There is a lot of things wrong with 4H, but there is alot of things RIGHT with it as well.
When we moved to W. Mt. in June of 1975, our daughter couldn't show a 4H horse because we moved too late in the year and there was no open show. So we observed and this is what we saw. The kids brought the yearlings in for showmanship and they were a dirty, ragtag bunch. The horses ate grass while being judged. They had something wrong with their hair--I would say it was lice. Very obvious that something was terribly wrong and as I recall, all the colts had this skin problem. They were all awarded a blue ribbon. I approached the judge after the show and asked why they were all given a blue ribbon as there was not a blue ribbon colt in the bunch. He replied that he didn't want to have to put up with the parents griping if he had given them all whites. So he took the easy way out and gave all blue ribbons.
Fast foreward to 1976. Showmanship. Yearlings. Ragtag, sorry coats. Same thing as 1975. Why not? They got away with it once. Different judge, and this one gave all WHITE ribbons. Man alive, the fair was almost turned upside down over the judges decision. He had to explain his reasons, big time. Everyone lived through it and guess what? 1977, nice colts, nice hair, shown well. And it progressed from there. I thought there was a real lesson here. But it took courage for the second judge to do the right thing. Maybe the first judge was being 'politically correct' way back then.
My husband had a broken leg one year at the fair and he took in the beef judging. He remarked that the parents faces went from WAY wide to WAY long depending on what the kids did in the ring. He said some parents were wringing their hands and in dismay if their kids didn't do everything right. The kids? They were just having fun.
My point in this is- 4H is to be a learning experience for the kids and basically it is. It is the PARENTS that ruin it. Why can't they just let it be, let the kids learn how to win and how to lose? Why is competition so great that the fun gets left out.
I started a Junior Horse Show there that is still being held today. I like to think we did it right. We had help whose kids were not involved in showing horses so there was no slanted judging, timeing etc. We kept everything on the up and up. No beating, jerking, running your horses all over the place, no poor sportsmanship allowed. Those young horsemen BLOOMED. The horses BLOOMED. We had FUN. We had great support. It didn't cost much to enter, but the prizes weren't great either. The kids didn't care. It started out as an afternoon deal but got so big we had to go to a full day. We had judged classes, we had timed events, we had things for kids who couldn't do either of these. Boot races and fun events--something for everyone. If anyone thought things weren't right, we never heard it. We had offers of help from so many people. Maybe today, that couldn't be accomplished with the way things are, but I like to think kids are kids. Too much emphasis is put on WINNING--it makes me sad. Everyone likes to win, but everyone should learn to lose. That's the way life is--you aren't going to win at everything you try.
Well, I really got on a rant here. Please forgive me, but the effort put forth for youth is important to me. It takes a lot of people behind the scenes to put something on and sometimes those people are bad-mouthed and not given credit for what they do. Their best reward to have their event grow and have more kids enjoy the learning process. They don't do it to make people mad, but that seems to be what happens too many times.