Shop and Home Economics at Uni

Shop and home economics classes have largely disappeared across the United States. Many high school programs have transitioned towards  ‘a-g’ subject requirements that address (a) History/Social Science (b) English (c) Mathematics (d) Laboratory Science (e) Language other than English (f) Visual and Performing Arts (g) College Preparatory Elective Courses. It’s meant to prepare students for traditional college majors and electives, which do not include domestic skills such as cooking, sewing, woodwork and metal work.

Adding a shop or home ec course at Uni would go against the national trend, and would also be an outlier in a college-preparatory school like Uni. However, Uni students have shown some interest in these classes. According to a poll on the Uni High Gargoyle’s website, 72 students said that they would either take or consider taking a shop class at Uni if it was offered. Aditya Yedetore, a senior, believes having both shop and home ec would be beneficial to students like him. He noted his lack of knowledge about using power tools, doing laundry, and folding clothes, and felt that a formal course would have been useful although he doesn’t know how it would fit into the schedule. “I wonder where we’d put [Shop or Home Ec] into the schedule. Would it be a class that everybody takes, like with health maybe?” But he still supports the idea. “I think it’d be really important to know how to do those things.”

Freshman Blessing Omoniyi said that he would take a shop class at Uni if it was an option. “I’d probably do it because I’d like a broad horizon.” He shared that he didn’t have much more exposure to domestic skills than Yedetore, although if he really needed to figure something out, he said he could easily find a youtube video that would walk him through the steps.

Seniors Noah Blue, Maggie Tewksbury, Roma Mehta and Dale Robbenolt all felt that if Uni offered a shop course, they would take it. Blue even mentioned a stagecrafting course he’s taking, “Next semester, stagecraft, taught by Chris Guyotte (Fing), is going to be pretty much the closest thing that we’re going to have to shop. And it’s just all going to be building stages out of wood and stuff, using power tools. So I’m gonna see if I can get into that class and take it.”

This group was not as enthusiastic about home economics, however. “Home ec just doesn’t sound as useful. Like the whole edicate portion of it, is just not – like that’s stupid.” Said Tewksbury. Mehta added,“Cause it’s supposed to be a ‘wife class’. Shop makes more sense to me, which is why I though I’d rather take that.” She went on to explain that besides cooking and sewing, she has the basics of home ec covered. Blue, Robbenolt, Tewksbury and Mehta felt that the topics covered in home economics could be considered common sense, and that they were typically taught and learned in the home.

Their sentiments are not new; home economics has been widely unpopular since the 1970s. After WWII, educational institutions pushed home economics onto young women who had just re-entered the home after working in factories during the war. Whereas the course had been focused on innovations in domestic technology before the war, it was now a way for academia to keep women in the home and out of the other fields of study. By the 1980s, its reputation as a constructive course was tarnished. It’s reflected in how we refer to the course today as “a wife class”, as Mehta stated.

Yedetore recognizes the problematic history of the subject, even though he felt he may benefit from the topics covered in the course. “It shouldn’t be the case that it’s stereotyped that way. [Home ec] shouldn’t be pushed on women, and [Shop] shouldn’t be pushed on guys”. He also realizes that he is an exception at Uni in that his lack of knowledge on cleaning, cooking, laundry, and folding clothes is more extreme than other students’. He didn’t learn how to do these things until he was in high school, which is uncommon for most students.

Even if shop were to be integrated into Uni’s curriculum, it may be hard to keep students interested in the material. As Yedetore said, “If you were to go to Mr. Radnitzer and say ‘we need these classes’, two years down the line when we’re actually taking these classes, all the kids are going to say, ‘Agh I hate this! Who thought of this thing?’” Such has been the reaction to consumer economics – an informational course taken online. Regardless, a shop course or expanded stageworking course at Uni may be a positive addition to Uni’s curriculum.