What Ever Happened To Home-Economics Class?

Those of us of a certain age (ahem) may remember a time period (or at least hearing about a time period) when high-school girls took home economics class, and high-school boys took shop. Men were going to grow up and work on their own cars or home repairs, while women would become homemakers and take care of their families. Those goals have fortunately become much more flexible over the years; as women's liberation rose in the 1960s, home-ec classes were derided as too traditional and decidedly unfeminist (only a little over 1 percent of home-ec class attendees in that era were male). It subsequently became more difficult to find anyone who wanted to take home ec, to say nothing of finding someone who actually wanted to teach it.

But that particular high-school division, now known as Family And Consumer Sciences, still has a lot to offer. At a time when fewer students study the domestic sciences in school, many young adults don't know how to boil an egg, sew on a button, or fold a fitted sheet (well, some of us still are fuzzy on that last one.) NPR explores the curriculum transition in a fascinating read on The Salt section of its site today: "Despite A Revamped Focus On Real-Life Skills, 'Home Ec' Classes Fade Away."

The Salt reports, "These courses haven't gone away entirely, but their presence in schools is dwindling. In 2012 there were only 3.5 million students enrolled in FCS secondary programs, a decrease of 38 percent over a decade." The story contains fascinating tidbits about the home-ec classes of old, in which adolescent girls would learn how to prepare eggs in a multiple of ways, because they didn't know how their future husbands would like them. Now that everyone is expected to make their own eggs, FCS classes "might now include subjects such as community gardening, composting, and even hydroponics." Susan Turgeson, president of the Association Of Teacher Educators For Family And Consumer Sciences, tells NPR, "Those are things you would have never seen in a 1950s classroom." There's much more info that will make you want to brush up on your daily life skills on NPR's The Salt today.