It may seem like a tradition of the past, but home economics classes are still a helpful tool for pushing students towards the future. Though their implementation was questionable, home ec classes provided invaluable knowledge; the class structure of experiencing tasks would become essential later gave students more confidence and preparedness for the future. While we do not need to return to the home ec classes of the past, St. Paul Academy and Summit School would serve its student body well by designing a class that teaches students about life beyond academics and prepares them for the unknowable future.
The essential mission of home ec classes was to prepare students for the skills that they would need outside of academic and professional spheres. Unfortunately, these classes were often divided by gender, sending the message that men and women should have different household tasks. The modern reality is that there are tasks that all students could use in their mental arsenal. The information that home economics classes would provide would make students more self-sufficient and capable of taking on the world. According to the Huffington Post, Ellen Swallow Richards, a main proponent of home ec classes initially, aimed to make life more efficient to leave more time for activities like education and professional endeavors. Her belief was that adults who were capable of taking care of their households could live more productive lives outside of the home.
Besides the obvious benefit of teaching students valuable life skills, home ec classes could be designed to reflect SPA’s mission and have potential to propel education to the contemporary age of technology. SPA seeks to prepare students who will eventually change the world. A large part of preparedness is experience with tasks they will have to face as adults. Besides the obvious lessons, in an new age of increasingly ubiquitous technology, lessons about computing and responsible living in the digital age could be just as valuable. According to Pew Research, 73% of American teenagers have access to a smartphone and therefore have the internet in the palm of their hand. Keeping financial and personal information safe online will be just as important a skill as maintaining a livable household in the future.
Implementing this curriculum has some initial barriers. Some key lessons of home economics, cooking for example, need additional infrastructure such as ovens. Still, there are many ways in which SPA could teach at least parts of this beneficial curriculum to its students. Home economics classes overlap substantially with the concept of Fitness for Life classes and Wellness classes, and could be combined to provide even more experiential learning to the student body. Learning healthy diets in Fitness for Life could be accompanied by home ec cooking basics. Talking about responsibility in Wellness could be followed by a lesson on basic finances. Wellness and Fitness for Life prove that SPA is already committed to the mission of preparing students for a prosperous future; additional curriculum in this area would only enhance this.
Another option is to consider home economics curriculum as an addition to the new Schilling Science Center. This building is an opportunity to expand course offerings and create spaces for new classrooms. Home economics should be a top candidate to be one of these newly offered classes because of the benefits it would provide SPA students in regards to their future. The advantage of implementing home economics ideas is that the course is so flexible that there are a multitude of ways to incorporate it into the school. Unlike a math subject or U.S. history, there is a very limited amount of content that is needed to move forward in the class. The content does not necessarily build off of itself, nor does hamper the ability of a student to get back on track if they miss a class. Home economics is truly a conglomeration of many individual skills that educators can pick and choose; even in small doses it is a benefit to students. SPA should strongly consider elevating its service to students by preparing the often overlooked parts of the near future.