Preparedness for the future: Why South needs to bring back Home Economics


Norah Austin

An old oven that is still in the Home Ec room, which is now a primarily used for study halls. When this class was discontinued, the equipment was never taken out of the room, thus making it easier to reinstate the program. “A lot of us are complaining about how we don’t know how to cook or take care of ourselves, which is a big thing for when you go to college,” said junior Rachel Olivarez. “You have to know how to do things like that…[because of that] I think we should bring Home Ec back to South.”

Norah Austin, Staff Writer

Home Ec. We’ve all heard the term before, but many people have misconceptions of what it really means. Home Ec classes teach students non-academic life skills such as cooking, cleaning, finances, and more.

The absence of these classes within the South community has left a gap in students’ abilities to lead lives independently. Without Home Ec, many South students are not necessarily learning the life skills that will support them once they move out after high school. Home Ec skills are necessary for students who are leaving home in order to live a successful lifestyle.

By bringing this class back to South, students would be benefited in non-academic areas, ultimately furthering their potential for success and fulfillment. After all, it’s hard to be successful career-wise or academically if you don’t have the skills to take care of yourself, your family/roommates, and your home.

The concept of Home Economics was created in 1917, upon the passing of the Smith-Hughes Act, which created funds for vocational education in agriculture, industry and home making. Subsequently, the federal Office of Home Economics was created. This led to the institution of many educational home-making courses throughout the country.

Originally, Home Economics was created to teach women who stayed at home how to take care of the children, as well as cooking, cleaning, sewing, and other homemaking tasks.

Due to this history, ‘Home Economics’ classes are stereotyped as being “female-only” classes, perpetuating sexism. But why we only teach women to be home makers?

In 2019, this class doesn’t have to be reflective of the misogynistic and oppressive values that it has conveyed.

Approximately 15 to 20 years ago, South got rid of the Home Economics program. Prior to this, South offered basic home ec and sewing classes, taught by Bertha Montgomery.

“We had cooking classes and sewing classes, sewing was a big thing back then. We had a full time home ec teacher, but [the class] was [discontinued] at least 15 years ago, if not closer to 20…” said Office Specialist Renee Magney. “When [Montgomery] retired they kind of just discontinued it.”

Although this reason for discontinuing of Home Ec is seemingly simple, it’s also rooted in gender stereotypes.

“My impression was that fewer students were taking [the class],” 9th grade Open Social Studies teacher Robert Panning Miller said. “I think the image of it carried over from the 50’s, even though [Home Ec] had been changing. It was sort of idea that some one who was going to be a homemaker would be the person taking that class.” Because Home Ec was thought of as a class meant only for prospective stay-at-home moms, many students were opposed to taking it.

However, reinstating the program in a new way would be extremely beneficial to the South community. All of the aforementioned skills are vital to one’s success when living alone as an adult.

Additionally, many parents do not have the time or resources to prepare their teenagers for this aspect of the future. “Not everyone has parents who are showing them how to do those things and not for some shortcoming on the parents’ part, they just don’t learn how to do things,” said Panning-Miller. This lack of skills taught by some parents once again demonstrates the great need for a home economics program within our school community.

“A lot of us are complaining about how we don’t know how to cook or take care of ourselves, which is a big thing for when you go to college,” said junior Rachel Olivarez. “You have to know how to do things like that…[because of that] I think we should bring Home Ec back to South.”

Home Ec classes do not have to be traditional. They can also focus on general time management, organization, and other self care and financial habits — really anything that will help students live their own lives as an adult.

Students would be taught skills that help them both at school at home, thus encouraging growth of the whole student. “If we can get real cooking classes that the kids are interested in, then yes [we should bring the class back,” stated Magney.

Although bringing this class back to South would be extremely beneficial to students, finding the funding and someone to teach the class would prove to be difficult.

Home economics teachers are becoming increasingly hard to find, due to the changing views surrounding the class. This means that creating a successful Home Ec class here at South will be challenging. After the retirement of South’s previous Home Ec teacher, no attempt was made to hire another, due to the dwindling nature of this profession.“I think the interest might have gone down some and teachers were hard to find, so then when she retired, [the program] kind of just went into something else,” said Magney.

Home Ec classes were also becoming increasingly hard to fund. As these classes were not deemed necessary, less funding was subsequently allotted, leading to the downfall of the program.

The stated drawbacks in no way deter from the true benefits of which Home Ec would be able to give to the South community. “These are skills that you need to get by in life,” said Panning-Miller. “Students have an interest in knowing how to do day to day things and take care of a home.”