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Jun 2, 2010 09:04 PM

Why isn't Home Economics more prevalent in U.S. secondary education?

If we have P.E. as a standard class, why not Home Economics?

Aren't both courses -- PE and Home Economics -- essentially teaching the same principles? Nutrition and fitness?

And isn't that important when obesity is such a problem amongst our young?

Even for those students who have absolutely no interest in cooking (or baking), doesn't knowing what goes into a particular food (e.g. donut or salad) and how those ingredients interact with the body essentially do on the front-end what P.E. does on that back-end?

That is, even though you may learn how to burn it off after you've consumed it, wouldn't you be also better off knowing what you've consumed in the first instance?

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  1. Actually, in some towns, we don't have PE anymore, we have health. These classes include both PE and nutrition. My 13 year old 7th grader has had this curiculum for two years already.

    This is a far cry from when I was in 7th grade and the girls spent a year in Home Ec learning to make Spanish Rice, while the boys went to wood shop.

    The feminist movement of the late 60s on gave Home Ec a bad name and it is no longer politically correct, hence the 'Health' title.

    4 Replies
    1. re: bagelman01

      bagelman01, did you go to 7th grade in Iowa? :)

      Although, IIRC, it was 1/2 year of home ec/shop and 1/2 year of art.

      And that's why feminists like me objected to home ec...mandatory for girls only. Shop is different because no one expected boys to grow up and make things out of wood, but home ec was basically job training for future housewives. (I also was discouraged from taking advanced math in 7th grade because I was a girl and girls don't need math. Literally, those very words. Political correctness came about for a reason.)

      But having said all that, Home Ec for everyone, including sewing, household finances, basic instructions on how to unclog a sink or such, real cooking without microwaving.

      1. re: coney with everything

        No, I went to 7th grade in New Haven, CT.

        They still had the sexist idea that the girls would all turn out to be June Cleaver, but the boys would be Blue Collar tradesman. This was absurd, as the school sent all its graduates to the college track high school, not to commercial or trade school.

        Even worse than wood shop, was the 1/2 year of required 'print shop' using a 70 year old hand operated printing press. The girls were forced to learn to sew an apron and darn socks.

        Today, I have a 13 year old in 7th grade. Nutrition is part of Heath/PE. Home economics is taught in 'consumer' class. How to shop and save money.

        1. re: bagelman01

          I guess I came from a more modern family -- for the sixties and seventies. I took shop class and my brother took home ec, allegedly just to meet girls. I didn't take shop because of the guys, I just wanted to learn how to use tools.

          I really think that the older school curricula have fallen to the wayside because of two things: Intense pressure to keep up in a world economy that is technology driven, and school funding. The former is an argument to have school in session nearly year round in the US, and to start teaching kids as early as you can about PCs and software. The latter is just the way it goes when schools have to make cuts. Art classes and music classes suffer too. Let's face it -- No Child Left Behind and other performance measurement standards do not consider home economics skills valuable, and schools have to teach and fund to those tests.

          It's a shame. Fewer and fewer people cook these days too.

          1. re: RGC1982

            You also must have come from a more modern state, was state law in Iowa, where I spent 7th grade, that girls got a semester of Home Ec and boys got a semester of Shop.

            Strangely enough, the junior high for US military dependents in Germany where I attended 8th/9th grade had no such rule and a few boys took Home Ec. Those military-funded schools were by far the most liberal I ever attended!

    2. I totally agree! I am going into 2nd year Uni, and my high school didn't even offer Home Economics.

      My generation doesn't know how to cook, and nobody will teach them. So they well all subsist on frozen pizza and McDonalds, and health and happiness will suffer greatly!

      1. My friends and I were discussing this last night. We really think that it should be a required course for all, at least one semester. Kids should learn how to cook, and should know their way around a kitchen. They may not need to know how to make Duck a l'orange, but they should know how to make some simple dishes, get basic cooking skills, and learn about nutrition.

        We had Home Ec classes in my Middle school and it was mandatory for both girls and boys. I know that I made some of the dishes and fed them to my long suffering family ;) I've greatly improved since then BTW, or at least that's what they tell me....

        1. this subject came up on the Jamie Oliver thread in the Media and News forum and a lot of us questioned the disappearance of Home Ec, PE and recess or break, and even school dinners cooked from scratch. We all agreed that these subjects need to go back in the curriculum STAT but I fear most schools are not even built with kitchens, not only for making school lunches all that well and certainly not for school children.

          1. In Australia, Home Economics and PE are compulsory subjects up to year 10, as well as health. Home Ec is dedicated to teaching everything about cooking including meal prep, cooking, dining and clean up. PE is strictly devoted to sport and health was all the nutrition info and disease processes etc. They were 3 very distinct areas, as opposed to amalgamating them all into 1. For all of this I don't know a single person who cannot at least prepare a basic meal from scratch - I find it so interesting that there are people out there who can't do this, but I guess we have a more 'practical' education in Australia. It might be that so many don't know our own history BUT I do remember having lessons on how to get water in the bush, how to recognise dangerous creatures and administer first aid when necessary. Also in some of the really remote areas they do teach about 'bush tucker' and what's good and not good to eat in the bush. I don't know what the US curriculum is like, but perhaps a reassessment is needed to see what can be dropped in favour of teaching some basic life skills. I am absolutely aware that foraging for bush tucker is probably completely irrelevant over there (and usually is here too), but a practical approach to making good choices when food shopping and being able to prepare what you buy are life long skills that benefit everyone.

            1 Reply
            1. re: TheHuntress

              My son attended kindergarten in OZ (we're Yanks), and learned how to identify venomous spiders. This knowledge came in handy.