Rethinking Home Ec – Life Skills for the 21st Century

Were you required to take a Home Economics class when you were in middle or high school? I was not, and I often regret my short-sighted decision not to pick up Home Ec as an elective. As an adult, I frequently teach myself handy housekeeping tricks by following online tutorials and suffering through more than my fair share of trial and error in the kitchen. If I had it all to do over again, I would have enrolled in Home Ec when I had the chance. After all, online tutorials can only be so helpful when there’s a grease fire raging in your oven.

Image courtesy of Smithsonian.com http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/food/2011/09/is-home-economics-class-still-relevant/

Few schools still require Home Ec, or its modernized counterpart, Family and Consumer Science, and many no longer offer it at all (even as an elective). However, the need for young people to learn important adult life skills has certainly not disappeared, and the educational gap is starting to show. In a recent New York Times Op-Ed piece, educator Helen Zoe Veit called for the return of Home Ec classes to America’s schools. Veit believes that traditional, cooking-based Home Ec classes could be a powerful weapon against America’s obesity epidemic, and I can’t help but agree with her.

Large-scale efforts have been launched in many districts to teach younger children about healthy lifestyles (Girls on the Run and Let’s Move!, to name a few), but the real-life kitchen skills and nutritional knowledge once taught in Home Ec are still missing. The success of Home Economics education throughout most of the 20th Century may, in fact, be partially responsible for the class’ recent decline. The lessons traditionally taught in Home Ec classes transferred so seamlessly into real life and real homes that many of the skills taught there have (mistakenly) become considered common sense. America’s reliance on drive-thrus and microware dinners exemplifies our culture’s dire need to better educate our students on the building blocks of nutrition and food preparation.

Do you feel that greater emphasis should be placed on Home Ec/Family and Consumer Science in schools? Does your school offer such classes to its students? Please share your thoughts below.

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One Response to “Rethinking Home Ec – Life Skills for the 21st Century”

  1. Melanie NelsonOctober 18, 2011 at 10:16 am #

    Thanks for your great article on FACS! We are big proponents – as you might tell from the name of our website FACS Alive. I think we just need to take a look at the declining health of Americans to recognize that something is missing. Learning how to create healthy meals and make healthy decisions in the school is one piece that’s missing.