 2016

Disclaimer: What follows below is one-side of a provocative coin:  Wes and Matt have taken a topic and then divvied up the ‘Point’ side and the ‘Counter-Point’ side.  Neither article necessarily reflects the personal or professional opinions of either Wes Crawford or Matthew Eddy.  Rather, the goal is to generate some professional dialog about what a day looks like in the 21st Century to be an Agriculture Educator. Catch Matt’s flip side here.



Topic: Is Working at McDonalds an SAE project?



And why wouldn’t it be?


How could you think it should be?


Odds are good you fall in one of the two camps above.  For as obvious at it would seem to you, I have no doubt you could quickly find an opponent who is as equally resolute.


Of course, for 11 months of the year, this hardly matters.  We quietly go about our mild business of lesson plans, CDEs, banquets, conferences, meetings, accommodations, state reports, grants, professional development, shop repairs, bus trainings, webinars, and such.  And then degree season hits.


Granted, as we have already taught our students how to keep proper records, and we stressed the importance of regularly documenting the activities associated with their Supervised Agricultural Experiences, it is such a simple thing to generate a State Degree application and hit print, and it’s done.  Right?


I’ll let you wipe the tears (from laughter...or crushing realization) before continuing.


Rather,it is highly likely the ol’ Ag Experience Tracker (AET) servers require twice the electricity during degree/proficiency season than the rest of the year combined, as students scramble to enter all the cattle feed, fair hours, and long-forgotten speaking CDEs that should have been religiously recorded along the way, but somehow the teenage mind overlooked.  That Google Map of active chapters lights up like a Griswold Christmas tree during the month of December.


But I bet those are just my students. Surely not yours.


So at any rate the end of 2015 was like the end of 2014 and the end of 2013, with some gentle/not-so-gentle prodding from their advisor drove my students to submit a slew of delinquent diary entries and get those recordbooks shipshape and crank out their FFA State Degree applications.  Then it’s off to the state degree application review with the fellow advisors in the district.  And then the question comes up:


“We’re going to count working at McDonald’s as an SAE for State Degree?”


Let’s skip the discussion on the suburban-ness of our school particular school district.  I could point out that I have exactly two of 135+ students yearly who have parents who are engaged, full-time, in production agriculture.  Or the fact that the school district boundaries end at the city limits in three directions.  We could pine under the guise of validation that “Well gosh darn it, what else can they do?”  But that is not the point, nor is it the basis of the point of view being defended.


Our traditional view of Supervised Agricultural Experience can be summed up by simply looking at the list of nationally-sanctioned proficiency awards.  Of the 47 awards offered in 2016, a full 27 of them are production agriculture based.  To be fair, this is an improvement over a decade ago.  But for an industry that boasts 25% of the jobs in the US while only a generous 2% of the workforce is involved in production agriculture, then by our own Intro to AFNR PowerPoint statistics we are highlighting the fact that less than one in ten of the future career positions we are dedicated to filling is in production and yet our largest, best defined incentive area for SAE is nearly 60% production based.


Let’s go back to the question - is McDonald’s a legitimate SAE?  I’d propose that we decide by looking at what the experience entails.  A McDonald’s employee has to 1) acquire a food handler’s license, 2) learn procedures for food handling and preparation, 3) work with a variety of other employees, 4) handle and interact with customers, 5) handle money and orders under pressure, and 6) general employability skills.


Let’s compare to a couple other, more ‘acceptable’ SAEs.  If the same student is working at a local farm store as a cashier, it is entirely possible that the only task they may have is retail check out.  Their responsibilities will be 1) handle money, 2) handle customers, 3) demonstrate telephone skills, 4) and general employability skills.  They may never have to have actually know anything technical about the products in the store, but just hand questions to the ones who do.  Or maybe they just carry out feed.  Or maybe they just sweep the floors.  But we would see the job title on the Placement page, and move right along without another thought.  At least the McDonald’s employee had to have a certification to get the job.


The end goal of the ‘fast food’ SAE - or this AST student - is not to enter a lifelong career into fast food work.  But it is hard to argue idea that this student is not currently engaged in a segment of agriculture; it is a bit hypocritical to campaign that agriculture affects everyone who eats if we aren’t willing to be inclusive to those preparing the food, regardless of what the billboard on the building is.


I can’t speak to what happens in your state.  In ours we changed the name to the State FFA Degree from the State Farmer degree some time ago.  That doesn’t demean production agriculture.  But looking at a bigger picture - of preparing students for a diverse array of important careers in a future agriculture industry - can be done many different ways now, as we guide them and motivate them to develop themselves with something as a high school job experience that asks “Would you like fries with that?”.



READER RESPONSE:  Is working at a fast food restaurant worthy of the most prestigious FFA degree earned in high school?  For that matter, does the load out job at the farm store count too?  Make your case in the comments.

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