The Argument For Bringing Back Home Ec Classes

by Valerie Williams
Originally Published: 
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Schools needs to bring back Home Economics classes, pronto

Kids these days. Yes, we know that’s a tired phrase, but it does seem like the most recent crop of young adults aren’t quite as adept at, well, adulting, as generations before them. And it turns out, there might be a reason for that. Home Economics class isn’t really a thing anymore. The question is, should we bring it back?

We’re going to go ahead and say, yes. Definitely.

Home Economics class, or, “Home Ec” as it’s commonly known, was a high school mainstay for years before it was sort of phased out. According to The Huffington Post, while the class was seen as essential learning and a true science in the early 20th century, enthusiasm began to lessen after World War II with an emphasis being placed on science. Colleges started defunding Home Ec programs in favor of increasing budgets for science departments and once that happened, the course gradually lost ground at the high school level as well.

Megan J. Ellis, author of the book Stir It Up: Home Economics In American Culture, says over time, the class “became associated with dead-end high school classes for girls,” and therefore, was eliminated. Today, the class might pop up occasionally, but gone is the word “home,” replaced with a title like, “Family and Consumer Sciences.”

Sure, the word “home” might conjure an image of a barefoot housewife wrangling multiple kids and tending to something on the stove, but that’s not remotely the case. It’s not the goal of Home Ec class to turn young girls into robotic housewives.

The thing is, boy or girl, everyone needs to eat, and unless kids are going to live on Stouffers lasagnas and Taco Bell once they grow up, it would be nice if schools chipped in a little to be sure they know the basics. Everyone should also learn to grocery shop on a budget, how to sew a button and how to balance a checkbook. All important life skills that parents should be teaching, but much like other subjects kids only hear about in school, not all parents bother. Or, have the time.

And Home Ec shouldn’t be limited to the high school level when there are lessons to be learned in the kitchen for kids of all ages. In an essay for Quora, Robert Frost explains why the course should make a comeback at every grade level. He says, “The purpose of school is to provide children with skills and knowledge that will benefit them, and the community. We all eat. We all benefit from a better understanding of food and food preparation.”

Nailed it.

Frost suggests, “The educational system would work better if every academic class had a practical class that applied the theory to do something regular people do in real life.”

Home Ec class could be the catchall for a number of subjects in showing students how the material they’re learning can be used in the real world. In it, kids would learn to apply knowledge from math, science and English to real life situations. Frost says, “In the kitchen, children can learn an appreciation for clarity in writing when they work from a poorly written recipe.” Or how math is required with working to convert ounces and tablespoons when the only available measuring tools are metric. The connections are endless.

And in case anyone thought Home Ec is just so girls can cook, Frost points out the myriad benefits. “Home economics teaches attentiveness. It teaches safety. It teaches situation awareness. It teaches patience. It teaches us the value of practice and planning. It teaches respect for tools. It develops confidence and pride. It fosters deserved self esteem. It practices teamwork. It fights sexism and class prejudice. It teaches appreciation for other cultures.”

Bet you never thought of it that way.

Clearly, Home Ec isn’t just for girls, and it’s certainly not a dead end. In fact, I’d argue that the skills I learned in Home Ec have been the most useful in my life overall when compared to other subjects. Our schools should bring it back and treat it like the crucial subject it is so our kids can learn to function as adults.

And maybe help make dinner every now and then to give us a break.

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