home economics
Sarah Biren
Sarah Biren
April 29, 2020 ·  5 min read

Bring Back Home Economics Classes In Schools Because Our Kids Lack Basic Life Skills

Home Economics was fixed into the education system in the 1960s. It was intended to educate girls in domestic activities to feed and care for their future families. While the sex-specific aspects of it may be antiquated, the lessons themselves have become more necessary than ever. For example, adolescents tend to maintain a poor diet without ever having learned how to prepare basic healthy meals. With today’s obesity epidemic, the implementation of education surrounding meal planning and cooking would indeed be a crucial part of a long-term solution. [1] After all, cooking isn’t just ‘women’s work.’ It’s work for anyone who needs to eat. 

Food preparation is just one of the many skills taught by Home Economics classes. Others include filing taxes, time management, and home maintenance. While many students today may be able to solve complicated math equations, they lack the skills they need to independently navigate the real world. Schools are focused on academia and standardized test scores, leaving graduating students handicapped when it comes to basic skills to take care of themselves. 

Related: High School Hosts ‘Adulting Day’ to Teach Students Real-life Basics Before They Graduate

Home Economics Is Not Just for Girls Anymore 

Home Economics classes have been stigmatized to be “for girls,” unnecessary, and easy compared to courses like chemistry or algebra. In an education system where the focus is on grades more than a practical understanding of the material, Home Ec has become extremely undervalued. This is not to devalue other main-stays of the educational system but to revalue what has been lost.

High school is meant to set up students for adult life, and while they may have averages high enough to get into university, they lack basic skills to function as adults. It’s unrealistic to expect them to know how to stick to a budget, manage their financials, purchase or rent property, or even sew a button or a hem if they were never taught how to do it. Students may not have been aware that these skills even existed. It is in these ways high school has failed at preparing them.

For example, Marti Harvey, a lecturer at the University of Texas at Arlington, discovered that her students weren’t aware that they had to pay property taxes for owning property for the rest of their lives, just because they were never given that information while studying in high school. 

“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,” Harvey wrote on Dallas News. “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.”  

Every semester, Harvey teaches a week of “math lab” to teach her students about taxes, car and credit card payments, paychecks, and all of the math skills even the liberal arts majors need to know.  

She added, “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.” [2] 

Read: Alaska High School Teacher Hunted a Moose and had his Students Butcher the Animal to Learn Life Skills

Why Don’t Parents Teach Home Economic Skills? 

For many reasons. Some parents don’t have the time. It’s easier to sew a button quickly than to teach a novice how to do it. Some parents don’t have these skills themselves. After all, many adults hire cleaning help, order take out on the regular, or hire repairmen for basic tasks. Some parents don’t think about preparing their kids for the real world until the kid is ready to move out, and by then, it’s too late. Some parents are uncomfortable teaching kids about finances, for example, because it’ll expose the children to their own financial situation, which can do more harm than good. 

Additionally, not all students have the same advantages as others. Children who come from homes with issues that prevent them from learning life skills should have just as much opportunity to learn Home Economics as any other child.  

High school is the perfect time to institute these classes, since teenagers are beginning to crave independence and think about their future as adults. Home Ec acknowledges these feelings and can help them grow. It can teach them how to be safe from marketing ploys, how to be wise when it comes to spending, how to be efficient with time and money, and how to be confident in their abilities as functioning adults. 

Adult life is more than working hard to get good grades. Students need to be taught how to work smart, and to do that, they need to know how to take care of themselves.  

Remember, this isn’t about displacing the sciences, maths, or English, its about making room for something to make a valuable return. What do you think?

Keep Reading: State leaders pushing to teach all students how to budget money, balance a checkbook in high school

[1] Alice H. Lichtenstein, DSc; David S. Ludwig, MD, Ph.D. Bring Back Home Economics Education. Jama Network. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/185818 May 12, 2010 

[2] Marti Harvey. Bring back home economics class because our kids lack basic life skills. Dallas News. https://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/commentary/2018/08/04/bring-back-home-economics-class-because-our-kids-lack-basic-life-skills/ August 4, 2018