Summer 1986 // Volume 24 // Number 2 // Forum // 2FRM2

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Extension's Future Revisited


Paul D. Warner
Extension Professor
Department of Sociology
and Assistant Extension Director
for Training and Development
Cooperative Extension Service
University of Kentucky-Lexington

James A. Christenson
Professor and Chairman
Department of Sociology
College of Agriculture University of Kentucky-Lexington

In our Summer, 1985, Journal article, "Extension's Future Is Today," we described how the 4-H youth experience has profound effects on adult use patterns in all 4 Extension program areas for both rural and urban areas. Then we described how rural to urban migration and 4-H participation influence adult urban use.

Two main conclusions were drawn from the data: (1) If you were a 4-Her when you were young, you're more than twice as likely to be an Extension user as an adult and (2) the majority of Extension's current urban clients were exposed to Extension programs in rural areas. Because of historical migration patterns, many of the present urban residents were reared in rural settings. However, a smaller proportion of future urban residents will have rural ties. Therefore, Extension can't rely on its rural heritage for attracting future urban clientele.

Astroth and Robbins, in their Spring, 1986, Journal article, "No Time for Modesty," say that we conclude "that the future of all Extension begins with urban 4-H programming" and that "`urban' is the Extension field of the future." Such inferences from our research findings are inaccurate.

There's no reason to conclude that urban 4-H programming will serve as the genesis of all Extension programs in the future. Astroth and Robbins evidently thought that we were proposing that Extension redirect its efforts exclusively to urban areas. What we were saying is that the future of urban adult programming will depend on a strong urban youth program. The national data show that 4-H has a strong influence on adult use patterns in both rural and urban areas. Thus, we'd expect that the future of Extension will continue to be greatly influenced by 4-H exposure in both rural and urban areas.

We share Astroth and Robbins' enthusiasm for 4-H efforts and impact, and agree there's no need to be modest. However, there is a need to accurately represent other people's research findings in setting up one's own views.