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Bring back Home Ec!


Seth, played by Jonah Hill, flirts with Emma Stone's character Jules in home ec class in the 2007 film "Superbad." (Melissa Moseley)

Here's a retro idea for combating obesity: Bring home economics back to our schools.

In an editorial in the May 12 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, Alice Lichtenstein, a nutrition scientist at Tufts University, and David Ludwig, a physician at Children's Hospital Boston, argue that restoring a modernized form of what we used to call "home ec" to schools would help teach kids how to make better food choices and prepare healthful meals -- both of which should help them manage their weight as kids and, later, as adults.

The authors note that, sadly, many kids today likely are not receiving such instruction at home; in fact, they venture, families that rely heavily on take-out, restaurant and convenience foods are sending the message that cooking at home is a bother.

Their vision of home ec varies from the home ec many of us experienced in, say, the 1970s (when I took home ec at Earle B. Wood Junior High School in Rockville). Learning to make your own Bisquick mix and bake a red velvet cake, as I did, wouldn't go too far in battling obesity. Instead, the editorial proposes the following:

To improve education about food, it is not necessary to bring back the classic home economics coursework, replete with gender-specific stereotypes. Rather, 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. As children transition into young adulthood, they should be provided with knowledge to harness modern conveniences (eg, prewashed salad greens) and avoid pitfalls in the marketplace (eg, prepared foods with a high ratio of calories to nutrients) to prepare meals that are quick, nutritious, and tasty. It is important to dispel the myths--aggressively promoted by some in the food industry--that cooking takes too much time or skill and that nutritious food cannot also be delicious.
A comprehensive curriculum to teach students about the scientific and practical aspects of food might include basic cooking techniques; caloric requirements; sources of food, from farm to table; budget principles; food safety; nutrient information, where to find it and how to use it; and effects of food on well-being and risk for chronic disease. This curriculum would provide adolescents, especially at the high school level, with the skills they need to become confident in selecting, handling, and preparing food. To minimize competition with other curricular activities, many of these topics could be integrated into existing science, math, economics, physical activity, and social studies coursework. Some additional time during the school day would be required for hands-on cooking classes and field trips. However, with improvements in dietary quality that may result from the new curriculum, mental performance may increase, tending to compensate for any modest reductions in time available for other classes.

Everything costs money, of course, and fitting another line of study into schools' already-crowded curricula would take some doing. But it seems like something worth looking into, especially because home ec as envisioned by the authors would nicely complement the school-garden campaign championed by Michelle Obama and others.

I'm thinking of writing one of my "Eat, Drink and Be Healthy" columns about this, and I could use your input. Does your kid's school offer some form of home ec? What's that like? Does it seem to be helping your child learn to eat more healthfully? Share your thoughts, please!

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  May 17, 2010; 9:15 AM ET
Categories:  Family Health , General Health , Nutrition and Fitness , Obesity , School Nutrition  
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Next: For healthful eating, do as I say, not as I do?

Comments

Sounds good. I'm a guy and took home ec about three decades ago when I was in high school. I figured the health and safety lawyers had shut down all the wood shop and cooking classes in all the schools. Do public schools still offer this stuff and do the kids take the classes?

Posted by: wp05122010 | May 17, 2010 11:07 AM | Report abuse

My children had a shop/art/home ec set of courses available to them in middle school but it conflicted with band.

Band was where all the academically oriented kids went so signing up for something besides band tracked you into classes with academic losers. Know anybody in the DC area who goes for that?

Mind you, it wasn't academic tracking, it was just how class choices resulted in the rest of your schedule getting organized.

What's wrong with Red Velvet cake? I don't think you'll generate a lot of enthusiam for teaching kids how to steam brocolli.

Posted by: RedBird27 | May 17, 2010 11:20 AM | Report abuse

I think home ec should definitely come back. As a nurse and former adult education instructor there are a few basic things that everybody should know. 1) 5 easy things to cook. 2) How to balance a checkbook. 3) What does interest mean and how much are you really paying for that whatever you are buying with a credit card? 4) How to not get pregnant. 5) If you are pregnant, how long does a normal pregnancy last? And no, inducing the pregnancy at 25 weeks because you are tired of being pregnant will not work. 6) No, the baby cannot feed itself its own bottle on the first day of life.

Posted by: pjlemley | May 17, 2010 11:28 AM | Report abuse

I graduated HS in the late '80's, and can remember taking Home Ec in Middle School. But for me, it was a whole gender-based thing (we had to take a "practical" class - HomeEc or Shop).

While I admit the class got me started on my occasional hobby of cross-stitching, the cooking part was a waste of my time. Because I grew up helping my mother in the kitchen. I can clearly remember my teacher snapping at me when I asked why on earth would you add cream to a basic scrambled egg - it was unnecessary fat. She did not appreciate the commentary.

And whatever HomeEc training my friends got at their respective schools must have been horrible, based on my knowledge vs. theirs during my college years. My off-campus friends used to ask me to go grocery shopping with them so they could learn to pick good produce (a skill hard-learned at Magruder's with my Mom). Making some vegetarian friends aglio e olio or lemon pasta was a revelation to them - they all thought "pasta" meant a Bolognese sauce.

Sure, bring back HomeEc. But it should focus on learning the basic techniques, the different diets of different cultures (i.e. - if carbs were really the enemy, then many 3rd world countries would be uniformly dead), when and how you can make substitutions, and a field trip or two to a grocery store or Farmer's Market to learn about produce.

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | May 17, 2010 11:31 AM | Report abuse

I am all for requiring a class that teaches basic nutrition and life skills. Lets also add basic home financial skills...saving money and cost efficient living. While we are teaching nutrition and basic cooking, can we also add food safety? I am constantly asked about it (I am an environmental health specialist). People really don't know basic food safety.

Posted by: sjd1 | May 17, 2010 11:31 AM | Report abuse

PLEASE. People are bombarded daily with information about what is healthy and what is not. One more class is not going to change bad habits that are fostered BY PARENTS AT HOME. When I was growing up we simply weren't allowed to have all that junk in the house. That junk is CHEAP because it contains 85% subsidized corn, soy and sugar products (which means that taxpayer dollars are being diverted to farms to produce cheap CRAP). So for one: remove the subsidies and we can see the TRUE price of what this junk is costing us, both in terms of dollars and then of health. Second: stop expecting that health food is going to come pre-packaged in a wrapper than can be ripped open in one second and consumed in the next second. Whole food is healthy food.

Posted by: bikinibottom | May 17, 2010 12:13 PM | Report abuse

MCPS still offers these courses. They are extremely popular. The kids learn basic sewing, and cooking. Basic cooking skills are important to healthy living. Kids do so much by pushing buttons, but they need practical skills also.

Posted by: celestun100 | May 17, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Everyone has to eat, and if parents are not able or will not teach their children how to eat healthy there is nothing wrong with schools doing so.

I graduated high school in 2000 and I took a course entitled "Foods & Nutrition." Yes it was a home ec class in the sense that we cooked, but we also learned a lot of other things. We had to learn all the different vitamins and minerals in food, how they helped our bodies, and the best foods to eat to get these vitamins. I learned a lot of important skills in this class that definitely carried over into my adult life. While I know how to grocery shop well because I went with my mother growing up, there are a lot of people my age that have no clue how to do so. I think it would be a great idea to have a Foods & Nutrition class where the teacher has the students make a weekly meal plan and grocery list, then takes the students to a supermarket and teaches them how to pick out produce, comparative shop for the best deals, look for weekly specials, read nutrition labels, and other basic life skills.

There is nothing wrong with teaching adolescents how to make a cake, but also teaching them how to make a balanced healthy meal that is cost efficient is also important!

Posted by: Merdi | May 17, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

I had the required Home Ec in 6th grade and again in ther 8th grade back In PA. This was back in the late 70's and I think it is a good idea to have kids today learn about it to hopefully reduce obeisity.

Posted by: DRSMERC11 | May 17, 2010 2:12 PM | Report abuse

'Home Ec' classes in Chesterfield County VA in the early 1990s focused on basic sewing, basic cooking skills, nutritional content, economics of grocery shopping and the impact of marketing. The last two should not be underestimated. Everyone should understand when you're being 'encouraged' to buy more (to save more??), the best way to use coupons, how to balance your checkbook and how to critically interpret the thousands of marketing messages lobbed at us everyday.

Posted by: emmlehr | May 17, 2010 2:36 PM | Report abuse

'Home Ec' classes in Chesterfield County VA in the early 1990s focused on basic sewing, basic cooking skills, nutritional content, economics of grocery shopping and the impact of marketing. The last two should not be underestimated. Everyone should understand when you're being 'encouraged' to buy more (to save more??), the best way to use coupons, how to balance your checkbook and how to critically interpret the thousands of marketing messages lobbed at us everyday.

Posted by: emmlehr | May 17, 2010 2:36 PM | Report abuse

Look, bikinibottom, I hate to say it, but there are ALOT of parents out there who aren't teaching their kids the stuff they should be teaching them. Cooking. Sex Ed. That stuff that when the kid slips up doing (gets diabetes, gets pregnant) society has to deal with directly (Medi-blank) or indirectly (increased insurance payments for all).

I have friends who have never cooked anything other than mac n' cheese and don't understand why an ironing board is pointed on one side. Some of them had take out every night and had housekeepers because their parents were busy and had the funds. Some of them had stay at home moms who just did all that for them. There is NOTHING that is common knowledge to all people. We learn from our parents where food comes from and some parents are teaching that the answer is Taco Bell (bleah).

Posted by: em15 | May 17, 2010 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Jamie Oliver has been arguing for a long time that everyone should have a dozen basic recipes -- under 30 minutes of prep, with variations -- that they can cook. With those, eating healthily becomes possible for everyone. Home Ec is a great first step. I'd also argue that knowing how to sew on a button or knit a scarf isn't a bad skill to have.

Posted by: Fabrisse | May 17, 2010 3:41 PM | Report abuse

"MCPS still offers these courses."

~~~~~~
WHERE? Not in our cluster! If you know of a MCPS school offering Home Ec and/or Shop then list the school because these classes are not available countywide.

Posted by: jzsartucci | May 17, 2010 3:50 PM | Report abuse

Sure, don't have any objections to teaching kids how to cook, it's a very useful life skill.

However...I have to say, in DC at least it isn't a "myth" that cooking isn't possible often for some people. After I get done working a 16 hour day, the absolute LAST thing on my mind is remaining upright and aware long enough to somehow manage to cook from scratch in the tiny galley half-kitchen of my 300 square foot DC studio... ;). A modern "home ec" class should therefore not only teach kids how to cook, it should teach kids how to make healthy choices without cooking, as well (for instance, label reading, choosing healthier frozen options [as there are big differences in the health value of one prepared meal vs another], etc.).

Posted by: Eleiana | May 17, 2010 5:05 PM | Report abuse

Sure, don't have any objections to teaching kids how to cook, it's a very useful life skill.

However...I have to say, in DC at least it isn't a "myth" that cooking isn't possible often for some people. After I get done working a 16 hour day, the absolute LAST thing on my mind is remaining upright and aware long enough to somehow manage to cook from scratch in the tiny galley half-kitchen of my 300 square foot DC studio... ;). A modern "home ec" class should therefore not only teach kids how to cook, it should teach kids how to make healthy choices without cooking, as well (for instance, label reading, choosing healthier frozen options [as there are big differences in the health value of one prepared meal vs another], etc.). As an adult, I recently consulted a nutritionist, in fact, to learn tips for how I can eat more healthfully without cooking from scratch as it's pretty impossible for me both logistically and time-wise, and she was able to point me towards some decent alternatives.

Posted by: Eleiana | May 17, 2010 5:07 PM | Report abuse

I'm torn.

Knowing how to feed yourself is a vital life skill, and, by default, kids will learn it from the TV (i.e. when you're hungry, tear open a bag of Junky Treats!). Kids should learn this at home, but the fact is, they don't: quite often, parents are as ignorant of basic nutrition and cooking as their children are. So the schools do have an important role to play.

On the other hand, in places like Europe and Korea, the kids are busy learning calculus and foreign languages so that they can be globally competitive, while American high school kids are perenially at the bottom of the industrialized world's academic rankings. Adding new "remedial" Home Ec courses would just further crowd out the substantive academic subjects that we are already woefully deficient in.

The only way to add in the much-needed Home Ec courses is to drop some of the useless baggage that has cluttered American high school schedules, baggage that none of the other countries we are competing with waste time on: the huge time-sinks of extra-curricular sports and clubs.

Ending the whole resource-wasting charade of school-sponsored cheerleading, pep-rallies, brain-injuring contact sports, etc, etc, would free up time for the remedial life-skills classes we need, without falling even further behind the rest of the world academically.

Yeah. It'll never happen. Oh well. As they say, "if you have Third World skills, you're going to earn Third World pay." Enjoy the ride down, America.

Posted by: kcx7 | May 17, 2010 5:53 PM | Report abuse

I have a friend that is a retired home economist and she told me several years ago that we have 6 generstions of people that have no idea how to cook from "sctach". My mother helped my dad in the woods so at an early age I learned how to cook from beginning to end in fact my first job at the age of 14 was cooking for a harvest crew in the Palouse country. I did not take home ec but opted for physics instead. I made sure all three of our children could cook, for my two sons it was a blessing as one is a single father and the other his wife if it doesn't come out of a box she can't do it. Ten years ago my husband suffered a heart attack and we had to change eating habits. We only had to give up two things saturated fat and sodium so it meant nothing processed. At the age of 60 I still make my own bread, raise a large garden and do my own canning plus run a small business. It all takes time and it depends where your priorties are. The results have been worth it my husband lost 100 lbs and I am now down a little over 130 lbs and just have 20 more to go. Not only do kids need to know how but teach the parents. They need to teach them how to use the herbs and spices that makes a large difference in the taste and the quality of the food. If a child can read they can cook with the aid of a good cookbook

Posted by: basine | May 17, 2010 6:19 PM | Report abuse

I have a friend that is a retired home economist and she told me several years ago that we have 6 generstions of people that have no idea how to cook from "sctach". My mother helped my dad in the woods so at an early age I learned how to cook from beginning to end in fact my first job at the age of 14 was cooking for a harvest crew in the Palouse country. I did not take home ec but opted for physics instead. I made sure all three of our children could cook, for my two sons it was a blessing as one is a single father and the other his wife if it doesn't come out of a box she can't do it. Ten years ago my husband suffered a heart attack and we had to change eating habits. We only had to give up two things saturated fat and sodium so it meant nothing processed. At the age of 60 I still make my own bread, raise a large garden and do my own canning plus run a small business. It all takes time and it depends where your priorties are. The results have been worth it my husband lost 100 lbs and I am now down a little over 130 lbs and just have 20 more to go. Not only do kids need to know how but teach the parents. They need to teach them how to use the herbs and spices that makes a large difference in the taste and the quality of the food. If a child can read they can cook with the aid of a good cookbook

Posted by: basine | May 17, 2010 6:20 PM | Report abuse

FACS
called Family and Consumer Sciences. In the Sherwood Cluster

Posted by: celestun100 | May 18, 2010 12:41 AM | Report abuse

I was in middle school in MCPS around '97 and I took home ec AND shop. It was a mini course, and I don't think my educated suffered from having to spend a little time outside math and science in middle school. Up until making french toast in home ec, I never thought I would ever cook anything. My mother taught me *nothing*. I discovered cooking was fun and easy and now I cook regularly (in part because I'm veggie).

Home ec is totally appropriate for middle school and it would be a great place to incorporate a little information on nutrition. There are definitely a lot of misconceptions out there, like 'organic' means 'healthy' or 'low fat' means 'eat freely', which is very difficult for the food industry to avoid exploiting.

Posted by: kimk1 | May 19, 2010 1:04 PM | Report abuse

I am offended that many of you are not familiar with what is being taught and available to students in our schools.

Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) is ALIVE in our schools! (For those of you in the 80's it was Home Ec) The focus is much more than "cooking and sewing" Courses focus on preparing students for careers, balancing family life and being productive citizens with all the essential skills to problem solve and survive on their own.

The "cooking" courses have become Nutrition and Wellnes and Culinary Arts. We are teaching students Nutrition as well as how to prepare foods healthier, how to be better consumers by reading labels, shopping the outside aisles and evaluating diet and exercise programs...the list goes on.

FCS programs include Child Development and Parenting, Personal Finance, Housing and Interior Design and many schools offer other courses designed to help students make career decisions... what they want to be when they grow up.

You might want to contact your local schools to see what opportunities are available to your children that will prepare them to survive on their own.

Sounds like to me it should be a required class...just like math, science, social studies and english. Oh, wait...I do teach all those subjects just in a more practical way....real life experiences!

From a FCS teacher of 20+ years, helping the world become a healthier place!

Posted by: charlottegray | May 19, 2010 2:03 PM | Report abuse

I can't believe what I'm reading! Is the general public so unaware of the state of education that they don't even know what courses are offered?! "Home Ec" was thrown out years ago and replaced with Family and Consumer Sciences (aka, FACS or FCS). Not only is this content area a passion of mine, I teach it. FACS replaced "Home Ec" by re-writing the curriculum. Instead of being labeled as a fine art, we are now considered part of vocational education. In most areas, FACS counts towards the required practical arts credit for graduation. We are in the same category as Business education and Industrial Technology. Not only is FACS more current and relevant than the old home economics curriculum, FACS also encompasses more information. It's no longer "stitching and stirring." We teach courses on nutrition and wellness, culinary arts, fashion design, fashion construction, fashion merchandising, personal finance, family economics, health, child development, child studies, relationships, family studies, sex education, and more. I teach the Nutrition and Foods course, emphasis on nutrition. We focus on learning basic kitchen skills- how to work appliances, handle knives, check for food for doneness. We teach nutrition extensively- how to read a nutrition label, learning the food pyramid (you all ARE aware that the current one replaced the old one 5 years ago, right?), how to adapt a recipe for specific nutrition needs. Each food lab is evaluated for it's nutrient content and time/cost efficiency. We teach how to prepare healthy, home-cooked meals using today's all common convenience food products. Be aware though, many districts write off this area of study as unnecessary and cut our funding or cut the program all together. The problem does not lie within the curriculum- there is a program in existance to meet the needs. The problem is in lack of support and knowledge of the program and system. If you're so concerned about the health and education of America's children, I suggest you work on educating yourself first. Take the time to attend those school board meetings and know what's going on in your district. Learn your own way around the kitchen and provide your children with healthy meals. Set the example for good health and education by living the lifestyle yourself.

Posted by: FacsTeacherJenna | May 19, 2010 2:03 PM | Report abuse

I taught Family & Consumer Sciences (the new Home Ec) in Fairfax County until moving away 2 years ago. Classes are still taught there- and throughout the country. Nutrition is certainly a major focus- and the challenge will always be finding foods that are healthy AND appeal to teenagers. One unit I teach is having students select healthier options from fast food restaurants. This is certainly not something that would have been taught 10 years ago- but is (sadly) an essential lesson needed today.
Family & Consumer Sciences is unfortunately one of the programs to be on the chopping block when budgets are cut. We are seeing the effects of this daily with unhealthy families. As teenagers leave home and start their own families, they need to know how to do more than "cook" a frozen pizza or order chinese.
Of course in an ideal world, children would learn these skills at home to then be reinforced at school. Since that isn't always the case, we need to keep Family & Consumer Sciences in our schools!!

Posted by: shejansen | May 19, 2010 2:24 PM | Report abuse

Just to piggyback on the other FACS teachers--We Exist, We are Modernized, and We are Marginalized. I was inspired to become a FACS teacher in my 30's because all around me were people (of all socio-educational backgrounds) who could not function as responsible adults. I teach my middle school students the FACS:how to become productive, informed citizens. I teach every topic mentioned in previous posts: personal finance (including compound interest),food safety,nutrition, (blind taste tests challenge preconceived notions of "healthy" foods taste was a big hit!). As a class we watched Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution which generated excellent discussions about lifestyle choices and economics. They learn the basics of sewing. They learn basic CPR when they become Red Cross certified babysitters (we cover the emotional and economic costs of parenting as well).We have a national organization, FCCLA,that is dedicated to developing service-minded student leaders. I teach citizenship. Every unit and project has a service component. In FACS, students are actively thinking,creating, working in teams and building self confidence. But we are on the chopping block because our program is offered opposite world languages and the push is to have as many high school credits as possible in middle school. FACS is still seen as a class for kids who are not college bound. Everyone needs to learn the FACS. Maybe we wouldn't be in our current economic and health crisis if more adults had had instruction in the basics at an earlier age. Maybe not. But I'm doing everything I can to educate and prepare the next generation to become adults.

Posted by: teachFACS | May 19, 2010 3:39 PM | Report abuse

In middle school (I went to E. Brooke Lee '97-'99), while I had a shop class, Home Ec had been cut for budget reasons. In high school, a nutrition course was offered, but it wasn't clear how much of that was classroom, and how much of it was practical skills. Thankfully I'm one of the lucky ones who learned to cook from their parents, so the lack of home ec didn't hit me too badly, but I wanted to take one.

There are still cooking classes out there being taught at community colleges around the country. Anyone can take one, for a small fee. Maybe we should work to raise awareness of them.

Posted by: theGelf | May 19, 2010 9:40 PM | Report abuse

FACS is alive & well in many schools. Unfortunately, due to the current budget cuts it is one of the first programs to be suggested as one to cut. In New York State, the mandate for Family & Consumer Science (FACS) is for each student to take 30 weeks of FACS/Home & Careers during their time in middle school. High school FACS courses are electives, but in schools with strong programs, they are very much in demand. Elective courses range from Gourmet Cooking, Child Development (in some schools there is a preschool for hs students to interact & teach preschoolers), Interior Design & Fashion Design.
I am a middle school FACS teacher. In our nutrition unit we conduct labs where students get the opportunity to create nutritious, low-calorie, low fat foods & snacks. We also teach financial literacy,clothing management and consumer skills.
"Home Ec" has certainly entered the 21st century!

Posted by: justhj3 | May 19, 2010 9:46 PM | Report abuse

FACS is alive & well in many schools. Unfortunately, due to the current budget cuts it is one of the first programs to be suggested as one to cut. In New York State, the mandate for Family & Consumer Science (FACS) is for each student to take 30 weeks of FACS/Home & Careers during their time in middle school. High school FACS courses are electives, but in schools with strong programs, they are very much in demand. Elective courses range from Gourmet Cooking, Child Development (in some schools there is a preschool for hs students to interact & teach preschoolers), Interior Design & Fashion Design.
I am a middle school FACS teacher. In our nutrition unit we conduct labs where students get the opportunity to create nutritious, low-calorie, low fat foods & snacks. We also teach financial literacy,clothing management and consumer skills.
"Home Ec" has certainly entered the 21st century!

Posted by: justhj3 | May 19, 2010 9:48 PM | Report abuse

FACS is more important than ever. I have taught in a Title I school with more than 80% of students on free and reduced lunch. I nearly had a break down after realizing a majority of my students had elementary school level of reading, writing and math skills. Hot Cheetos and soda are a staple for these students. It's learned at home and reinforced in school. The school will not get rid of vending machines because it results in profits the state and feds will not give our school.

As far as other important life lessons, I know not all of my students are getting the essentials at home. I have faced ridicule from others on the importance of FACS. When, in their opinion, kids should be taking more math and science classes. But really what is a better class than Foods and Nutrition (among others) for these types of lessons. My students constantly nag me for including reading and math into our daily curriculum. I have also heard them repeat some of my lessons on nutrition and simple life changes to make for a healthful change when I least expected. These classes are offered, but they need support. Great teachers are there, but the community must support the efforts of all. We also must realize FACS classes of the new millenia are not the same as those offered previously. If this were true I can guarantee I would not teach these classes, because it would not have helped me as much as it does now.

Posted by: ktgks | May 19, 2010 11:45 PM | Report abuse

Believe me the old Home Ec is still alive. We have a new name Family and Consumer Science (FACS for short). We teach all those wonderful things taught 30 years ago, buy emphasis a little more on the consumer and nutrition aspect. I teach in Missouri and have for about 20 years now. The program you are wanting is out there. Look for it. Maybe you can find a program near you to highlight in the Washington Post and add to community awareness that the program is still availabe, just with a new updated name Family and Consumer Science.

Posted by: melu68 | May 20, 2010 9:58 AM | Report abuse

I am also a FACS teacher. Our program is alive and growing daily. We have a national club Family Career Community Leaders of America. Please visit our website for more information on what we do www.fcclainc.org.

Posted by: haleyhallmark | May 20, 2010 2:10 PM | Report abuse

Family and Consumer Science in Tennessee: to see the Tennessee standards for FACS classes check out this link...
http://www.state.tn.us/education/cte/standardscurr/fcs_0910.shtml

Posted by: jmelton1 | May 20, 2010 2:33 PM | Report abuse

Family and Consumer Science in Tennessee: to see the Tennessee standards for FACS classes check out this link...
http://www.state.tn.us/education/cte/standardscurr/fcs_0910.shtml

Posted by: jmelton1 | May 20, 2010 2:34 PM | Report abuse

Family and Consumer Science in Tennessee: to see the Tennessee standards for FACS classes check out this link...
http://www.state.tn.us/education/cte/standardscurr/fcs_0910.shtml

Posted by: jmelton1 | May 20, 2010 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Couldn't all these people have just done a google search and seen we're doing this already. It is called FACS. I've been teaching it for decades. FACS is dismissed and underfunded. It is so frustrating we're not appreciated. It is so frustrating people don't know we exist.

Posted by: jiji1 | May 20, 2010 11:14 PM | Report abuse

It’s great to see the attention focused on “home economics,” which is now called family and consumer sciences. And the field is very much alive and well but the problem is twofold. First, as some of the bloggers have stated, the scheduling pressures lock students out of this elective course. Second, although the name has changed and the field is now much broader than cooking and sewing, the lingering image from the “home economics” of the past remains. Today family and consumer sciences is about financial literacy, nutrition and wellness, healthy relationship, sustainability, consumer education, and more. And what many do not realize is that math, science, and English concepts are built into family and consumer sciences units. The American Association of Family & Consumer Sciences (www.aafcs.org), is working hard to create a contemporary and relevant image and educate our citizens about the value of today’s family and consumer sciences principles. It’s not your mother’s home ec! Please spread the word and encourage your middle school and high school age students to take these courses!
Carolyn Jackson, CFCS
Executive Director

Posted by: cjackson4 | May 21, 2010 6:35 PM | Report abuse

I, too, teach FACS courses in the middle school and agree totally that the content is alive, current and marginalized by school system hierarchies. The focus on test scores and student achievement data costs our students dearly in life skills education. Perhaps, if systems required FACS courses, the problems with student achievement would take care of themselves. Students would no longer learn balance methods for equations simply to pass the test... they would know that it is used to balance a checkbook. They would learn that fractions are present everywhere. Science is everywhere. Writing is a necessary skill, if you want to redress a consumer issue... or even to get a job. In order to have FACS courses taken seriously by those scheduling courses for our children, the mindset for education needs to move away from the instant gratification of the yearly test scores. That's a total paradigm shift, and I'm not sure any district has the courage to take that chance. Passing standardized tests for the glory of the school system is no guarantee that a student will become a functional, tax-paying citizen. FACS courses give students of all test levels a chance to become just that... a functional, tax-paying citizen.

Posted by: wtc4afb02 | May 21, 2010 8:31 PM | Report abuse

Family and Consumer Sciences(FACS) is the name of programs traditionally called "Home Ec." As a FACS teacher, it always amazes me that people have not adjusted to the name change considering it occurred when I was in the 7th grade.

The article made some vital points about what is occurring in our society. FACS courses are one way to make sure all students, regardless of home situations or socioeconomic status, are receiving the life skills necessary to help them become successful, active, and healthy citizens. FACS curriculum is not "home ec" but so much more. We teach nutrition and are a catalyst for helping to educate youth on the health dangers associated with obesity. We play a vital role in education students on financial fitness which in our current recession is an ever more important skill. We offer students creative outlets that allows them to enjoy school and learn math, english, sciences, and social studies knowledge in an applied setting with project based learning. Finally, we offer students knowledge and experience on social skills and human development.

Additionally, someone mentioned students in other countries learning calculus while ours are taking remedial "home ec." I could not be more offended. As a 4.0 student, with a full academic ride to college, FACS courses and experiences helped me achieve my dreams of a college degree. I learned so much through FACS courses and the organization (FCCLA) associated with it that could never be replicated in other programs. I developed public speaking skills, developed cultural awareness (FACS study abroad programs and cultural based courses), and overall became a better person because of the FACS programs and FCCLA. I hope that people realize other countries only educate the brightest students, but we educate everyone in the US. Sometimes individuals can achieve huge success but have to find the correct outlet to reach that achievement. I hope, as a FACS teacher, I am providing students with the same opportunities I received from my FACS teacher. I know it will make a difference in their lives and someday they will succeed because of something they learned in my class. If nothing else, they will be healthy because of their nutrition background. If you don't have your health, how good can life really be?

Posted by: alysonmac | May 21, 2010 10:38 PM | Report abuse

Requiring a food and nutrition course for all students is a wonderful idea. The UK has pioneered this concept already. FACS classes do teach nutrition for healthy living across the lifespan and provide opportunities to apply the knowledge in a practical lab setting. Students learn basic food prep techniques so they can "fend for themselves" when necessary, lend a hand at home, or even pursue a dietetics or culinary career. Parents of students who have taken our foods courses consistently report that their child has influenced the other members of their family to eat more nutrient dense foods and that the child has become more involved in food purchases and preparation. FCS classes also integrate core academics (science, math, social students, and language arts)and reinforce the content with critical thinking skills and "real world" applications.
Interestingly enough, just yesterday a calculus & physics teacher whose son is in my class was making the case that the food & nutrition course is THE MOST IMPORTANT class in our high school. He noted that all FCS classes are teaching the concepts required to prepare students to live healthy and productive lives. Nutrition, relationships, parenting, and financial literacy are the foundation of future success!

2009 AAFCS National Teacher of the Year
Susan Turgeson, CFCS Wisconsin

Posted by: sturgeson | May 22, 2010 10:54 AM | Report abuse

I congratulate the Washington Post and JAMA for focusing on the important issue of education for youth on the important topic of healthy eating. Family and Consumer Sciences educators are well qualified to provide an educational program that can impact not only youth but their families. Schools have difficult choices in this economic climate, but support of Family and Consumer Sciences courses in middle school, junior high school, and high school is easy when considering the overall mission of preparing youth for their futures as healthy individuals prepared for further education and a productive worklife. I came out of a comprehensive home economics program, and I say let's bring back the tradition in a family and consumer sciences program in our schools.

Posted by: dmitstifer | May 22, 2010 1:27 PM | Report abuse

I am a family and consumer sciences professional who has been in the field for 43 years, teaching at the high school and college levels. Our courses typically cover a breadth of subjects surrounding family life including nutrition, food preparation, family relations, child development, family finances among others. We have programs in secondary schools in every state.

In addition, I believe that I have had an amazing career helping others learn how to improve family living. I continue to be passionate about FCS and believe it is the most important subject in the curriculum for all students.

I am delighted that others are beginning to see how important our field is to the balance and health of individuals, families and communities.

Virginia Richards
Director at Large
American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences

Posted by: vrichards1 | May 22, 2010 6:59 PM | Report abuse

I too am a FACS teacher that has spent an entire career fighting to keep Family and Consumer Sciences from the chopping blocks of education.

The things that we teach are important for every student and I for one would love to be taken seriously and require FACS for our students.

When I see students trying to cook on the stove with a metal bowl instead of an pan I know what I do is important.

When I have students ask where you get basic supplies like flour, sugar and measuring cups I know that they are not learning food and nutrition at home. It's not bring back Home Economics it's lets keep Family and Consumer Sciences here and get everyone involved!

Maybe the post would like to help us out and talk about program around the United States and the good that we do so that folks know we exist and are going strong.

Jane Hinrichsen
Minnesota

Posted by: justmejane | May 24, 2010 9:05 AM | Report abuse

I am a middle school FACS teacher in North Dakota and we currently have kids take FCS in grade 6 and 8 and the health in 7 and 9. We cover everything from relationship skills to healthy eating. It is amazing how many kids do not even know how to cook a simple pasta now adays. They rely on fast food and junk to keep them energized. FCS in the schools is a must and yet it is being cut all across the country. FCS is not your "old" home ec classes anymore!

Posted by: mastruj | May 24, 2010 9:15 AM | Report abuse

Folks in Europe have already started putting home economics courses back into their schools. They have realized that people do not learn how to eat to avoid obesity, how to manage their money, how to do minor clothing repairs to extend the life of a favorite shirt, etc. automatically. The US needs to come to the same conclusion. Only by providing appropriate consumer education can we adequately prepare consumers to act responsibly in the marketplace.

Posted by: vccc | May 24, 2010 11:14 AM | Report abuse

As I tell my students on the first day of class, I can guarantee the things they learn in Family and Consumer Sciences classes they will use for the rest of their lives. I can't make the same guarantee for algebra, calculus, ancient world history or a foreign language. Although these other subjects are important, they will not feed or clothe the average students. The new Home Economics, known as Family and Consumer Sciences is not seen as academically necessary, but if a student is not healthy, because they do not eat correctly, they will not be in school to learn those things being taught in academia. And yet we teach citizenship, questions dealing with this subject are on the mandated tests. We teach fractions and compounding and chemical reactions, all of this is also on the mandated tests. We teach students how to find, apply and get jobs. We teach students how to get along. Is this necessary in our violent world? Maybe some of the people in our prisons today could have used a little "Home Economics" in their lives. With the economy as it is today, most families need two working parents to make ends meet. Who has the time to teach the children survival skills of life? The teachers of Family and Consumer Sciences. Too many of our families today are headed by a single parent, perhaps a few more courses in family relations, parenting and personal development could help with that problem. Please let all your readers know that Home Economics is alive. It has intelligent, compassionate teachers that care for our students more than our pay checks. We do need the publics support to keep our programs off the chopping block.

Posted by: danderson02 | May 24, 2010 6:30 PM | Report abuse

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