The cost of ignorance

June 12, 2018

Once upon a time, young children looked up to the adults in awe of their responsibilities, seeing in them almost superhero-esque qualities as they spoke of taxes, loans, mortgages and the limited number of hours in a day.

The children, content with their grammar rules and algebraic equations, were baffled by the idea of cooking, cleaning and child-rearing.

Having crossed the discernible hill of childhood into something else, we, the once-upon-a-time children, are now left to wonder how the adults were able to do it all.

Ideally, parents pass down these skills to their children, but what if the parents are unable to or simply do not do so?

Home economics classes gained a reputation of being challengeless, pointless, and too focused on developing young girls into housewives.

However, this is a flawed perspective as to what home economics really is.

Back in 1976, Debra Corts was hired as a teacher at the Stockbridge High School, where she worked until 2008.

She taught nine classes all falling within the realm of home economics: consumer education, interior design, textiles, sewing, foods, nutrition, family living, personal living, and child care and development.

Her classes completed projects such as a semester-long personal history assignment in health where students traced their ancestry back three generations, noting hereditary health problems.

She would guide students in nutrition on what foods were best for which ages, preparing meals for “the little guys up to grandmas and grandpas,” as she put it, providing for all the recommended needs to develop a healthier family, compared to our McDonald’s-obsessed youth.

Child care and development had child care labs where students would bring in children from 0-5 years of age to school, caring for their wards throughout the day, bringing them from class to class as they got a tiny glimpse of what was required of a parent.

A simple understanding that parenting cannot be glamorized, showing it for the late-night, early-morning, not-quite-sure-what-you’re-doing life that it is, could dissuade youth from parenthood as well as better prepare individuals for the momentous occasion later in life instead of going in blind with the differing opinions of family members flying at you from all directions.

In personal living, students would be taught a little of financing, cooking meals, ironing, doing laundry, and how to take care of their vehicle’s engines–all the average tasks for sufficient upkeep of a household.

“As a vocational teacher, I would say that we are as important, maybe even more important, than the cluster of math, science, reading, writing, etc.,” Corts said. “I think we belong right up there on the top, but I also believe that the things that we teach here at the high school level should be things that kids can either apply directly to taking care of self or others or that they can use in leisure time.”

Of a similar mindset is Kathleen Doherty, former Stockbridge teacher from 2000-2005, her classes being foods, health, textiles, and child care and development.

“Of course, it depends on what schools see as their goal — is the goal to prepare students to be responsible adults or is the goal of the school only to prepare students for a career? If it’s only for a career, then these classes wouldn’t be worth spending money on, but if the goal is to prepare students for adult life as a whole, these classes should be funded,” said Doherty on the importance of home economics classes.

These classes contain skills that students should know to ease and enrich their lives.

“I just think self preservation comes from these kinds of classes,” said Corts.

All students need to eat and teaching them how to cook good, nutritious foods is a step in the right direction for public health.

Most of the population will become a parent at some point, and giving them pointers in high school can improve safety for both the parents and the baby in the long run.

Even little skills, like how to tie a tie or sew back on a button or the proper way to wash certain textiles for lengthening their duration of use, can conserve time and money.

“It’s sad that schools don’t make it a priority because these issues impact your ability to be successful, no matter what career choice you eventually make,” said Doherty.

All in all, our curriculum is not completely hopeless in life skills.

Our school has a personal finance class. It qualifies as a math credit but is widely regarded as a blow-off class, although it does contain valuable lessons, such as filling out scholarship applications for college and maintaining a budget.

However, financing is another subject students would benefit from learning about, especially in their immediate future where, after graduating high school, students are in charge of their own finances.

“The cost of not offering life skills classes like I taught are potentially a lifetime of poor decisions—financial, health, relationships. Learning or not learning from the school of hard knocks.” ”

— -former teacher Kathleen Doherty

“We should have a good finance class so that we can know what we’re going to have to go through, to get ready and know what we’re going to have to do in the process,” junior Justice Clark said.

Senior Savannah Luke agrees that students do need better preparation in the financial department, such as paying bills and planning for moving out of a guardian’s household.

“There should be planning for people who don’t want to go to college,” Luke said.

After all, schools put such an emphasis on going to college, but not all students go.

These students need life skills even more so than college-bound graduates as they are immediately thrown into the real world with only the experiences up to this point to guide them.

As of current, very few of our classes are dedicated to developing students’ futures outside of their ideal careers, but all subjects contain a glimmer of life skills, even if they are not the priority of the course.

“The school has prepared me pretty well in public speaking and building up my confidence, to really take on the world, be my own person,” said senior Zachary Myers, “but I think there’s always room for improvement, and there’s always more the school can do to better the students who go here.”

Algebra teaches the calculations we might need, like the perimeter of our yard for putting up a fence or the gallons of water needed to fill a swimming pool.

An assignment in Leadership 1 is to create a resume and portfolio that would hypothetically be used to apply for a job.

English classes instruct on communication, how to get your point across clearly, and in Chemistry 2, students learn the properties and techniques on crafting soap.

Stockbridge has many technology programs–robotics, 3D printing, construction, woodworking, welding–but they are very specialized.

When all the information students need is scattered across a wide range of classes, it can be difficult to find time in their schedules to learn it all.

We need a class that teaches the life skills necessary without having to stretch so far to find it.

We need a class that teaches basic cooking and sewing as well as how to take out and pay loans, how to change a flat tire, how to make simple household repairs, how to manage a budget.

When what was once shared chores fall completely on their shoulders, students that never learned these valuable skills will suffer.

“The cost of not offering life skills classes like I taught are potentially a lifetime of poor decisions— financial, health, relationships. Learning or not learning from the school of hard knocks,” said Doherty.

There is an obvious solution: we need a class to teach students about the real world.

We need home economics back.

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