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3. Career Plans of Farm Reared Boys : A Cross Cultural Study

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This paper, utilizing data derived from a cross-cultural survey, explored certain structural factors considered relevant to the career choosing sequence among farm reared boys in three modern societies. We were especially interested in how the plans of farm reared boys compared with the plans of boys from other residential and occupational backgrounds. Although certain cross-cultural commonalities were observed, it may prove useful for comparative purposes to summarize the main societal themes separately. In Germany, the farming enterprise is steeped in societal and familial traditions. Certain normative regularities and expectations have developed that serve as career planning guideposts for farm reared boys. The norm of primogeniture still persists, for example. Oldest sons are given priority in claim to the family farm. Indeed, data from the three areas surveyed here show that a boy's position among his brothers and sisters has direct bearing on his career plans (Table 6). Another tradition particular to the German case concerns the allocation of educational opportunities among boys from farm families. Our data show that boys from full-time farm families are at a distinct disadvantage in the quest for a Gymnas education (Table 2). Given the fact that no boys from full-time farm families are present in the Gymnasium population, it is not surprising to find that the majority of boys not planning to farm opt for skilled and semi-skilled occupations; this pattern is similar to that of boys from manual worker families. Furthermore, the German educational system is so structured as to virtually assure a continuation of this pattern. Since the sorting-out of youngsters for higher academic education, and hence a chance to enter high status occupations, is primarily determined at age 10 or 11, the parental family is given a great deal of decision making power. To assure the continuity of the farming enterprise, the family either overtly or covertly encourages the boy to "disquality" himself from a path that leads away from the farm. This is in contrast to other occupational backgrounds where, even among the manual classes, a significant chance exists for upward educational mobility. In the Norwegian regions, on the other hand, farming does not appear to be as "traditionalized" a career alternative as in Germany; a boy's sibling status is not as critical in determining his farming chances as it is in Germany. That most of Norway is physically unsuitable for farming, and subsequently the availability of economically productive farms is very limited, probably has much to do with the allocation and distribution of educational and occupational opportunities among farm reared Norwegian boys. Farmer's sons tend to make it in significant numbers to the Norwegian Gymnas and, moreover, they tend to do rather well in competition with their town and city cousins. Given the limited opportunities in farming, parental factors may, in fact, operate to encourage a boy to go on to Gymnas. The fact that full-time farmer's sons are not discouraged from availing themselves of a Gymnas education is further mirrored by their occupational choices at the comprehensive school level. Unlike Germany, Norwegian farm boys manifest somewhat higher occupational ambitions than their manual worker counterparts. In the United States, at least the regions surveyed here, the attractiveness of farming as a career option among farm reared boys is noticeably absent. Few full-time farmer's sons plan to farm. In the U.S., the primogeniture effect is absent. An oldest son appears to feel little family-based or normative pressure to continue with the family enterprise. The educational and occupational ambitions of farm reared boys in the U.S. are very similar to those of youngsters from manual background homes. Further, rural residence, in general, (e.g., farm and open country) has a suppressing effect on educational plans; an effect not manifested in either Norway or Germany. The American emphasis on local authority and local resources in developing educational facilities (as opposed to the more nationalistic management in Norway and Germany) may act to suppress the ambitions of youngsters from less affluent rural regions, such as those surveyed here. In conclusion, this exploratory research has dealt with the importance of utilizing inter-societal analysis when examining the career choosing process of rural farm youth. Findings from research carried out in one society at one point in time (e.g., Baldock 1972, Haller and Sewell 1957, Burchinal 1962, Schwarzweller 1968) take on new meaning and importance when placed in a larger cross-cultural context. Although the regional study populations employed here cannot be considered "representative" of the larger Norwegian, German or American situations, our findings indicate that the structuring of ambition among rural youth is not universally patterned, but rather is dependent upon societal ideology, norms, social structure and tradition. Only when we understand thoroughly these contextual concepts will we be able to formulate recommendations toward reforming and restructuring, on a more equitable basis, the allocation of opportunities among not only farm youth, but all rural young people.


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