"Sometimes we take for granted that kids know how to wash dishes." It's only when you see your son or daughter struggling to run their own house that you realize the need for home economics.
School is meant to be the foundational years of your kid's life. The moment they step out of school, you hope that they would have grown and learned enough to take on the real-world challenges that life will throw at them. Some of them manage to, but many continue to struggle through their early 20s until they find some stability as they grow older. It can't help but make you wonder, were the fifteen-odd years spent in school any good at all?
You know that Science, History, and Math are important for your kids. But you also want them to know how to manage their taxes, learn how to cook for themselves, and not have to depend on anyone else to run their house in the future.
High school is the best time for students to be introduced to the most basic life skills. By having home economics in high school, they finally get a sense of what adulthood feels like and they are better prepared for it.
Marti Harvey, a lecturer at the University of Texas at Arlington, explained that teaching students basic cooking, time management, budgeting, and comparison shopping would give them a headstart when they go off to college or begin their career.
"Yes, English, history, algebra and science are important," wrote Harvey for The Dallas Morning News. "But what good are they if you don't know how to cook dinner or figure out how a FICO score affects interest on credit cards? How impressed would a potential employer be if a young job applicant could discuss killer time management skills?
Around the 1950s and 1960s, home economics was all about sending the girls to learn about cooking and childcare while the boys would be sent for shop class. "When my mom took her home economics courses in the 1950s, they learned every egg preparation there was," said Susan Turgeson, president of the Association of Teacher Educators for family and consumer sciences, according to NPR. "The reason for that was, they didn't know what kind of eggs their husband might want."
But today, things are quite different. Home economics has been updated to Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS). And rather than learning the many dozen ways to make eggs and please a husband, it's about learning why you need the egg in the first place. Turgeson added, "When I'm teaching an egg unit, we're thinking about the function of an egg in the recipe."
Irrespective of whether you have a son or daughter, you would want them to know how to buy the best carton of eggs, vegetables, or absolutely anything else that they would need to live their life independently. Similarly, when they are finally on their own and not in the care of their parents, you want them to be able to run the house on their own, and that includes ironing their own clothes and washing their own dishes.
"Sometimes we take for granted that kids know how to wash dishes," said Turgeson. "I never thought I was going to have to explain, step by step, how to put the drain plug in, the amount of soap to be used."
Although FCS has had that much-needed upgrade, the number of schools implementing it are decreasing.
Now that the gender stereotypical part of home economics has faded away, schools can now focus on inculcating those much-needed skills in students, because it's the need of the hour.
"Too many Americans simply don’t know how to cook," wrote Helen Zoe Veit, author and assistant professor of history at Michigan State University, who wrote for The New York Times. Americans are consuming a lot of highly processed food and it's bringing a huge health crisis in the country. This is increasing the level of obesity, heart diseases, diabetes, and other issues at an alarming rate.
This makes home economics all the more important as kids need it now more than ever. It could be the answer to a number of issues that the country faces today, as Veit wrote, "...teaching cooking — real cooking — in public schools could help address a host of problems facing Americans today. The history of home economics shows it’s possible."