Bring Back Home Ec?


I love that both Sarah Karnasiewicz (with her babble story “Our Kids Can’t Do Anything”) and Harvard pediatrician David Ludwig and Tufts professor Alice Lichtenstein (with their JAMA commentary) have started a mini call-to-arms on bringing back Home Economics. Though I haven’t read the JAMA article–you have to pay some bucks to subscribe — I read this mini excerpt from it on Marion Nestle’s blog Food Politics (bookmark her site if you haven’t already)

“Girls and boys should be taught the basic principles they will need to feed themselves and their families within the current food environment: a version of hunting and gathering for the 21st century. Through a combination of pragmatic instruction, field trips, and demonstrations, this curriculum would aim to transform meal preparation from an intimidating chore into a manageable and rewarding pursuit.”

Let me just say that the best thing I got out of my 1984 home ec class was the pillow I sewed in the shape of a “J” on a real live sewing machine. (It was the last time I used a sewing machine, sadly.) I think there was some rice cooking or a banana bread, and I know that there was a lot of snickering behind my teacher’s apron-tied back. Even in 1984, she was considered a throwback, a complete contradiction to the feminist messages being pounded into me in every other classroom (and at my friend Debi’s house, where their babysitter would have dinner ready to go so that when mom came home from treating her patients at a prestigious New York hospital, the family could eat together). This is not the Home Ec we need to bring back. We need to bring back a program that strips out any potential Donna Reed references. We need a program that reflects the 2010 attitude about capital-F Food, which is to say, a topic that is so much bigger than braising, boiling, and baking. Cooking in school needs to be viewed as a basic survival skill, the “hunting and gathering version of the 21st century,” as Ludwig and Lichtenstein point out, and also as a starting point for discussions on nutrition, childhood obesity, the provenance of food, the environment, self-sufficiency, the psychological health of our families. And if my kids learn how to make some really good meatballs along the way, you won’t hear me complaining.

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