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This blog is in response to a recent article which declared that Hugh Acheson (another high profile TV and media chef in a long line of high profile TV and media chefs who are not Home Economists) is planning to remake Home Economics curriculum in the United States. Read original article via this link. I read this article and all the ideas are fantastic! I do not see fault in Hugh’s ideas:

“We’re sort of redoing the whole curriculum to give kids the life skills so that in their 20s, they actually know how to poach an egg, or make some jam, or make a chutney, or make some pickles, just bare-bones cooking necessities that people seem to have forgotten how to do”.

Speaking as a trained high school home economics teacher, isn’t this what home economics is already about? Which led me to question the reason why Hugh decided to do this “all new” not-for-profit home economics curriculum makeover:

“Acheson noticed the need for a reassessment and redesign of what’s going on in home ec classrooms when his daughter came home from school after learning to cook red velvet cupcakes from a box and croissants wrapped in bacon from a tube.”

Ok – so I will side with his daughter’s home economics teacher for a moment and ask:

  • Was the lesson about reading instructions?
  • Was the lesson about grossness (aka critical evaluations) of packet mixes?
  • A lesson on the differences between raising agents?
  • Was the teacher having a rare fun food day?
  • Was the teacher a trained home economics teacher?
  • Did the school purchasing officer stuff up the ordering of raw ingredients?
  • Was it a lesson on kitchen utensils and ovens and the content of the product didn’t matter?
  • Maybe there was not enough money in the school’s bank accounts to buy organic and/or local ingredients?
  • Perhaps Hugh’s daughter just wanted to make Red Velvet Cup Cakes because her friends all say they are amazing?

I am Australian and thank goodness I have never heard of “croissants wrapped in bacon from a tube” but perhaps his daughter’s home economics class was learning about the French Revolution? I would revolt too if a croissant came in a tube!

All these questions relating to the teacher’s possible motives, led me to also question Hugh’s qualifications. Does Hugh’s media personality/chef status make him a qualified home economics teacher? Short answer is no. Is Hugh an education expert with a 4 year teaching degree? Does Hugh have a four or five year developmentally appropriate curriculum plan which teaches “the basics” where each skill mastered becomes more complex in the next course unit? Believe me – it is a very tricky thing to make curriculum developmentally appropriate, aligned with cross-curriculum priorities, and assessment, and still teach young human beings how to become responsible adult human beings! Canada’s and much of FACS (USA) existing home economics curriculum is actually pretty amazing! The aim of home economics is to empower students so that by the end of the 4 or 5 years of study, the student is not only a confident person in the kitchen but can also make ethical, aware and sustainable decisions for themselves and others. I have written else where about the benefits of the whole home economics curriculum.

I also started to wonder, did Hugh speak with his daughter’s home economics teacher? Did Hugh offer his daughter’s teacher his expertise to enhance his daughter’s and her classmates educational experience? Has Hugh spoken with the local or national home economics associations? The IFHE? Me?

On several occasions I have urged home economists to look at their lesson and curriculum plans because THIS ARTICLE is the reason we get a bad reputation. Hugh believes that home economics needs a makeover… hasn’t this already been done in each and every school who offers home economics? If not, then this is just embarrassing for the rest of us who fight so hard to uphold the integrity and academic rigor of home economics.

Again, I urge all home economists to work with parents and your local communities to ensure that they are aware of what and why you do what you do with students… do not allow negative perceptions or public opinion to drive the profession. We must take back control of our subject and re-educate parents and the public about what we do in our schools. What a wealth of knowledge Hugh would have been to his daughter’s school. Alternatively, if the teacher invited him in… would he have been too busy? Working with parents and building relationships is really important for 21st century home economics. “Rethinking” home economics means looking outside the four walls of your classrooms. If you are unsure how to proceed with change – ASK FOR HELP! A wealth of knowledge and experience is usually only a phone call, an email away, or one of your own students might hold a key to a new doorway.

In the meantime, I would love to hear from Hugh about his plans!

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Written by Jay Deagon @ HomeEcConnect

At different times we all find ourselves at the point of wanting to scream out the obvious. Like a braveheart or Greenpeace speech that makes people go to the ends of the earth for a cause that they never knew existed. Well, this is my Greenpeace speech… think of me as Drew Barrymore in that save the whales movie (Big Miracle, 2012). So desperate, overwhelmed by the challenge and feeling helpless but still determined.  I feel like my profession is dying. The ice is freezing over the breathing hole of Home Economics and I just can’t let that happen. We need a big miracle.

One of the most frustrating things a Home Economics professional (me, other teachers, industry people and academics) hear is that Home Economics is on the extinction list. Millions of people are prepared to go to extraordinary lengths to save the whales, gorillas and rhinos. Millions of dollars are spent on public media campaigns, research, rangers and habitat protection. Protection of our wildlife is essential – because if we lose these animals – we lose our humanity. Humans become little more than top predator animals. The problem is, humans are destroying not only the animals and their habitats… we sometimes forget or turn a blind eye to the fact… we are also destroying our own habitat and ultimately… ourselves. The list of crises is well-documented and becoming increasingly overwhelming to contemplate for the average person. I shall remind you of a few of the global crisis conversations:

  1. Obesity caused by over-nutrition and sedentary lifestyles
  2. Death and disease caused by malnutrition
  3. Inadequate and unsustainable household practices
  4. Over-consumption of resources
  5. Breakdown of family relationships
  6. Chemical waste caused by the production of textiles
  7. Food insecurity
  8. Financial/economic crisis
  9. Lose of diversity
  10. Inadequate waste disposal procedures
  11. Consequences of water pollution, drought and floods
  12. and the list goes on and on so I don’t think that I need to go on… you get the picture

Well – you know what? I actually have a solution. Home Economics education. Home Economics is already in place in thousands of schools in many countries around the world. Each school teaches according to the needs of the local people, often incorporating global perspectives. With a rich history spanning over a century, we continue to educate new generations with practical solutions to many of the things listed above. As a whole profession, we just aren’t very good at telling people about what we do and why it makes a difference. This is one reason why Home Economics is on the endangered list.

Home Economics has been called the “silent” profession. But we certainly are not silent people. Have you ever heard a Home Ec teacher’s commanding voice raised in a kitchen with 15 electric egg beaters going? or giving instructions over the noise of 15 sewing machines? We are busy people. But we don’t have much time to organise press releases for the local news papers. Instead we just get on with our jobs on a day-to-day basis.

We teach your children about food (nutrition, food literacy, kitchen appliances, washing up, cleaning, hygiene, body image, menu planning, experimenting, organics, religious practices, celebrations, agriculture, transport). We teach your children about clothes (textiles, fashion, organics, chemicals, artistic creation, child labour laws, ethics, recycling and up-cycling, design and construction). We teach your children about sustainability practices in the home (light bulbs, washing machines, fridges, eco-friendly furniture, aesthetics, ethical consumer choices). We teach your children about money (rental and loan agreements, bank balances and budgeting). We teach your children how to live within their means. We teach your children the importance of sitting down with the family to have a meal. We teach your children how to use a knife and fork and where their food really comes from. As my colleague James McIntosh puts it, “from farm to fork”. We teach mathematics, literacy, geography, history, culture, technology, design, innovation, creativity, critical and independent thinking (see my Home Economics Hamburger). But most importantly, we (usually) have fun teaching and learning together. We teach about respect for self and the importance of service to others. We teach about caring for our environment. We give your children regular opportunities for success. We prepare your children for life. We teach your children how to become independent and autonomous. We teach your children how to care for their children and the children of others. We teach about what it means to be a human being living an everyday life. Sometimes, home economics is the place where students first realise what their passion is, and what their future job might be. It is not what we teach in Home Economics but why… That is what makes our profession so vital to the health and well-being of individuals, families and communities. We often teach in very simple ways but these simple ways have lifelong impacts on boys and girls, men and women, and everyone else who doesn’t or won’t fit inside a labelled box.

I admit that much of the evidence of our success is anecdotal and not supported by “evidence-based research”. To give you an idea about anecdotal evidence I will tell you a little story. One of my favourite memories during my Home Economics teacher internship involved a year eight student (14 years old). At the end of our lesson (yes, we cooked fried rice) I turned on some music and encouraged the students to sing while they cleaned up the kitchen. Imagine 24 students, each with their own assigned job (team work and responsibility) singing The Village People’s  YMCA song while cleaning up. Admittedly it was a little like a scene from Glee. As we left the room, one student came up to me and said “I didn’t know cleaning up could be so much fun!” She had the biggest grin on her face. It was priceless. I knew I had made a difference that day. I had changed that student’s perception about washing dishes – that is NOT an easy task! There are many, many more stories out there just like this one; teachers doing their everyday job and students learning important life lessons.

Oral stories and anecdotes like this one cause a problem for the profession. Research is vital because governments won’t listen if we do not provide “evidence-based research” to back-up our claims. We lose funding and departments close. However, governments do also listen to “the people”. While academics work furiously to gather evidence (like me, I am doing research in the field as are many others around the world) the profession still needs the voice of the people. We need the collective voices of teachers, students, parents, carers, doctors, health professionals, celebrities, Jamie Oliver, Pink, Michelle Obama, Richard Branson, Julia Gillard, Ophra, The Elders, His Holiness Dali Lama – anyone listed in Time Magazine’s 2012 top 100 most influential people – I don’t actually care whose voice – so long as it is a positive and productive one.

As a profession few of us use our public voices, few of us will challenge articles, comment on issues and list ourselves by our profession.  People make a lot of noise when they feel passionate about saving something that they love. Why aren’t we making noise about Home Economics when we are on the endangered list? This “noise” gets us noticed.  I see too many complaints about departments closing… without opposition. So fellow global professionals, do something now, be visible, yes you too Home Ec teacher in the small school, you have something to say.  Too much press recently has been about departments closing; keep them open now with your noise.

We cannot allow such a precious profession to become extinct. Please, give a shout out for Home Economics. Tweet your favourite Home Economics story. Write a blog about it. Tell your local newspaper… but whatever you do… proudly tag it #homeeconomics. We support you and we need you to support us.

HomeEcConnect Website: www.homeecconnect.com.au

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Comment by Jay Deagon @HomeEcConnect

I thought this news article from CBS News was wonderful for the following reasons (but probably not the ones that you think):

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-500202_162-20126448/queen-passes-along-kangaroo-stew/

1) boys in the home economics kitchen – fantastic!

2) Her Royal Highness taking an interest in home economics;

3) kangaroo being used in the kitchen creating awareness of it as an alternative to beef, lamb or chicken.  The home economics teacher is to be congratulated for being obviously  very switched on and respectful to the diet of Indigenous Australians and teaching culturally appropriate yet modern cuisine.  Kangaroo meat is packed with vitamins and minerals, kangaroos do not produce CO2 emissions like cows; and the meat is high in protein and very low in fat (but I personal only like it if it is heavily marinated); AND

File:Australian Coat of Arms.png4) reminding me that Australians might be the only country to eat the animals (both kangaroo and emu) which appear on the Coat of Arms.

I think this is all wonderful news…

I don’t begrudge Her Majesty for not eating it either.  There are a number of obvious and pretty good reasons for her not to eat it.

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Written by Jay Deagon

I love my job!  I have been collecting inspirational home economics news stories found on the internet as part of my PhD.  To be honest – I have had some difficulty!  Good news is… I have found some I wish to share with you. 

This lousy T-shirt

What could you do with this lousy t-shirt?

First story, a home economics class in America sewed much-needed clothing from recycled T-shirt material and gave them to orphans in Kenya.  I thought this was a fantastic example of students using their classroom skills to make tangible connections with global realities.

A basket of vegetables to share

A basket of vegetables to share

Second story, Vanessa Barry, a mature but newly qualified home economics teacher in Scotland helped her students set up “The Growing Greener Company“.  With the help of other departments in her school, the students set up a garden, grew vegetables, cooked vegetable soup in home economics class and sold it to kids at lunch time.  Vanessa won an award for this accomplishment and has been “hailed a shining example to her profession”.  I agree!

Finally, a 15 second YouTube clip that was an eye opener.  Watch this and tell me what you think!
 

This clip made me incredibly proud to be a member of the home economics profession.  These boys and their teacher, are an inspiration. What do you think?  Will you ever complain about noise in the home economics kitchens again? 

I hope you enjoyed reading and watching as much as I enjoyed collecting.

Cheers,
Jay

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James McIntosh, Home Economist

James McIntosh, Home Economist, Entrepreneur and World Traveller

Interview with James McIntosh via email
Written by
Jay Deagon

 

To be a home economist means different things in different parts of the world. It is a multidisciplinary subject with practitioners employed across a wide variety of fields such as teaching, textiles and fashion industries, family development and relationship advisors, government consultants, health and well-being advocates, scientists and researchers.  A degree in home economics can take you places… as James McIntosh can attest.

James McIntosh is a world award-winning cookery writer, home economist and food demonstrator.  He is flamboyant, talented and very busy.  I asked James to describe what an Industry Home Economists does:

I’m the link between the consumer and industry.  It’s my job to look at the needs and wants of the family as a consumer buying unit.

James works mainly with food and kitchen appliances. Many factors affect a family’s decision to purchase kitchen produce and products.  For example, cost, availability and sustainability of the product.  James’ task is to take his home economics knowledge of families into consideration when as he works with domestic appliance manufacturers to develop a product such as a new oven, stove or frying pan.

For most clients I am employed by the marketing department.  My jobs may include writing, blogging, social networking, cookery demonstrations, recipe development, food styling or product evaluation.  Basically, I make the manufacturer’s product ‘the star’.  I assist with matching the manufacturer’s wants with the needs of the family.  I give the everyday family a voice at design, production and post-production levels.  So that the family will have a product that enhances their life at home and the manufacturer has a product that will sell.

 

James is the CEO of Whisk Media (www.whisk.biz) and offers many services for clients.  He believes that the many forms of media and technology available to us today, such as TV, mobile phone technology and the internet, have a significant role to play in educating and reaching out to consumers.  He thinks and operates on global levels by fully utilising these technologies.

I also have my own brand of products under my own name, www.jamesmcintosh.co.uk, where I write cookery books (some of which won the Gourmand World Cookbook Award in 2008 for Best Series of Food Books in the World), I also have an iPhone App out www.whiskapp.com and presented a 20 part TV series in China about food on the Silk Road.

 

Chef Wan of Malaysia, Margaret McIntosh (James' Mum) and James at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards 1 July 2009

Chef Wan of Malaysia, Margaret McIntosh (James' Mum) and James at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards 1 July 2009

 

To survive, all people must learn how to feed and cloth themself.  This is a learnt skill and not an instinct.  “The family” has remained a constant feature through all of human history.  However, the needs of the family have changed considerably across the years. The way that knowledge is passed down to the younger generations has changed as technology, resource availability, distance and time pressures changed.  Most industries also evolve as the needs of society change.  In westernised societies (such as the UK and Australia) home economics education mainly involves teaching kids cooking and sewing techniques.  I asked James what he believes the main differences are between “old school” (cooking and sewing) home economics and how this compares to the home economics of today.

My mum is a Home Economics teacher, and she has told me many stories about the cooking and sewing days.  What we need to remember is that this can be viewed as ‘old home economics’, but it’s very important as it teaches life skills.  Times have changed, for example we no longer need to be able to darn our socks when they have a hole in them, but we do need to be able to sew on a button.  In terms of cooking its important not to learn a recipe as a nursery rhyme, but to understand the techniques and flavours and how they combine and see these as a building block to make and produce other things.  A good example being learning to rub fat into flour. From this we can make scones, bread, pasta, some cakes, pastry….

So what kinds of things does James think teachers should cover in home economics class?

I think teachers should make home economics fun – life is fun (if we want it to be) and home economics has many great career opportunities.  I’ve seen the world with home economics.  There are opportunities for all, a teacher should encourage students to look at options and find what’s best for them.  Remember home economics is not one subject, its requires the input of many.

James is from the UK but has worked around the world taking home economics to some exotic locations.  As an active member of the Young Professionals Network and member of the International Federation for Home Economics, he is a very active voice for home economics.  He regularly attends industry conferences to keep his knowledge and networks up-to-date and vibrant.  With his extensive international experience, I asked James about how he has seen home economics practiced differently in other countries.

Indeed I have seen the world!  Growing up on a small farm in Northern Ireland I moved to study Home Economics at university in Scotland.  Then I moved to London after and have been here ever since!  I’ve seen most of Europe, Australia, China, Hong Kong, most of the USA and Canada, Jamaica, Japan, North Africa and travelled right across Russia.  Not bad when I’m only 32!  

Each culture has different ways and traditions. However the needs of the family are the same.  Speak to a Japanese Home Economist and their families are exactly the same as ours in the UK.  Same teenage problems, same factors affecting age but their culture differs in that respect.  In the UK home economics has a strong practical cookery ethos in Greece not so much, as the Greek family culture passes down cooking techniques from Grandmother to Mother to Daughter (and hopefully son too!).  Home Economics can’t be the same in each country like Mathematics can.  It has to adapt, bend and breathe for the consumer.  Home Economics is the study and knowledge of families and consumers.

Consumerism, food security and excessive use of resources are a global concern.  These are his thoughts about sustainability and responsible consumerism as aspects of home economics and his work.

Two main points in my work are; reduce food waste and tackle obesity for my food clients and reduce energy in cooking for my appliance clients. Chefs always talk about gas as a great way to cook, but the facts are that a gas hob looses 50% of the energy created when cooking and water is the by-product of using gas.  I’m doing a lot of work on Induction cooking now as that is 98% efficient.   Recipe development for clients is not just about creating nice recipes, it’s about using a product a client manufacturers to make it the best it can be, to encourage consumers to buy and to reduce waste.

His vision for home economics?

My vision for home economics is simple.  Educate through creative means and media. We, as home economists, have the knowledge and experience of consumers, let us put that to use to empower consumers at grassroots level to make good choices in terms of their homes, families, nutrition, purchases, lifestyle, travel, clothing and well-being. 

James is probably one of the world’s highest profile and recognised home economists… and a male… so how important is home economics for young men.  What benefits are there for male students to study home economics?

*smiles with embarrassment* (but it’s probably true).  I’ve worked hard and very long hours to get where I am.  I’ve always talked to people to get to know them, ones network is very important!  What I would say is, home economics is a subject where you have to use so much creativity, and back that up with academic and technical findings.  Like accountancy there is probably more than one correct answer to a problem.  Home economics is the same, there are usually a number of solutions.  The difference is that you have to be particularly discerning about what is correct for the family because the stakes are higher and decisions will have a significant impact on the quality of life.  As a male its been challenging!!  But just look at the opportunities I’ve had, other people have paid for me to see the world with work.  I think that says enough really!

So James, any final words…

The most important part of home economics is that regardless of what, how or where home economics is practiced, the health and well-being of individuals, families and communities remains in focus and at the top of our agenda.

James McIntosh is living the life.  Home economics is fun, very relevant in the modern world and can Whisk you off to all sorts of interesting places!  We look forward to hearing and seeing more from James in the future.

HomeEcConnect is interested in stories about Home Economists doing exceptional and exciting things around the world.  If you have a story, know someone, are someone or would like someone who inspires you interviewed – please contact us!

 

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