In yesterday’s New York Times, Helen Zoe Veit argues that Home Ec could be a valuable tool in the fight against childhood obesity, substantially increasing the forgotten class’s importance. Veit cites her experience in a home ec class in Wales.
“There, students brought ingredients from home and learned to follow recipes, some simple and some not-so-simple, eventually making vegetable soups and meat and potato pies from scratch. It was the first time I had ever really cooked anything. I remember that it was fun, and with an instructor standing by, it wasn’t hard. Those were deeply empowering lessons, ones that stuck with me when I first started cooking for myself in earnest after college.”
It’s true, preparing our own food encourages us to think responsibly about our eating habits. As opposed to processed or restaurant food, where consumers rarely know exactly what they’re eating, having home-cooked meals at home lets people think more critically about their choices.
However, I wonder if its the school’s job to be teaching our children how to cook or sew or budget. Those are all skills that I discussed with my parents, whether they were discussed in 8th grade or not. At a time when our education system is struggling to compete with the rest of the world in math and science, do we really want to use precious school resources to teach healthy living? At some point in time, don’t the parents need to be responsible for the habits that they pass on to their children?
I don’t make home-cooked meals for my family because Mrs. Knipp taught me how to make brownies (from a box). I try to provide healthy meals because my mother taught me that dinner time is important. I don’t pull recipes out of textbooks. I check my grandmother’s recipe cards. And I know how to hem my pants because my mother got tired of doing it for me and made me sit down to her sewing machine and do it myself.
What do you guys think? Can schools really instill these types of skills and values in our children? Or does the educational system need to focus on academics and leave the life skills at home?