Our K-12 education isn’t what it used to be. Much of the curriculum we see in schools these days is based on testing and how to get higher test scores. We see it in the way subjects are taught and lessons are structured.
In Texas, students begin standardized testing in the third year and continue until graduation. It is required that students in grades 3 through 8 be tested once a year in selected core courses, taking up to five standardized tests by the time they reach high school. Its goal? Improve student academic success.
It wasn’t always like that. School curricula once offered a greater variety of subjects and helped to “professionalize domestic work” to give women the opportunity to work outside the home through home economics classes.
Although there was initially a lot of gender norm overtones that focused on women being good housewives and housewives, this has changed over time. The main goal of home economics is to give students confidence when preparing a meal that it doesn’t have to be perfect and that they can think outside the box.
Carol Werhan, professor of home economics and member of the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences, says some of the skills taught in these classes transcend the home and can be applied to other aspects of children’s lives. students. This can give a student a very valuable tool that they can take with them for the rest of their life: balance.
That’s not far from the truth, given that cooking isn’t the only thing taught in these classes. Students learn how to shop, budget, read food labels and mend clothes – all skills applicable to other aspects of life.
The availability of courses related to home economics began to be much less offered after 1957, when the Soviet Union launched its Sputnik satellite. The launch was enough to spur American educators to refocus education toward math and science.
Today, this is reinforced by continued funding for arts programs across the country. With limited opportunities to take courses in home economics. There has been a 38% drop in the number of students enrolled in these classes since 2003. Anything that is not STEM oriented is being cut.
This leaves so many new adults less equipped than previous generations. For many students, the opportunity to learn these skills at home is often missed. Neither of their parents teach home economics to children and young adults. Many of their parents did not learn these skills either.
This directly contributes to why we don’t know what a proper diet looks like, how to buy one, or where to start. Even with the various online grocery or meal kit delivery options, they are choosing to eat out. Newer generations, such as Millennials and Gen Z, prefer buying snacks from convenience stores or eating out. This has a direct impact on health.
Restaurants, especially fast food outlets, serve high-calorie foods. Posing several health risks such as obesity and chronic diseases. Since most people don’t learn how to read their food labels properly or have the ability to figure out how to portion their food, the health risks are high.
Not learning the basics of home economics is not only detrimental to our health, but also to our pockets. As college students, we probably think it’s easier to order something on UberEats or Doordash instead of figuring out what to buy at the store and cooking it. And after very long nights full of homework and studying, it is. But it’s so easy to lose track of our expenses. Sometimes McDonald’s $5 meals cost at least 30% more and the fees go up. We have all been there.
Our health and our pockets are at risk if nothing is done to compensate for the lack of basic home economics education. Our education system must begin by reviewing the courses it offers and those that are compulsory. In Texas, high school students must take two semesters of any physical education course to graduate. You can’t beat a bad diet. For these two semesters of physical education to have an impact on the health of these students, it must be paired with a course that will teach children how to move around the kitchen. This will give students the confidence they need in the kitchen and the ability to shop and manage their money better.
Like the rest of us, YouTube and Pinterest are great places to start. You can find free meal plans and budget templates on Pinterest. On YouTube, you can find step-by-step cooking videos that can help you conquer any recipe.
Featured artwork by Miranda Thomas