The other day I was having coffee (Tonx coffee from an Aeropress if you play a Barista part time) and writing through a schedule when I had a thought: “What if we revamped Home Economics?” The thought before that was something like, “If I was an extra in the TJ Hooker series, what would my speaking lines be?” They are not all altruistic thoughts.
But the home ec stuff is a good thought. Thoughts like this come into my little brain frequently, thoughts that revolve around the notion of making the world a better place through food, thoughts that pivot around the role of the chef community in the betterment of society. Many of these thoughts are stupidly naïve and grandiose, unachievable and complete wastes of time, but some gather steam as good ideas that could make a difference.
So the idea was simple: fixing the curriculum of Home Econ or Consumer Sciences could make kids more food aware, healthier, and give them tools for a hard future.
My problem is I had no real understanding of the subject or what the status was in the curriculum of schools these days, but I surmised that because of the absence of food knowledge in the vast majority of school-aged kids, the curriculum just was not really up to snuff.
A short virtual research trip to the Google and a couple of phone calls found that the subject had recently been canned in our public school district (Athens Clarke County) and the school systems where it was still in effect were using a course syllabus from about 40 years ago. The textbooks were absolutely boring and dated. The food talked about was pretty crappy-looking. There was a lot of gender specific pre-natal care stuff that would scare the bejeebus out of any male in his young teens. there was a lot of talk about food borne illnesses and bacteria… way to get kids excited about food! One class with a focus on listeria and I would probably have skipped the rest of the classes to hang out in the parking lot and play hi-lo. Trust me, I was a very typical student and this stuff would have put the lights out in my brain.
Hugh, I kind of got lost in the hyper-jump from page 2 to 3 but Home Economics is alive and kicking in the USA.
Maybe you googled Home Ec and we weren't there. We underwent a refocus and name change about 15 or so years ago (probably after you left high school). Instead of focusing on preparing girls to be homemakers, the focus is on the family and the skills needed in the family. The new (to you) name is Family & Consumer Sciences (FACS in some places, FCS in others). We are certainly not using forty year old curriculum. We use contemporary national standards and the names and focus of courses have changed. Cooking is now Nutrition & Wellness. As for balancing a checkbook, passing a Personal Finance course is required for graduation in many states, including mine. FCS also focuses on preparation for the workplace (and dealing with the balance of career and family) with many school-to-career courses formerly known as Vocational Ed. Now it is Career and Technical Education.
Each of these CTE areas of study have co-curricular student leadership organizations, involving students beyond their own schools, out in the community and literally the world. I'm sure you would immediately recognize FBLA and FFA as our sister organizations. Future Homemakers of America is now FCCLA or Family, Career and Community Leaders of America,www.fcclainc.org. Please visit our educator professional organizations to get a better feel for what is going on in the classroom these days: www.aafcs.org (American Association of Family & Consumer Sciences since 1909) and www.acteonline.org (The Association for Career and Technical Education since 1926).
I teach in Rural America. It is true that income makes a difference in nutrition, the kids don't eat right, the parents don't cook. A teen vegetarian diet is French fries and Diet Dr Pepper. It is mostly microwave or prepackaged, Pop Tarts for breakfast and Hot Pockets for dinner. If you really want to get agitated, go to the freezer section of the grocery (don't go to Whole Foods or Wegmans, we don't have those in the boonies*) and hold your arms out straight both ways in the frozen vegetable section. That's usually about all there is. Now how many aisles are devoted to "pop and nuke" foods, high in sodium and fat, low in nutrition? It's our culture we are fighting. I try to affect teens one class at a time. It is true that many schools are closing our departments because it's not cheap and education is all about the money these days. How about helping us by getting the word out about the good we are doing? Visit some schools and programs that are working and bring that to America. Blessings! Shay (love food, love kids)
*Imagine trying to teach a positive nutrition program when availability of quality supplies is an issue for the teacher as well.
I work in a public school district and like you wish we were teaching more practical curriculum but classes that are not tested through federal laws, NCLB ( No Child Left Behind) and state accountability laws that quickly followed have little support. It would be great if public figures could explain to people why we have given up teaching kids to balance a checkbook yet we teach them what fission is when most will have a check book but few will work with atoms. It is very commendable what you are doing and wish you great success. I love your humor.
Sounds like a great plan! Studying that kind of course would have made some things much easier for me in high school and college. If that plan was built on each year through high school graduation, it would probably be some of the most valuable information those kids would learn. Wish I was back in GA!!
How cool!! This just made my day. I'm a teacher and we need more people like you willing to help inspire the younger generation. This will make such a difference in so many lives. I also love your blog... You make me laugh!!!
Hugh, I miss you!!! Boo Hoo. I hope that you will be coming back for a new season of Top Chef, if there is going to be one. Your blogs were the best!!
Excellent idea on Home Ec getting an update. I remember my Home Ec classes in High School and they actually were good for the time....late 60's. It got me interested in sewing and while I was already cooking with my mother or doing the whole supper thing during the week, it gave me other ideas that she didn't pass on.
I would imagine today's modern HE to have tons of microwave ovens!! There are so many options for prepared meals at the grocery store that I know many parents use those from a lack of time management. Skills taught to todays kids in HE on an updated scale would be brilliant. I wish you well in your efforts. Remember to start small and grow it big. Easier to get in the door with a small change.
Hope that you will continue to blog here, I don't Twitter. Maybe you have your own website???