Hugh Acheson

Hugh Acheson tries his darndest to overhaul the classic class.

on Apr 13, 20120

So, the bee in my bonnet was swarming and I had a meeting with the very charismatic Superintendent of the school district. It went well and next thing I know am touring around the schools. I was amazed at what they had: greenhouses, chicken runs, full kitchens with oven workstations, fully operational restaurant-style kitchen (nicer than any of my kitchens)… but it was all being used in slightly the wrong way or more often the case, not at all. 

I am now writing a syllabus for possible reinstitution of Home Ec in the school system starting at my local middle school where my two daughters will be going to school within four years. The grandiose plan that I have created is this: I will lean on my chef friends, community-minded academics at the University of Georgia, groups like Wholesome Wave and Share our Strength, doctors, thinkers, parents, and politicians and together we will come up with a nine-week curriculum that will engage kids with pertinent life skills.

This is what I have so far: 

Week 1: Food 101 - how it affects your family and your community

Week 2: Pickling and preserving

Week 3: Fixing stuff. Sewing stuff. Cleaning stuff

Week 4: Basic basic finance (like balancing a checkbook). Small business 101. Rational thought when it comes to money

Week 5: Local, sustainable, and organic… what the heck does all that mean?

Week 6: Good mold/ bad mold. Making our own cheese. 

Week 7: Raising chickens, cooking chickens 

Week 8: Three pasta dishes to feed four people for under $10

Week 9: Basic gardening. urban guerrilla style.

This is a rough sketch, but this is a week’s work, part time by little old me.  

7 comments
shay3002
shay3002

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.

 

ugafan
ugafan

Way to go, Hugh! As an UGA grad and Top Chef viewer, I am already a huge fan of yours. It's so important to raise a healthier generation for the good of our society and future of our world. We appreciate your vision and what you're working towards. Best wishes for continued success!

Jules in WA State
Jules in WA State

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???

Cheers.

Hughfan
Hughfan

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!!!

Annie G
Annie G

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!!

Mandyjasper1
Mandyjasper1

I love this and think it is a brilliant idea! Bravo!

Kaymgee
Kaymgee

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.