I remember visiting several classrooms at the schools that my children have attended throughout the years and depending on the age of the school, for the longest I tried to decipher why there was always a certain classroom with a stove and a sink. One day I figured out that there was such as thing as a class where students were taught basic life skills such as cooking. I have read that Home economics classes started out in the 19th century and the purpose was to teach cooking, how to categorize and store recipes, sewing, gardening, taking care of children and personal finance to girls. For boys, I believe they’re was a shop class where they were taught mechanical skills. All these skills still very much needed today; however, it is extremely hard to come by a school that offers anything similar. Home Economics class started to decline during the Feminist Movement in the 60s, which gave way to a mentality that considered being a homemaker degrading to women and making working outside the home a more dignified choice. The cruel irony is that while women were able to get jobs outside the home, they still had to do the same tasks at home, therefore possibly making life harder and more complicated. By the 1970s Home Economics had mostly disappeared and by the time I was in middle school and high school, it simply did not exist.
My mother worked, so like many other children of my time, I didn’t have much of an idea of how to run a household. When I went off to live on my own in my late teens early 20s, I would walk into the supermarket with no concept of needing to have a meal plan or at the very least, a grocery list. Dumping random ingredients and products in my cart to later try to concoct a meal was my idea of grocery shopping. Many, many times I ended up at the pizza shop next door out of frustration. Fast forward a few years, when I got married and had a child, I then realized that I was woefully deficient in so many basic skills. Picture sewing buttons onto shirts and sewing them on so stiff that I could barely get them through the buttonhole. Cooking a turkey without taking out the plastic bag that comes inside. Sounds silly now, but at the time I was like a fish out of water. Oh, how I wish somebody had taught me how to sew! When my kids started growing and their new pants fit right at the waist but the legs were too long I ran to Joann’s to buy a sewing machine and book a class to learn how to turn the machine on and fix a hem even if it was halfway cooked. My hems were not pretty, but they stayed in place. It was a travesty, an unnecessary one had I had Home Economics class.
Home Economics class taught life skills that everybody should know regardless of gender. So why has Home Economics not been able to make a comeback? In a nutshell because of budget cuts, emphasis on standardized testing in public education and the lack of teachers. We as a society, are ignoring that there are basic life skills that people don’t know such as gardening, animal husbandry, herbal medicine, and carpentry In just about 2 generations we have forgotten and children remain in front of their screens becoming more dependent on a system that does not have their best interests in mind.