Now the class is usually called Family and Consumer Science, but it used to be known as Home Economics. It used to be that only the girls took home ec, but now boys and girls all take it. It used to be that we learned about cooking and sewing in the class, but now I understand it covers topics such as budgeting, balancing a checkbook, and saving energy.
Whatever you call it or whenever you took it, home ec has been a part of school for generations now, and it was the topic of a radio show I listened to recently. Specifically, the question was: "What did you learn in home ec?"
Yes, I took home ec back when it was only for girls and the boys were required to be in shop class. I especially remember junior high home ec. Thanks to my mother, grandmother, and 4-H, I had a reasonably good grasp of sewing and cooking skills going into the class. I can't remember what we sewed in that class, but it may have been a gathered cotton skirt (when was the last time you wore one of those?).
In cooking, we were taught to make cocoa from scratch, as well as tomato soup. And I remember very clearly that I didn't even know it was possible to make those dishes in any other way besides opening a can. In fact, I thought it was terribly silly to use any other method.
There is one tip I took with me from that junior high home ec class, though, that I still use. In one class the girls in my kitchen had just prepared a meal of some sort and were sitting down to eat it before the bell rang when our teacher sidled up, asking, "Did you girls sample your food before serving it?"
Well, of course we were proud of ourselves that no one had snitched anything, and we smugly said the same to our teacher. "Well, then, how do you really know that what you're serving is good?" asked Mrs. Egeland. "You should always sample the dish you've made."
Of course, that had never occurred to any of the young teenage cooks, and we thought we had it all together. It's a tip I still keep in mind.
According to the radio show, over the years home ec class has waxed and waned in popularity among students and school districts. Often, it was seen as an easy "A." But now it's revived, as an interest in basic skills like cooking a simple meal at home or hemming your skirt are seen as very useful. Some might even say such things are a necessity in this economy.
Even though you probably couldn't convince most junior high or high school students, such home skills come in handy when you never think they will.