July 1984 // Volume 22 // Number 4

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Extension - A Complex Educational Operation

Every Extension staff member-from novice to veteran-knows that Extension is a complex operation. It's an "extension" from the land-grant university to the people of each state, specifically those who aren't enrolled or students at the university. That which is extended is from the knowledge base of the university. If the task were merely the dissemination or "extending" of knowledge, it would be simple. Because of the modern means of communication that can be used to deliver information to people, there would be no need for most field-based staff people and the number of state and federal positions could also be reduced.

However, the original Smith-Lever Act of 1914 used the phrase "and to encourage the application of the same." Subsequent revisions have retained this phrase. Thus, the role of Extension is clearly identified as that of education. The only use of the word "service" in the act is when referring to the Federal Extension Service or to the administration of the act itself. The word " advise" is used only once and this in the context of farm families making a change in farming ventures. Extension operations in some other countries have had "advisory" or "service" in the titles of their organizations and, in most cases, the program reflects this emphasis.

In the U.S., we're involved in planning, implementing, and evaluating informal educational activities with people who are interested in learning or who can be convinced that it would be to their advantage to learn and to use what they learn. The processes in this informal education are complex, involved, and changing. After many years of learning and using, I continue to be amazed at how much there is to know about informal education. But, I keep on learning and trying, adopting and adapting. I hope you do, too. This Journal is one of the tools we have available to help. The satisfactions from learning and improving are endless.

Roger L. Lawrence