The early history of the Cooperative Extension Service is rich with examples of the agent's role in building democracy among the citizenry of a young nation. However, the cold war shifted the focus of the public university toward the practice of one-way dissemination of research-based knowledge from the professor to the farmer and homemaker. As public funding continues to diminish for higher education, self-reflection suggests that Extension return to its original focus of building democracy through civic engagement. Suggestions for practice include valuing local knowledge and empowering citizens to solve their problems through action research projects.

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