Forget trig, teach me how to roast a chicken


Lucy Peck, Staff Writer

During the pandemic, I, like many others, found myself quarantined at home for months. One thing the lockdown especially showed me is that I lacked many essential everyday skills. 

As an eighth grader who suddenly had to attend school online while stuck at home with busy parents and a younger sibling, I faced new responsibilities, which I decided to face head-on. After a failed cooking experience that ended in a burnt chicken and a blaring fire alarm, I turned to YouTube to learn how to roast a chicken, do laundry, and change a bike tire. 

It should not take a pandemic for young people to learn life skills that, decades ago, were an integral part of the nation’s high school curriculum. In addition to teaching academic subjects, schools ought to prepare students to live on their own. Home Economics should return, but with a twist: make it mandatory for students of all genders. 

Home-Ec courses were a foundational piece of past education systems, specifically for women. During the 19th century, Home-Ec was available only to white, middle and upper-class women whose families could afford secondary schooling. In these programs, women were taught how to cook, garden, sew, and care for children. Men did not often partake in the class as they were not expected to utilize those skills.

By the early 1900s, Home-Ec had grown in popularity across the United States. The subject morphed into a larger movement to train women to become more efficient household managers. Alas, Home-Ec, having deviated from its origins, began to peter out and eventually disappeared from school programming with the rise of feminism and a decreasing emphasis on non-academic subjects in the 1970s. There are few remaining Home-Ec classes available today. 

As Margaret Talbot quipped in the New Yorker, “young people leave school unprepared for adulting, clueless about laundry, primed to annoy one another when they cohabit with housemates or partners.” No matter the family structure, chores still need to get done. When everyone in the home knows how to do housework efficiently, everyone benefits. And, if Home-Ec was to return in a revamped format, it would also undermine the stereotype that “women belong in the kitchen” by equipping all genders with those skills.  

For me, learning daily skills has come in fits and starts. The first several loads of laundry were a breeze, but I quickly ruined my new, prized Harry Styles sweatshirt in the dryer. I heard similar stories from friends. But, all these experiences have given us stories to tell, and on the rare occasions when things go right — for example, preparing a nutritious dinner for a sibling — we are filled with newfound confidence. 

Financial literacy could also become a part of Home-Ec, including handling taxes, budgeting, and simple information about the stock market and investing. Basic training like this would equip students for their first jobs, handling income taxes, and budgeting their earnings. 

The school could implement Home-Ec as an elective that fits into PE, like health. One semester of Home-Ec would be required to graduate, and there would be a test at the end of the semester. The course’s agenda would include basic cooking training, possibly in partnership with FLIK, cleaning and maintenance skills, and a bit on financial literacy. Unlike some schools who have been forced to cut Home-Ec due to budget constraints, HM, as a school with sufficient resources, has the capacity to equip their students for post-graduation.

Home-Ec activities might include muffin baking competitions, laundry sorting, or stock simulations. In this way, the class could be a community-building and stress-relieving activity for students as well as an educational one. 

While it remains unclear how trigonometry will serve me in the future, I am certain that the skills taught in Home-Ec would make me a more self-sufficient person, and a better partner, parent, or employee in the future.