If High Schools Offered “AP Home Economics Class,” Maybe Teens Would Take it Again

If you grew up thinking the word adult was only a noun, I bet you have teenagers or college aged kids living under your roof. I can also bet that you’ve since discovered (and have probably used on many occasions to get your kids to do some form of a mature action), that the noun adult is also now a verb, and one that the American Dialect Society deemed the 2015 “verb of the year.”

To further get you head-scratching, the word adult is now back again as a noun, but this time it’s every millennial’s favorite word, adulting. In other words, over the last several years something has shifted in the upbringing of our youth, a shift that has fostered helicopter parenting and lawnmower parenting. It is a shift in which our young people seem to be graduating high school and college with an abundance of AP credits, diplomas, degrees, and certifications, but with ZERO life skills.

All teens – boys and girls – should take Home Ec classes. (Twenty20 @hellomikee)

Your Teen Needs to Learn Life Skills

Basically, our adults can’t really adult.

But what has caused this trend of heavily educated young people able to write code in their sleep, but unable to boil pasta, iron a dress shirt, change a tire, defrost a turkey, or even reconcile a checking account? When and where did this delayed maturation cycle begin, and is there a way to reverse it and the affects it’s had on an entire generation?

If you were to ask an average 20 year-old right now to make lasagna from scratch for dinner tonight, the first thing they would attempt to do would be to outsource the task. This demographic outsources everything, and knows full well that there actually is an app for that, and apps can do everything. They can bring a delicious, hot meal to your door, drive you around, send a tow truck to your broken car, pick your laundry up, do your taxes, and pay all your bills with one click-just to name a few.

And if you did really want to cook for yourself? No worries. We can outsource that too, by having someone actually do your grocery shopping for you (because duh, who has time for that?), or we’ll just send you a box with all your ingredients portioned out, chopped, labeled, and with 3rd grade level recipe steps and photographs printed on glossy paper!

This is all wonderful, right? It truly is, until one day it isn’t, and that’s when your outsourcing budget becomes more than your actual income, and you find yourself having to exercise that wonderful maturation muscle we call adulting.

How did we get to the point of having the word adult become synonymous with a set of obvious life skills that generations before us had no problem mastering by age 18? How has an entire skill set been left by the wayside, because thousands of high schools are no longer teaching it, and instead have replaced it with 36 different AP class options and other college preparatory academics?

Do we not value these skills anymore, or do we think that parents could, should, and would be the responsibile party to teach these skills at home? (Not every family can do this, but we’ll get back to that in a second.)

The Problem With Home Economics Class

Home economics class has an image problem, one that goes back to its inception as part of the Smith-Hughes National Vocational Education Act of 1917, where federal funds were allocated to public school systems to teach, among other things, home economics. Those early classes, and the ones that you probably took in high school in the 80s, were perceived as being female only classes, and were tailored toward the needs of a future homemaker or housewife.

Eventually home economics classes became rooted in gender stereotypes, and along with strong efforts and mandates to promote STEM education (followed by an increased need for more college preparatory math and language classes), somehow home economics disappeared from class schedules entirely. It was assumed that these skills could be easily taught by parents. The teaching had to fit in somewhere between 5 hours of homework, 3 hours of baseball practice, a part time job, volunteering, Key Club (and the tons of other resume padding things we’re making high schoolers do). We’d have plenty of nuggets of time to teach our kids (among a giant list of other adult skills!) how to layer lasagna noodles.

Meet me in the kitchen at 2 a.m. for today’s dinner prep class, OK?  Yeah, that’s not happening.

To those who think it’s the fault of lazy parenting that our youth are growing up without these adulting skills, well, see above. But for the rest of us, I would not only welcome new versions of home economics classes be offered at my teen’s high school, dare I say I’d make it as mandatory as calculus.

And if the high school ever started a program where various professionals in the community could come and guest teach adulting skills (think auto mechanic, dietician, banker, tax preparer, chef, etc.), well sign me up for that too. Traditional home economics education is way overdue for a makeover, and a resurgence in both its importance and a new image-possibly even actually calling it “adulting skills class” would do much to help welcome it back.

Heck, if high-waisted, acid washed jeans can make a comeback, so can teaching the skills you need to actually BE an adult.

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About Melissa Fenton

Melissa Fenton is a freelance writer and adjunct librarian at Pasco-Hernando State College. Find her writing all over the internet, but her work mostly on the dinner table. Find her on Facebook 
and on twitter at @melissarunsaway

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