For those of us lucky (or old) enough to have a school with a broad curriculum, home economics was a class unlike any other. I remember it vividly as a strange combination of sewing animal shaped pillows and mixing chocolate chip cookie batter. Although it was arguably the most applicable to “real life” class we took our freshman year in high school, it was regarded with disdain, disgust, and annoyance by the study body as a whole. Especially among the boys. But at least cookies were served.
As a kid, I learned both sewing and cooking from my mom. I enjoyed them in their own ways and saw my class experience as a dumbed down version of both. I never felt the annoyance that the other kids felt, but I was also never inspired by the little old woman holding up the owl pattern in front of my desk. Like most things when you’re 15, it was unclear to any of us why it mattered. Yet, by the end of the semester, even the boys held up their pillows proudly and donned aprons to avoid getting flour on their jeans. For some, who had never even turned on an oven, it was an awakening.
Today, most schools have removed these programs in favor of something, anything “more important”. Apparently cookies and pillows don’t support a college resume like Chemistry or French. But, as this article in Cooking Light explains, “we’re so focused on getting kids ready for college, but we’re not preparing them for life.” In “Bring Back Home Ec!” Hillari Dowdle cites the belief that this absence in education may contribute to the tripling of childhood obesity rate since 1980. “Prevention is more powerful than treatment,” it goes on to warn us. Until nutrition and education are reunited, it’s up to us, as parents to teach our kids the life skills that will help them grow up to be healthy, capable adults.