Date of this Version
With the passage of LB-722 in 1959, the State of Nebraska embarked on one of the most extensive and challenging adult education programs of the past decade. LB-722 established the Nebraska Agricultural Products Industrial Utilization Research Program (Nebraska Program) which in the course of its ambitious life undertook the re-education, first of Nebraska's production-oriented agricultural citizens, and then of other agricultural states and the Federal Government. Seen as an adult education program, the Nebraska Program clearly represented the kind of "enlargement of the definition of the clientele of adult education" proposed by Malcolm Knowles. This was adult education moving "away from a primary focus on individuals qua individuals toward a concern also with institutions, communities and even larger social systems." It was education functioning within and concerned with a total environment, an environment whose production oriented values, and whose success in living up to those values, had back-fired resulting in huge and embarrassing agricultural surpluses which depressed the market value of agricultural commodities, reducing the agriculture worker's standard of living and his status in the eyes of his fellow citizens. Insofar as the Nebraska Program attempted to change values and attitudes it also functioned as a change agent, finding itself increasingly preoccupied with lithe phenomenon of resistance to change and strategies for helping with change." Resistance to change was rooted in generations of emphasis on production and production research. Supporters of the Nebraska Program were convinced that utilization research was the solution to agriculture's problems: the Program's educational objective was thus a reordering of research priorities and an attenuation of the produce-more ethic. The administrators who undertook this education effort had a firm precedent in the success that agricultural societies, institutes, and agencies have had in the education of the public for agricultural production, a success which culminated in the establishment of the nation's colleges of agriculture: The local and regional agricultural societies which began appearing after the American Revolution to educate in agricultural production through printed materials, contests, fairs, and discussion were also becoming more aware of the possibilities of enlisting government aid The societies reached their peak in 1861 and began to wane in favor of farmers' institutes which provided direct instruction in technological improvements in farming. The establishment of a federal Department of Agriculture and the passage of the Land Grant Act provided federal support for colleges to teach agriculture production. The size of its clientele and its role as change agent in a total socio-economic environment were not the only things which distinguished the Nebraska Program. The Program was also distinguished by the fact that it was administered, not by a traditional educational institution, but by an agency of a state government (the Nebraska Department of Agriculture), and by the fact that it saw the State's educational institutions as part of its clientele: production-oriented like the state's citizens, resistant to change, committed to maintaining the status quo vis-a-vis agricultural research. This view of the state's educational institutions as candidates for remedial education got the Program into difficulties with the University of Nebraska. In particular, the University and its supporters in the State Legislature contended that an educational research program in a traditional College of Agriculture area ought to be administered by the College of Agriculture. There was a heated exchange over the subject of who should administer the Program (a state agency or the
University) when LB-722 was debated in the legislature, and partisans of the University continued to be vocal critics of the idea of state agency education throughout the life of the Program. The Program's name--Nebraska Agricultural Products Industrial Utilization Research Program--is misleading. It sounded, not like an educational program, but like a research and development program. In fact, the Nebraska Program was originally conceived as a research and development program designed to find new uses for agricultural products, and although Program administrators came to see the Program's principal business as education, Nebraska citizens and their representatives in the State Legislature never ceased to hope that the Program would produce marketable products. This misunderstanding about Program goals was to create problems, particularly in the area of Program evaluation: seen as an education program designed to change attitudes and to reorder priorities in agricultural research, the Nebraska Program was a great success; seen as a research and development program, it was disappointing (only one product got to the marketing stage). Although the agricultural surpluses which gave rise to the
Nebraska Program have gradually disappeared, the educative work of the Program will be of interest to those in the field of adult education who are engaged in programs of similar scope, or who are involved in education programs conducted by governmental agencies. The Program's problems and omissions, no less than its scope and daring, are instructive; in the judgment of this investigator, the Nebraska Program provided an exciting laboratory for testing the principles of adult education on a large population, and stands as a model for programs of similar scope and intent.