Radke Report: Activists may be targeting schools, but ag kids will lead the way
Many of you may know that I write children’s books about farm and ranch life. I spend a lot of time in classrooms, reading my stories at elementary schools across the country.
On these road trips, I have pondered a lot about education and ensuring our kids receive high-quality, wholesome education that prepares them for the real world.
While I am always thrilled to be invited to come read my farm books at schools and teach kids about where their food comes from, a comment I received one day was, “If you get to go present to schools, are other speakers with different agendas invited to speak, too?”
It was a good question. After all, as a cattle rancher who has a keen interest in promoting beef nutrition and the benefits of cattle on the land, I obviously have a bias in my presentations and lesson goals.
Could there be another side presenting opposite information to our school-aged kids?
The answer is a definitive and resounding yes.
It was only a few years ago that I discovered Scholastic magazine, a publication that goes to nearly ever elementary school in the country, has repeatedly published anti-animal agriculture articles in its pages. Articles of this ilk call for students to reduce their meat consumption to solve climate change.
Documentaries like the increasingly popular, “Food Inc.," with its dramatized and negative slant on meat production, are often used as the core of curriculum in college courses.
I recently became aware that even animal rights activist groups, like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), have courses and lessons plans that are trickling into our public schools.
As an example, HSUS has a program which is “designed to infuse humane education into current prosocial programs. The courses center on activities, readings and field-tested strategies for working with children, teens, school faculty and youth leaders.”
According to Protect the Harvest, “HSUS provides a ‘plug and play’ program that is extremely easy for educators to implement. They have a magazine, videos, classroom activities, worksheets and coloring books. Their classroom worksheets feature ‘information about animals and animal issues.'"
“The organization also has a program to get kids involved in ‘animal protection’ and how to form clubs. The program introduction states, ‘…millions of animals in other situations need a hand too. Life is tough on tigers and elephants in circuses. It is hard on cows, pigs and chickens in big, factory-style farms.’”
The course promises to teach “the basics of spreading the word in your community, raising funds for animals and lobbying (asking lawmakers to give their support). By taking part in these projects, you’ll be part of a nationwide group of kids working to help all animals—from hounds to hens—where they need it most.”
I share this to remind folks that the animal rights agenda is very real, and it’s reaching our young people at a critical age.
Yet, there’s power in presenting truthful information that teaches kids the facts about where their food comes from.
I recently spoke at the Keya Paha County FFA Banquet in Nebraska, and if I ever had concerns about the future of this country, I breathed a sigh of relief when I spoke to these incredible young people.
This FFA program is doing big things, and the students were excited to share their projects with me.
The kids are growing lettuce for the school lunch program with a hydroponic system. They built a chicken coop from the ground up to raise money for their FFA activities. One student started a goat operation during the pandemic. Another spent more than 100 hours carving a fish for his taxidermy business. And one student welded together the “tree of life” from old fencing wire he picked up.
On top of that, these students showcased their impressive career experiences at the event, and people in the community were clamoring to hire them for summer jobs.
At this banquet, I saw innovation, creativity, hard work, resilience, common sense, wisdom, maturity, respect and more.
These activists and Hollywood producers may love to attack agriculture, but as I drove home from this banquet, I felt nothing but optimism about our future as food producers. These kids are going to lead us and drive the discussion forward, and I’m excited to be able to witness it!
Let’s continue to invest in our young people and foster their love and joy of learning, creating, growing, building and discovering.
Amanda Radke is a fifth-generation rancher from Mitchell who has dedicated her career to serving as a voice for the nation’s beef producers. A 2009 graduate of South Dakota State University with a degree in agricultural communications, education and leadership, Radke is a blogger for BEEF Daily blog.