It first appeared to me when I was a County Extension Director in Minnesota, over 30 years ago. The new wave being sent down from the University hierarchy included the direction to protect the “feelings” of all our 4-Hers. This included the introduction of the soon to be famous “participation ribbon.” I despised those green ribbons and vowed that I would never use them in my county.

Three decades later, we now are seeing the waves of mediocrity gaining momentum again. Whether it is in our public school system or in the performance of our national politicians, mediocrity has reached new heights never before attained. 

One of the definitions you’ll find if you google “mediocrity” is, “Ordinariness as a consequence of being average and not outstanding.”

I don’t know about you, but I am not looking for any more worshipping at the altar of “mediocrity”.  Competition is always a better option, as it forces us to do our best.

Whether it is at your public school, county fair or your swine operation, what you are hoping to find is someone who worked hard to become the very best they could be, and as a result, achieved a special ability. You want the very best dentist when you have a toothache, so why not expect the very best engineer when you design your new hog facility, or the very best veterinarian when you detect the presence of a new bug in your farrowing barn?

I think we need to examine our industry to be sure we are attempting to identify those young people who have worked hard to achieve success. Is that happening at all universities? Not necessarily, because on some campuses, if you want to be swallowed up in academia, you can succeed by achieving extreme levels of mediocrity. Fortunately, we have several land grant universities with phenomenal animal science departments that have designed programs to identify truly outstanding young talent.

The good news is that our industry has been blessed with some excellent junior livestock programs. One that I am most familiar with is the National Jr. Swine Association, orchestrated by the National Swine Registry in Indiana. Formed in 2000 with a meager 400 members, it now boasts membership in excess of 12,000 young people nationwide.

Why has this organization been so successful? Maybe a glance at the mission statement drafted 13 years ago would be helpful: “To provide a network uniting purebred swine enthusiasts through a youth organization that offers competitive opportunities to reward excellence, enhance educational opportunities, promote the value of pure genetic lines, and develop leadership skills at both the state and national level.”

Let’s hope the swine industry never loses its’ pursuit and recognition of “competition” and “excellence” at all levels.

Do you agree? Are you seeing the same thing happening in your area? Let us know.