How can we expect our children to tackle the real world when they can't even cook themselves a meal?
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on September 26, 2019.
Home economics classes may have been popular in the past, but over time, more and more schools have reduced funding for or simply discontinued these classes. Now it appears that educational institutions are only concerned about the theoretical parts of learning such as SAT scores, AP classes and grades. While a student may be able to solve a super complex math problem, that doesn't exactly prepare them for the real world. What about taxes? Cooking? Cleaning? With the elimination of home economics classes, we're leaving our children stranded without the skills they need to survive in the real world and eventually run a household by themselves one day.
Part of the reason why home economics classes have been discontinued is how feminized these classes (and tasks, overall) have become. Over the years, it was young girls who signed up for and attended these classes, whereas boys were rarely expected to learn these skills. However, I think we can all agree that cooking and cleaning, for instance, are life skills and don't need to be gendered in the way that they are now. Furthermore, home economics classes are generally thought of as more "simpleton" in nature, especially in comparison to "advanced" subjects like algebra, physics or microbiology. But when we're able to value the life skills students learn in home economics as equal to the skills they learn in their academic classes, we'll be able to better equip young adults for the future.
Can high schools really claim they prepared their students for their careers if they don't know the basic skills of adulthood? Whether it's sewing a button back onto a shirt, understanding the various forms you need to fill out to file taxes, sticking to a monthly household budget or simply cooking dinner, children aren't learning how to be independent and self-sufficient anymore. It's easy to expect these skills to come naturally, but it is unrealistic to believe that a teenager will inherently know how to perform these tasks when they've never been formally introduced to them before. Home economics classes, therefore, perform the specific and necessary function of ensuring we aren't mollycoddling our kids, leaving them floundering when they step into adulthood.
Marti Harvey, a lecturer at the University of Texas at Arlington, found that her students didn't even know that they'd need to pay property taxes for the rest of their lives if they own property, because their high schools just didn't teach them the basics of taxation. She stated in a column published by Dallas Morning News, "It's a failing of our educational system that students don't leave high school with this basic understanding, among other things. That's why we need to bring back the old home economics class. Call it 'Skills for Life' and make it mandatory in high schools. Teach basic economics along with budgeting, comparison shopping, basic cooking skills and time management. Give them a better start in real life than they get now."
Harvey also noted, "We tend to be a society of extremes. Right now we're trying to send people into STEM kind of careers. However, I think administrators and legislators also need to think about people coming out of high school or even college without the ability to manage their money and to know how to lead a productive life." Therefore, through reintroducing home economics classes into school curriculums, we can strike a terribly needed balance between the theoretical and the realistic, developing students who are prepared for their futures.