Home Economics: Not What They Taught Me in High School

I’m sure I’m dating myself by telling you that I remember the days when boys in high school took shop and the girls took home economics. I don’t know what went on in shop class, but I know that home economics, as it was taught then in my school, was a joke. We did learn some useful skills like baking and sewing and how to set a neat table, but mostly home economics focused on being a servant to your husband, keeping things in order while he went off to work, and raising kids. And that took up about a quarter of the year. The rest of the year was like a study hall. Not exactly a class that turned out to be very useful for me or many other girls.

The dictionary defines econo


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10 Responses to Home Economics: Not What They Taught Me in High School

  1. SnoopyCool says:

    I completely agree. I’m working in an after-school program and I’ve got the “Home Ec” portion of the program (automatically assigned to me because I am a SAHM). You bet I’m teaching them budgeting and other things they aren’t learning in school!

  2. sandi says:

    Absolutely wonderful reading! Thanks for sharing. As old fashioned as it sounds, I wish all families would find a way for 1 person (not necessarily the woman) to be home while the children are being raised. You have just pointed out how it is financially feasable to do so.

  3. Yes, there are some high schools that still teach home economics / domestic arts.

    I insisted my college-bound daughter take at least one such course and she decided to take the beginning sewing class.

    The topics you are describing, however, generally fall under the “personal finance” courses and would be typically found in the business or math departments.

  4. Hilary says:

    I studied the woman who created the field “Home Economics” in college. She was a fascinating woman (the first to enter MIT!) concerned with scientific analysis of the environment (not confined to the home environment). The field has truly changed. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ellen_Swallow_Richards

    I get what you are saying in this article, but I think focusing on the word “economics” takes it out of historical context. It’s quite the travesty that this fiercly intellectual woman’s legacy is something that is generally scorned by modern intellectuals.

    Also I think many economists would disagree with your definition – many economists don’t like to include the words “wealth” or “money” in their definition.

  5. Cindy M says:

    Okay, now I want to see what’s on your significant other’s list! Looks to me like you’re doing it all, ha-ha. Good column.

  6. joshie says:

    At my high school, we teach home ec to both boys and girls. We just do cooking and sewing (2 separate classes with different teachers) and in grades 11 and 12, hospitality as well.

  7. Ms. G, FCS Teacher says:

    Fast forward to 2010 – Home economics is Family & Consumer Sciences (FCS) even though it is still called Home Ec in many schools. Contrary to what is reported in this article, FCS also emphasizes consumer education – personal and family finances.

    “Family and consumer sciences (FCS) is the comprehensive body of skills, research, and knowledge that helps people make informed decisions about their well being, relationships, and resources to achieve optimal quality of life. The field represents many areas, including human development, personal and family finance, housing and interior design, food science, nutrition, and wellness, textiles and apparel, and consumer issues.”

  8. Ms. G, FCS Teacher says:

    I apologize, I did not mean “contrary to the article” – instead contrary to popular belief.

  9. Ms. N. says:

    I too am a Home Ec teacher, and I concur with the previous poster. While I live in Canada, where in some provinces it’s still called Home Ec (other provinces have other names), I can tell you that our programs have long ago changed to reflect the times in which we live. Our programs have been open to both sexes for many years–I graduated high school 20 years ago. In Food Studies, we focus on nutrition, budgeting, healthy eating, debunking popular food myths, and looking at the impact (economically, environmentally) of the food choices that consumers make. Textiles (sewing)students investigate the conditions under which their clothing is made, and the impact that throwing away clothing has on the world. Family Studies students research family models around the world; effective communication; child, teen, and adult development; as well as relationships and housing. Budgeting is a part of all of our courses.

    We still have the practical part of our courses, which is what students really respond to. Talking about vegetables is one thing, but when a student tries a vegetable for the first time in class, and discovers that they like it, or a student sees me in public years later and tells me how what they learned has impacted their life to this day–that’s why our classes are so important.

    It’s crucial to remember that while you may remember one aspect of your schooling, that just like times have changed, so have your schools. We don’t think that technology stopped in the years since we graduated high school, so why do we think that schools and school subjects have?

  10. Andrew says:

    Great article. Personally, I like the term “consumer science.”

    One thing that’s important to note, I think, is that while home-ec type courses are offered at most high school, they’re not REQUIRED. I guess I knew they existed, but I never took a home-ec class. I really wish I had. People seem to underestimate not only the work and skill that goes into running a household, but also the benefits you can get from doing it well.

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