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09/28/2020

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Adelaide Burton

My grandparents attended Auburn, which they affectionately call their “cow college” and have informed me that the school is now a land, air and sea grant university. To enter campus you drive through miles of fish hatcheries and labs that undoubtedly influence the large agricultural industry in lower central Alabama. All of this to say, the physical infrastructure as well as the organization of land grant institutions has been successfully established, but the article argues that currently too few resources are allocated to funding the education and research of these institutions given the return on investment. In Professor Cooper’s ethics of agriculture class, we talked about the importance of the agriculture extension office and how these resources have transformed farms. Our food system is deeply flawed, with high subsidies for corn and soy (which can’t feed a population), farming practices that degrade the environment and aren’t sustainable in the long run, and inequity in the access to healthy foods and hunger as a result. Land grant institutions can address these problems, as well as problems in the future that will arise with climate change.

Another point that stood out to me was the classism involved in the formation of these institutions. Farmers hold an interesting position in society, as they are one of the most “essential” workers, but are often regarded as simple working class. In the article, one of the lobbyists for the creation of land grant institutions “did not envision an agricultural college for commoners” and I found this distinction between a trade school and the idea for the land grant institutions a little unsettling but also a little bit true. The schools now do not only produce farmers, but also scientists, engineers, economists, and other professionals who are developing technology and implementing improvements that help farmers and the American food system. Overall, the discussion of pros and cons that occurred in the 1800s was riddled with elitism and connections to slavery, but ultimately its evident that the social benefit of these schools reaches all classes of society.

Frances McIntosh

One part of this article that stood out to me was how Turner himself was not part of the “industrial class”. He formed the idea for land grant institutions without being part of the group it was designed to benefit. Turner argued that land grant institutions would provide for a better society as a whole, having external benefit outside of the industrial class. I think it’s an important skill to be able to recognize when there are lives that can be improved outside of your own. It is also interesting to think that this desire for efficiency and to resolve market failure was in people’s minds when this vocabulary did not exist, before economics was officially established.
Personally, both agriculture and land grant institutions have made their way into my life. Many members of my family graduated from Clemson, which is South Carolina’s land grant university. On campus you can buy ice cream, blue cheese, and salad dressings all made from the on-campus farms. One of my local high schools runs a horticulture track (similar to a land grant extension program), where high school students get real farm and livestock experience. My family is also in the oyster business, harvesting oysters in Charleston October-May every year. This article I think fully taps into the importance of well-educated citizens, where education is not just for the higher class or for intellectuals. Many people I know personally have benefitted from this idea, that higher education is beneficial for all citizens and when more people are educated, society is better off as a whole.

Hayden Ludt

It was cool to hear about the history of public school and land grants. Learning that the founding fathers, even before basic micro theory, were able to acknowledge that publicly funded schooling was a benefit to society and would help all as individuals as well as the general public. It was interesting to see that for a while the education was assumed to end after grade school and only in the middle of the 19th century was it expanded to high school. And still now the education is assumed to end after 12th grade with only some grants for higher education. The transition then toward agricultural schools and under Lincoln the expansion of land grants. Towards the end of the paper, Epplin makes sure to emphasize the importance of identifying successful schools and successful markets as well as recognizing potential failures.

Mercer Peek

Epplin, in concluding his paper, frames an economic principles course at a public university as a public good worthy of taxpayer dollars. I would argue that right now it is almost a public necessity, especially if we are charging the public with the responsibility of electing our President and Congress. I would even argue that principles of economics should be a universal high school course, or at least required in all public colleges and universities. I cannot name the number of times I have looked at one of President Trump’s policies and thought “if most of America understood simple economics, they would not support this.” How are average Americans supposed to evaluate candidates’ platforms if they don’t understand how these platforms will play out in the real world? Without this capacity, people will vote based on a dangerous combination of flawed logic and emotion, and we will end up with populist leaders whose policies are based on personal convictions instead of economic or political principles.

carrie morrison

I found the history of land grant universities to be very interesting. Specifically, the formation of land grant universities and the opposition to them. Epplin mentions that the founding fathers "desired a system that would enable all citizens to have access to education", but the "all" did not include half of the population at the time. Simon DeWitt reflected a similar viewpoint. He argued for an agricultural college to teach the theory and practice of agriculture but his vision was limited to only teaching the sons of the professional class. It wasn't until Turner that the emphasis was shifted from educating solely the professional class to the professional class and the industrial class. Moreover, the opposition was also seen from farmers who belonged to the industrial class. They argued that it would lead to less labor for the farm. It seems that there was a lack of seeing education as an investment throughout the development of the bill. The focus was on educating the wealthy, leaving the people in the industrial class less productive than they could be. This reminds me of the video we watched on Wednesday. In the video they were discussing the need to increase the productivity of food production and one method was to provide farmers with education on more effective ways to farm. Educating the industrial class has many potential benefits and it is interesting to see that there was so much(and still is) to funding public education.

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