I was listening to an audiobook this past week: "The Persian Pickle Club" by Sandra Dallas, a story set in Depression-era Kansas. One of the female characters had gone off to college and earned a degree in Home Economics. The narrator of the story says she never understood why someone would want to spend all that money and time to learn the same thing that they learned at home anyway. There was a lot of truth to that in the 1930s, but not now. How many young people in the past several decades have left home with a full set of domestic skills? The answer is "not very many."
This is a subject near and dear to my heart because my degrees are in Home Economics Education. In the 80s when I was an undergraduate at Tennessee, Home Economics was already on the downhill slide of being seen as an obsolete field of study. Most young women were scratching and clawing to get as far away from traditional female roles as they could. I think the idea was to get a degree in something "important," then get a high-paying job so one could afford to hire all the domestic responsibilities to be done by someone else. Even the Home Economics majors were counting on doing this. I worked as a teacher and paid someone to care for my first child and paid a lot of restaurants to cook for me. I was not able to hire someone to clean my house and do my laundry so I had to settle for a lower standard of living in those areas than the standard I had been raised to have.
Now, twenty-plus years later, I am thinking we shot ourselves in the foot. We turned up our noses at the "domestic arts" and then raised a couple of generations of people without teaching them any of those vital skills. But we are still human and, therefore, still crave home and family. The problem is that we have painted ourselves into a corner. In order to have the home and family people crave without any of us having the know-how required, we have to have money. Money is required to buy the heat-and-serve food, the ready-made clothes, the $2000 washing machine that does the thinking for us, the day care that raises our kids, and the doctor that has to tend to us when our stressful lifestyle and over-processed diet takes its toll. In order to make the required money, both parents had better be working full time jobs. Let me reiterate that I have been just as sucked into this way of life as anyone else in the past thirty years!
Now I watch the news and listen to the stories of hardship due the economic problems we are having and the stories about living "green" and recycling and such. I cannot help but think what is needed is some good, old fashioned Home Economics! We can live very well with much less money, if we just had the skills and knowledge to do so. We can live much more gently on the earth if we know what the old "Becky Home-Ecky" types knew.
I would love to think that we could resurrect high school Home Economics and make it a required subject for every student. I would love to open a Spring Creek Academy for Domestic Arts to educate the adults who missed out on being taught at home. But the truth is that people still do not have respect for the role of a homemaker, whether that homemaker be male or female. When will we realize that some things cannot be purchased with hard-earned money? SpringCreekArtsGuild@gmail.com