Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Dismantling Extension in Michigan

Dismantling Extension. It's hard to believe that the institution that served as one of the models for what would become the land-grant colleges and universities of the United States would find itself on the brink of non-existence. What this says about the current economy is that aspects of society that we have come to expect are now being called into question when budgets must be cut. But more than that, Extension has been pulled in different directions and thus wore many hats. Additionally, there has always been tension about what Extension was and should be. We can see that in the rich history of land grant universities. Scott Peters, in his introduction to Catalyzing Change, notes that Extension is more than simply the dissemination of information. 

What, I would argue, is the most important work of Extension has been marginalized and sidelined. If Extension is cut, I think an important player in democracy will be ushered off the stage for good.

So here's an article from Michigan quoting Frank Fear. He asks about the results of closing Extension and the impact on rural America. I think this is a very legitimate concern, but there is cause for concern about what this means for America when citizens lose resources that are vital to living in community with one another.

I can hope that these cuts don't occur to Michigan State University Extension, but it seems something will happen. I wonder what other states might follow down this path.

1 comment:

lkprobyn said...

Thanks for your comments and insight, Timothy (also for mentioning "Catalyzing Change." It's now officially on my Christmas wish list).

The good news about MSU Extension is that it's not going away. The organization remains an integral and thriving part of Michigan State University’s outreach efforts.

It is currently reorganizing its programs in an effort to remain responsive to the needs of Michigan’s communities, families, agriculture and natural resources sectors.

We have many challenges ahead of us (perhaps you've heard about Michigan's dismal economy), but as it has always done, MSU Extension is looking ahead to how it can position its resources to help the state and its people move into a brighter future.

Want to read more? Check out this news release from MSU about Extension's future in Michigan:

Laura Probyn
MSU Extension
Communications Manager