By Karli Vezina
Kids these days. They don’t eat right, they can’t balance a chequebook, do they even know what a chequebook is? Some professionals think many issues facing young people today could be fixed with the return of home economics. In a class like home-ec, students learn about food and nutrition, home management, budgeting and health, and hygiene too. These all seem like useful skills still warranted for today’s modern world, so why has it been taken out of schools and will it ever return?
For every professional that says “yea,” there seems to be another saying “nay” and both have valid points.
Historically, home economists were on the front lines advocating for higher education and paid employment for women. They were also among the first to fight for rights we take for granted today like access to health information, food safety laws and women’s reproductive rights. Home economics is much more than making bread from scratch so it’s easy to see how some don’t want the field to be reduced to the kitchen.
Those in favour of a return to home-ec seem to be singling out certain aspects of the class but are missing the bigger picture, leaving domestic work undervalued and sexist issues unaddressed.
On top of that, the founders of home economics promoted euthenics - a philosophy that advocated 'a good life' for everyone. The problem? Who gets to decide? The home economists were white, European and upper class and some educators worry that bringing back home-ec would promote “individualistic solutions to what are structural problems".
A happy medium may be to bring home economics back to the classroom but don’t stop in the kitchen. The rights that home economists fought for should be a part of the curriculum and incorporated as such. If we could combine the social and political history of home-ec with the invaluable life skills to be learned, I think the women who fought for social and political change back then would be proud of us today.