Do you remember studying Home Economics back in school? These classes taught students “real world” skills such as how to cook, sew, time management, budgeting and so on. Young girls and boys alike benefited from these basic life skills taught in those courses.
Today, the school system lacks or has a shortage of such programs. There are people who believe that the courses are outdated and aren’t appropriate for the cutting-edge modules in schools. Many students are more likely to know how to compose a Shakespearian sonnet but very little about taxes, credit cards or finances. This exposes an imbalance in our education system, where high school students enter the “real world” with very little real-world knowledge.
Some parents are concerned that their kids don’t have the necessary skills needed to survive in the real world as adults. There is no argument that arithmetic, English, and history are essential, however, home economics can help teach students about health, comparison shopping, among other important aspects of life.
Home Economics In the 21st Century
Currently, high schools have limited home economics courses. Nevertheless, students have the option to select related courses such as Family Studies, Food and Nutrition, or Health and Safety.
NPR’s ‘The Salt’, chose to dive a bit deeper on the topic, exploring the transition from old school home economic classes to the revamped version that kids may get to know today.
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 Family Consumer Science secondary programs.” This represents a 38 percent decrease over a decade. Susan Turgeson, President of the Association of Teacher Educators for Family and Consumer Sciences, told NPR, “Classes may now include subjects such as community gardening, composting, and even hydroponics – things you never would have seen in a 1950’s classroom.”
In 2013, the national survey of Family and Consumer Sciences ( FCS) programs revealed that the number of students enrolled for FCS education in high school was over 3.4 million and was taught by an estimated 28,000 teachers from 2010-2012.
Comparing that with a survey that was published in 2006, the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (AAFCS) disclosed that the number of students attending FCS courses was about 5.5 million and was taught by 37,500 teachers between 2002-2003.
What Caused the Drop in Enrollment?
AAFCS director-at-large, Carol R. Werhan, says that the drop in enrollment is as a result of the hard push for district-and state-mandated testing. Carol points out that FCS is regarded as an elective.
A scarcity of qualified FCS teachers is yet another cause for the number of available classes for the program. In only a decade, the number of FCS teachers has declined by 26% forcing districts across the states to cancel FCS courses because there are no instructors.
Homes Which Don’t Have Home Economics
Students who aren’t taught Home Economics risk missing out on valuable life lessons, especially when they rarely cook at home. Many modern families opt for takeout instead of home cooked meals. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service, products that offered a greater degree of convenience than basic and complex ingredients, like ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat meals and snacks, constituted 26 percent of the average household food budget between 1999 and 2010. The problem with this trend is that more and more people are eating processed foods.
What Do Your Kids Stand to Lose If Home Economics Disappears from Schools?
Home economics is a broad field that covers health, nutrition, personal finance, family finance, and more. One of the main things that students risk losing without Home Economics classes are basic single-living skills. The President of the Family and Consumer Sciences Teachers Association of California, Dawn Maceyka, says that kids today only know how to go through the drive-through or use the microwave.
There are several Home Economics classes that are necessary for making someone successful at work and at home, says Werhan. Home Economics has always been about imparting information to students so that they are better equipped to improve the quality of their life.
If schools abandon food and consumer science courses, students will not necessarily have someone to teach them how to ensure the cooking area isn’t contaminated, how to cook, clean, or balance a checkbook.
If a student’s assumption concerning food and nutrition is formed at a fast food counter because they haven’t been taught about nutrition, such shortcomings in their understanding will lead to poor food choices in life. If they do not learn about the principles of finances, they’ll end up learning the hard way.