Bring Back the Basics

Schools should offer electives in home economics and shop

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Photo Credit/PatricksMercy

"Regina Dominican High School, Wilmette, Illinois 1963 Home Ec class"

Vanesa Hoxha, Staff Reporter

In honor of March Women’s International and History Month, it is quite apparent that women can do anything they put their minds to.  Women are independent and do not need to rely on someone else to do something they are more than capable of doing themselves.

As young women we have been given much. The temptation to go online and buy whatever clothes we need or order an entire meal to be delivered to our doorstep is very tempting.

However, young girls, and I am including boys, too, should be learning some important life skills early on. Back in the days when our parents went to high school, most students were required to take classes in either Home Economics or shop. Girls were directed to Home Ec to learn how to cook and sew, while the boys were required to take shop to learn how to build a nightstand or change a tire.

This gender-directed model soon lost its touch, beginning in the 1960s as women entered the workforce. Women were treated as equal to men and could do any job a man could do. Schools followed suit and dropped both these classes from many school curriculums.

Nowadays, young people, too easily, rely on others to do things for them. Teens need to comprehend that not everything is going to be handed to them that easily. At one point, they are going to have to take care of themselves.

According to the article “Why Millenials Don’t Know How to Cook,” “…almost 70% of young people say that they enjoy cooking for others…” yet, “53% of millennials say they eat at restaurants at least once a week.”

It’s easy to sit back and count on someone else to cook our meals, sew a hole in our pants, or change the wiper fluid in our car, but shouldn’t we, the next generation, be able to do these things for ourselves, too?

Schools are a place to learn, so students can succeed in a changing and interconnected global world. Young people are encouraged to be independent and take on self-responsibility. With that being said, there is a great need for schools across the country to bring back a modernized version of classes in both Home Economics and Shop.

As students, we carry a course-load of academic subjects with a variety of electives. At Regina Dominican, we are fortunate to take such electives as guitar, graphic design, consumer economics, creative writing, tech theater, engineering, forensic science, and dance.  Today, many schools offer an array of electives that students find interesting and want to take.

Alongside many of these interesting electives, there should also be the opportunity for students to learn essential skills through a class that offers cooking, sewing, building and fixing things. With the myriad of television shows that feature chefs, fashion designers, and home and car improvement, it’s time for high schools to bring back courses that offer a fresh take on teaching these important life skills.

Mrs. Kitchie, Vice President of Advancement at Regina Dominican states, that women should learn how to “balance a checkbook, finance, and learn to budget.” She further adds, “women are amazing; what makes them great are things that could be taught as an elective, which focus on cooking, health, and hygiene.”

At Regina, Consumer Economics teacher, Ms. Gianos said that the Consumer Economics class “teaches students how to invest in the stock market, how to navigate tax documents, understand bank accounts, and insurance as well as how to budget for different items, such as a house. We also do a mock job interview, so students understand the process and learn to present themselves professionally.”

Regina’s Tech Theater class teaches students how to responsibly use tools to create and build sets for a play. In Engineering, students learn how to innovate and create using a mixture of products. In the same sense, a class in home economics and shop would be a welcome addition to curriculums across the country.

Many young people are fortunate to have grown up with a mother and father figure who may have taught their children how to cook, sew, change a tire, and, even, plunge a toilet. Others, unfortunately, don’t have that same opportunity. This is why classes teaching the basics of cooking, sewing, and building are essential fundamentals that every young person should learn, regardless of gender.

Science teacher Ms. Scotese two sons both went to Evanston’s public schools. She said, “both guys are good cooks and bakers (and they didn’t learn it from me).” She also said, “my one son thought the food class was a huge help, the other less so.” Because he was offered the class at school, he was able to acquire the knowledge and skill that would help him in the future, and as we can see now, it did.

Assistant Principal, Mrs. Allworth actually took Home Economics during her senior year at Regina. She said, “I remember that our big project was cooking a Thanksgiving dinner with our “family” groups in the mini-kitchens that were once housed in the Mac Lab and Darkroom and the alley between the lab and the art room.”

Teaching young people how to make a nice big dinner and working together as a “family” is empowering and builds community. It also sounds like a lot of fun.

Shop class, according to TVTropes, “teaches the basics of home repairs and craftsmanship, useful skills that could potentially be parlayed into a career.”

By offering a class like this for young people, especially women,  learning to change a tire, paint a room, and install tile in the bathroom are just another set of important skills that can be carried on through life.

Ms. Scotese explained, “when I was in school they did offer both in 8th grade, but the girls couldn’t take shop, which I think was very unfair.” On the other hand, she stated, “one of my daughters-in-law loved her shop class and sewing class and said it was a huge help in life.”

Mrs. Allworth was unsure why home economics was dropped from the school’s curriculum.It could have been due to a lack of interest. Mrs. Kitchie thought that courses such as science and business became more timely for students. Ms. Scotese stated that “if you’re applying to Northwestern or the University of Chicago, they want to see AP classes, not Home Ec.”

Besides teaching life skills to students through a home economics or shop class, these classes also offer a solid career path. Many of the skills offered in such classes open doors in hospitality, health care, fashion design, interior design, construction, engineering, to name just a few. “Etiquette and Hospitality, Caregiving, Fashion Design, Interior Design,” etc. 

Home Economics and Shop classes should be in every school’s curriculum.  They both teach material that is essential for an individual’s growth and is crucial for a better future for young men and women, no matter what school they attend or what they want to be when they get older. 

Photo Credit/PatricksMercy
“Girls Home Ec class in 1963 Regina Dominican High School”
Photo Credit/PatricksMercy
“Sister Celeste Mary, OP prepares thread for loon while Sr. Alexandrine, OP head of Homemaking Department and Sister Louis Marie, OP Head of Art Department at Regina Dominican 1963”