A recent New York Times article called Time to Revive Home Ec called for Home Ec to be brought back to school as a possible way to fight against the rising obesity problem we have in this country. I don’t know when it was that Home Ec went out of vogue, but it was not an option available to me in school. It could be a regional thing, as my husband remembers learning how to cook an omelet in a Home Ec class in his 9th grade year.
I was raised by my grandparents, so I did get to see cooking and cleaning growing up. Funnily, my grandfather cooked and my grandmother cleaned, so I thought cooking was a man’s job and cleaning was a woman’s job. My parents had live-in help but having been a child of divorce, I grew up without having my mother in my life very much; and even if she was around, she was never the type to cook and clean. What little I learned I did by watching and hanging around my grandparents. So now that I am married and have a family of my own, I wish I did have Home Economics as an option growing up.
During a short bout of unemployment when I was a single gal, I took a sewing class, so that I’d know how to work a modern sewing machine and make something simple to wear. Previous to that, I had learned how to use a pedal-powered old Singer that my grandmother had, and I learned how to handsew. As a child I even learned to cross stitch and knit a little, though much of what I had learned from as a child had grown rusty, so these are skills that I would like to brush up.
My grandfather was a foodie who loved to cook. He taught me how to pick out food and prepare food whereas my grandmother showed me how to clean and sew. However, my grandparents wanted me to focus on my school work. My own grandmother was raised in the Confucian tradition of not educating girls and grew up like a servant in her own house. She always told me how sad it was for her not being able to go to school and learn the things I get to learn. She had to teach herself how to read because she had to live like a servant in her own house. Her days were filled with caring for her younger siblings and cleaning. She tells me that if I do well for myself, marry a good husband, I can hire someone to do it for me.
Most parents today probably don’t have the time to teach their kids how to do these things, or do they even know how to do it themselves? According to American Time Use Survey, parents these days do less housework but spend more time with children. Parents are probably more concerned with helping their children with homework than supervising chores.
When art, music, and physical education are at risk in the public schools, how realistic is it to bring back home economics?