Home Economics needed more than ever

“Cooking is an essential life skill that children need to learn to be self-sufficient adults”….. [We called it Domestic Science in my day, but this is food for thought…Ed]

There was a time when home economics was taught in nearly every high school in the US, though largely only to girls.

A few decades later, home economics courses became required for both male and female students, and then, in 1994, the American Association of Family & Consumer Sciences recommended the name of the class be officially changed to “family and consumer sciences” (FCS) as a way to more accurately reflect how its subject matter had developed through time.

Beyond baking, cooking and sewing, modules on topics like nutrition and family finance had been added to the curricula.

By the early 2000s, however, enrollment began to slow. According to the Craft Industry Alliance, by 2012 only 3.5 million students were enrolled in home economics classes nationwide, a decrease of 38% over the prior decade.

There are a few reasons for this: some experts point to the complicated (and often inherently sexist) relationship Americans have with domestic labour as a motivation for the courses’ nationwide decline, while others say that simply any classes that don’t contribute to test scores and grades aren’t prioritised. 

Now, there are only about 6,000 schools left in the US that still offer home economics — or family and consumer sciences — though many would argue that there’s never been a better time to bring it back. 

The call for a resurgence in these courses isn’t a new one; in 2010, researchers Alice Lichtenstein and David Ludwig published a paper in JAMA titled “Bring Back Home Economics Education.” It read, in part: 

As the economy, as well as the way we transmit generational knowledge, shifts, younger Americans need help beyond TikTok and Reddit for learning how to budget, meal plan and shop, all skills traditionally taught in home economics.

As Susan Turgeson, president of the Association of Teacher Educators for Family and Consumer Sciences told NPR in 2018: “Everything about FCS is really teaching resource management and employability skills, creative and critical thinking — we just do it through food.” 

Cassandra Loftlin, a chef, recipe developer and co-founder of Goodness Gracious Grocery, has done a lot of work in the food education space, including writing recipes specifically for children, and has seen firsthand the impact it can have on students. 

“Cooking is an essential life skill that children need to learn to be self-sufficient adults,” Loftlin said. “It’s called culinary arts for a reason — it fosters creativity and allows children to experiment with flavours, textures, and ingredients, encouraging a sense of adventure at any age.

“Teaching children to cook also promotes financial literacy by budgeting for food and time management, while understanding how to prioritise tasks and manage time effectively to get dinner on the table by 6 pm.” 

She continued: “When young children learn how to cook, it boosts their confidence as they master a new skill. This newfound confidence extends beyond the kitchen, empowering them to tackle other challenges they may encounter in life.

“By successfully preparing meals for themselves and their family, children gain a sense of accomplishment and independence, laying a foundation for future success and resilience in the face of adversity.”

According to Loftlin, regardless of whether or not the impacts of home economics training show up on exams, they certainly have real-world impact, something Turgeson also told NPR, saying, “Wait five minutes in FCS, and you’ll use this information later this week and later in life.”

Source: salon.com