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International Federation for Home Economics Press Release

 

21st March 2016

World Home Economics Day

“Home Economics Literacy: Skills for Families and Consumers”

 

Since 1982 the International Federation for Home Economics (IFHE) has celebrated World Home Economics Day (WHED). The purpose is to promote the significance of Home Economics and the Home Economics profession. The theme for the WHED 2016 is: “Home Economics Literacy: Skills for Families and Consumers”. The aim of the WHED 2016 is to communicate the major role Home Economics literacy has in contributing to family and consumer wellbeing and quality of life.

“Literacy is a fundamental human right and the foundation for lifelong
learning. It is fully essential to social and human development in its
ability to transform lives. For individuals, families, and societies alike, it
is an instrument of empowerment to improve one’s health, one’s
income, and one’s relationship with the world” (UNESCO, 2016).

The concept of Home Economics literacy is the multidisciplinary expression of several literacies such as food literacy, health literacy, financial literacy, consumer literacy and environmental literacy. Home Economics literacy connects elements such as knowledge, skills, culture, systems, and behaviours to enhance quality of life. The IFHE promotes the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the UN 10YFP on Sustainable Lifestyles and Education Sustainability is a consistent thread that is applied in Home Economics education.

The IFHE calls for:

  • All active Home Economists around the world highlight the theme
    of the WHED to show the importance of Home Economics
    competences to manage everyday life.
  • Governments consider the strengthening of the Home Economics
    discipline in school-based education as the basis for self-determined
    and sustainable lifestyles.
  • Home Economics professionals around the world promote the
    contribution of Home Economics literacy to achieve the
    Sustainable Development Goals.

 

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This is a recent press release from the International Federation for Home Economics (IFHE) about International Day of Families which is celebrated on the 15th of May each year. This year’s theme is “Men in Charge? Gender Equality and Children’s Rights in Contemporary Families”.

The International Day of Families is celebrated on the 15th of May. This day provides an opportunity to promote awareness of family issues and to increase the knowledge of the social, economic and demographic conditions affecting families. The theme for the International Day of Family 2015 is “Men in Charge? Gender Equality and Children’s Rights in Contemporary Families”. The IFHE supports the approach of the UN DESA, that “family laws govern family relations and seek to protect the vulnerable family members, including women, children and older persons. Fair family law frameworks are especially vital to ensure gender equality and tackle various forms of violence in families” (Background Note, IDF, 2015). Home Economists acknowledge the importance of gender equality in education, law, employment and business. All efforts towards gender equality such as legal frameworks encourage personal empowerment. The IFHE believes that women and men should have equal access to primary and higher education. This facilitates the development of empowerment to act responsibly for their families, women and young girls. Women should be given the tools, such as education and legal rights, to gain self-confidence and the ability to speak and act for themselves and for their children. In cultures and traditions where discrimination of women and girls prevails, men should be encouraged to act as reliable partners for women’s and children’s rights, their health and wellbeing. They should know about the link between the quality of life for women and children and the opportunity for sustainable economic and social development of their family and communities. The International Federation for Home Economics supports:

  • Improvements to women’s and children’s rights in national laws that remove gender inequality.
  • Actions that realise gender equality in families, economics and politics through access to education.
  • Empowering women to achieve self-determined actions for their wellbeing and that of their children.

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I listened. I cringed. I celebrated. I am talking about a recent radio interview on Radio Boston called “Home Ec For All” with Ruth Graham, author of Bring back home ec! The case for a revival of the most retro class in school.

In her interview, Ruth was articulate and intelligent about the history of home economics. She did an excellent job representing home economics and had done her homework. I also applaud Alice Lichtenstein’s essential work in the original article “Bring Back Home Economics” written in 2010. But, it would have been nice to hear from a Home Economist. I did love that the husband of a retired home economics teacher phoned in to bat on her behalf.

An interesting point was raised about processed foods being introduced into home economics classes in the 1950s and 60s. The theory and level of technical skill required to make bread and white sauce is still essential knowledge. Making bread and sauces are “the basics”. With this knowledge you can expand your repertoire and make lots of other things! I’m sure that Escoffier would have agreed with me. Assembling pre-packaged foods is not what home economics is about.

Contemporary home economics allows students to re-connect with the food system. In addition to lifestyle diseases, food security is also a serious issue. Home economics can provide students with opportunities to learn self-awareness; responsible consumer actions; basic life skills; service to others; and environmental sustainability. When home economics is given the opportunity to do what it is intended to do, this learning takes place. The role of home economics education as an agent for social change is a very important conversation to be having right now. However, we need an increase in public awareness about the plight of many home economics departments around the world. Closures and cut-backs are not acceptable.

In light of the above, what follows is my commentary on some current issues surrounding home economics. This commentary is my personal opinion and is informed by 4 years studying public conversations about home economics on the Internet, and forms a small aspect of my doctoral study.

Home Economics “Movement” in the 21st Century

What is a “movement”? My unofficial definition is a movement is called a movement because people take action. Let me give you an example of a “movement”. Amongst other things, the Romantic Movement (circa. 1770-1850) was thought to be a reaction to industrialisation. People lived and worked in horrendous conditions for the benefit of the ruling classes. Romanticism is also associated with The French Revolution (circa. 1789–1799). “The People” of France broke away from the ruling classes in a bloodied battle – and won democracy. That revolution was an act of desperation and reaction to oppression and hunger. Do not underestimate what people will do when they are hungry and angry. “The People” were not only fighting for equal distribution of food, resources and services but also art, science, intellectualism, individualism, and freedom. “The People” and their everyday stories became the heroes. Is this story looking familiar?

I am not suggesting a bloody revolution… just a revolution. Thankfully, ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’.

For those who didn’t know, home economics is not “dead”. In fact, in some countries home economics is alive and well. However, in some other countries, home economics does need a renaissance. “Home Economics” is a recognised household brand – but “The People” seem to have forgotten what home economics has done over the years to improve their everyday lives.

From its beginnings over a century ago, home economics has been successful in many campaigns to improve the health and well-being of individuals, families and communities. So much so, that home economics knowledge is embedded into many people’s daily lives, practices and industries. For example, hand washing, food preparation, kitchen designs, child care facilities, fashion and textile trades, workers rights, increased places for women in universities, and the United Nations “Year of the Family” which in 2014 celebrates its 20th anniversary. Yep… all influenced by home economists. Did you know that home economists work in some top level jobs? For example, Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of World Heath Organisation, started her career as a home economics teacher.

To support the efforts of professional home economists, what is done at grassroots levels also makes an impact. The outcomes of an organised joint effort are policy changes, increased funding and resources. From recent media activity and comments, “The People” are remembering home economics and want to create opportunities for students, teachers, universities, schools, families, communities and societies to re-learn basic skills and elevate the status of home economics.

How can this be achieved?

Write letters, post blogs, make phone calls, ensure you have the correct information and keep it positive. The International Federation for Home Economics Position Statement: Home Economics in the 21st Century document very clearly states that home economics is alive and kicking, and also outlines the purpose and functions of home economics. I encourage journalists, bloggers, nutritionists, historians, parents, teachers and principals to read and refer to the IFHE Position Statement.  In particular, bloggers and journalists, I respectfully request three things: 1) refer to the IFHE Position Statement in your articles; 2) use photographs of home economics from the 21st Century; and 3) source your information from a Home Economist, an IFHE representative or your local home economics association. For me, one point of concern raised in Ruth Graham’s article was reluctance for home economics teachers to speak “on the record”. I was taken aback by this comment. Have you not seen the stuff posted by home economics teachers on Twitter? Amazing, innovative and very noisy! There are many home economists willing to speak about the positive impacts of home economics. Like these Home Economists did:

Shop, cooking classes help keep students engaged by Mary Ann Urban, a former home economics teacher from Boston.

Open Letter Regarding Faculty of Human Ecology by Christie Crow, Graduate 2009, Faculty of Human Ecology and
Education, University of Manitoba

One HomeEcConnect Facebooker also noted:

Many [home economics] courses are based in the “life literacy” skills needed in today’s world which include most if not all of the skills mentioned in these comments – nutrition ed and wellness (includes food prep), consumerism and resource management (which is more than just personal finance), child development (to help with parenting), healthy relationships and balancing work and family responsibilities. Unfortunately, many of these courses are considered elective, and placed behind the college prep, college credit and academic courses even though most have high enrolments and student interest. If you want to make this change to their education happen, call your local school board and request FCS [home economics] courses be part of your schools graduation requirements.

Is anyone listening?

Yes – apparently they are. Admits these repeated calls to “bring back home economics”, Northern Ireland’s Department of Education has done a good thing (she says understatedly). In a recent media release from Stormont Executive, Department of Education, it was reported that Education Minister, John O’Dowd, had officially opened £900,000 worth of new facilities at Shimna Integrated College in Newcastle and wait for it…. funding included £499,906.86 towards new home economics facilities. Reported by the Belfast Telegraph on Friday, 18 October 2013, it was noted that Northern Ireland’s Department of Education’s ‘Education Works’ campaign highlights the vital role families can play in helping children do well at school and improve their life chances.

Will other governments follow the example set by Northern Ireland? Funding is vital for the revitalisation of home economics departments. As indicated above, over the last few months, I have seen an increase in news coverage about home economics. This is encouraging but we need to keep the conversation alive.

The key message: family and community involvement

I love the African proverb “it takes a village to raise a child”. Despite the tendency toward urbanisation, closed in and fenced off housing, home economics departments can offer children one of the rare opportunities to nurture a sense of community spirit and learn vital life skills. We need to keep the pressure on school principals, P&Cs, university faculties, and governments to provide funding and resources to make this happen. Positive outcomes come from ensuring that local students and families are involved in decisions about what home economics skills are tailored to local community needs. By reaching out into the local community, students and families will feel empowered to stand up and fight to keep their home economics community alive and thriving.

Join the 21st Century Home Economics Movement

Ensure everyone’s voice is heard – your, theirs, the students, and the local community. Home economics departments must reach out into their communities or closures will continue to go unnoticed. We don’t just ‘teach’ about the health and well-being of individuals, families and communities – we involve them! Consult families and communities, and update the local curriculum accordingly. Everyone has a role in Earth’s future and home economics is an exceptional curriculum tool to promote active involvement. I encourage all home economists, students and parents to get involved in the 21st Century Home Economics Movement and enjoy the feeling of solidarity and connectedness along the way. Know that what you do makes a positive difference. Let the home economics revolution begin.

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King & Amy O'Malley 2011

Getting my postgraduate King & Amy O’Malley Scholarship in 2011

I recently attended the World Home Economics Day celebrations of the Home Economics Institute of Australia (Queensland) division.  It was really inspiring to see the new King & Amy O’Malley Scholarship recipients. I have received two of these awards and I know how hard they are to get and how much it means when you receive one. The board has recognised you as a visionary and you are the future of home economics. I am deeply encouraged! I am a member of the HEIA and also a member of IFHE. I encourage everyone to become a member of their local association – it keeps you connected to local people and ideas but I also strongly recommend becoming a member of the IFHE because it connects you to the world in profound ways. With this said, I noticed something at the HEIA brunch and this is what had prompted me to write this article.

I think that there may be a general misunderstanding about who I am and what I do – because I am not a teacher. A significant number of people do not see the important role that home economics specific research and professionalisation has for the quality of life of the home economics profession. Because we have traditionally been an interdisciplinary subject, we borrow our information from other disciplines – food and nutrition is a good example. Very little research has been carried out on home economics populations (teachers, students, clients) and the effectiveness that home economics has on teaching and learning about food and nutrition. This means that there is a severe lack of literature to inform, not just home economists, but everyone else (politicians, policy makers, nutritionists, doctors etc etc) about home economics and positive relationships and the empowering nature it has with food literacy. Mostly, it is anecdotal evidence. Good stories will not persuade governments to hand over money and resources.

Without the evidence-based research to back up our claims, it is very difficult to convince politicians about the essential work that we do – hence we are overlooked and do not receive funding or recognition. Take the physical health dimension as a comparison. I read a review of literature which found that 79% of research reported physical health studies… only 1% of research reported related to the spiritual health dimension. Physical health is easy to see and measure – spiritual health is not so simple to see and measure. Physical health gets all the attention – spiritual health gets marginalised. The same is happening with home economics. Home economics is equally as important as physical health. However, home economics is overlooked because there is very little research. This is the very problem that my doctoral work is tackling. My research is twofold: home economics is my target research paradigm and spiritual health and well-being my topic.

In this regard, I strongly encourage undergraduates and teachers to pursue home economics specific postgraduate work – we need the research! The more people who ask to complete postgraduate studies in home economics – the more demand on the universities to include home economics in their programs and employ qualified home economists – the more distinction and funding home economics receives – the more home economics teachers we have in schools.  Simple… isn’t it?

For this reason, my work and the work of leaders in the field such as Donna Pendergast is extremely important. The world we live in now is very very different from twenty years ago. Today is fast paced, technologically facilitated, political and economically driven. If Home Economists do not keep up with the pace, we all suffer. One lecturer at my old university believes that home economics will always be here – and I agree with her – but it is not longevity that is at stake – quality of life for home economics is the issue.

My mission for many years now has been to boost the research base of home economics. Also, I advocate for home economics to non-home economists. No point in me preaching to the converted! We know what we do… yet, other’s have preconceived notions about home economics that are usually misinformed or incorrect – so they are the people who I target. Anyone who knows me knows that my mission in life is to educate others about home economics.

I am pleased to say – that I am having small successes all over the world. The HomeEcConnect website is doing a good job at getting the message out there. By Home Economists interacting with the HomeEcConnect social networks in a public space we are doing our part to secure a better quality of life for home economics. To those who already participate, I salute you. To everyone else who looks but doesn’t participate – it is time to jump on in!

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Written by Jay Deagon @HomeEcConnect

MY PRIVILEDGED FRIENDS AND TEACHERS – READ THIS NEWS ARTICLE FROM SWAZILAND

Don’t turn schools into war zones

My deepest respect goes out to my Swaziland Home Economics colleagues! Reading this article reminded me about a conversation I heard from an African Home Economist attending the 2012 IFHE World Congress – this desperate and dedicated lady was getting very angry – and rightly so – the conversations around her were about abundance. She was saddened that she could not make anyone understand that buying a new coffee machine for school was just not important. The individuals, families and communities she serves on a daily basis are dying from hunger, war and disease. She wanted us (privileged people) to remember the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, their purpose and importance. I heard a similar conversation from one of our Pacific Island colleagues… The Solomon Islands is one of the poorest countries in the world and they are right next door to one of the richest – Australia. I acknowledge that Australia has abundance and scarcity too. Extreme poverty is all around us and, in my opinion, is an unacceptable state of affairs. Where has our humanity gone?

I cannot sit here with my laptop, freshly ground coffee, cold milk and homemade potato and leek soup without taking a reality check. What can I do? I believe the International Home Economics community has a lot to offer – they just don’t realise it yet or know where to start. If anyone is interested, I have a few ideas… Register with HomeEcConnect or email me. Registration with HomeEcConnect is free, secure and moderated. Let’s discuss some options together.

We need to get real, share resources and remember our privilege.

The other thing that reading this article did for me? I remembered how totally AWESOME Home Economics is!!! No doubt about it! I’m very proud to be a Home Economist.

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Written by Jay Deagon. 

I recently attended a workshop about what makes a successful virtual community… the content of that workshop was not reassuring… they told me that people are becoming overloaded with technology and could not be bothered participating in online communities anymore.  They [people and online communities] have lost their “sparkle”.

In another article, Dr Paul Gunning (2009) talked about having a “social media reality check” and identified the many pitfalls that happen when the “techno-ecstasy” rush is over (p. 18)… the result will be a failed and empty website.  Is this the fate of HomeEcConnect

An interesting thing is happening.  No one is replying to broadcast messages, comments or discussions.  Same thing is happening on the Facebook page, Twitter, Youtube and WordPress as well.  With four different but linked electronic sources of information available; there is zero interaction from a global home economics community of thousands; and I don’t understand why.

Home Economics Victoria (HEV) are hosting the upcoming International Federation for Home Economics (IFHE) World Congress being held in Melbourne in 2012.  The theme is “Global Well-Being”.  It is hoped that those who participate in the HomeEcConnect project will be showcased as leaders and shining examples of home economics teachers, students and professionals actively participating as global citizens toward a peaceful, just and sustainable future for all.  The Earth Charter says that “it starts with one”.  Is anyone doing anything at local levels to achieve a peaceful, just and sustainable future or has the “sparkle” died out of home economics too?  I just can’t believe this to be true!

For the past few years, every Home Economics Institute of Australia (HEIA) conference I have attended in Queensland has focused on the integration of technology and the internet into home economics classroom practice.  I assume it is a similar message in other parts of the world?

The purpose of HomeEcConnect is to gather resources for use in home economics classrooms.  A cross-cultural selection of quality classroom practices to share with the global home economics community as well as the general public.  The King & Amy O’Malley Trust identify a ‘desired attribute’ of a home economist as someone with a strong ethic of service who actively participates in their community.   To achieve a sustainable future for all, The Earth Charter urges us to share our knowledge in open and respectful ways.  HomeEcConnect aims to celebrate our different home economics practices not privilege one discipline or ‘way of knowing’ over another.  HomeEcConnect is about sharing our dreams and realities in the hope of addressing some of our most pressing local and global challenges.

Home economics teachers, students and professionals – I am seeking your advice.  What do you want?  and what will keep you coming back HomeEcConnect?

References and Official Websites

Gunning, P. (2009) Social Media Reality Check: four ways to avoid the pitfalls of
‘techno-ecstasy’. Mediaweek, 19 (23) p. AM18 via Proquest Central

Home Economics Institute of Australia (HEIA) (2011) http://www.heia.com.au/

Home Economics Victoria (HEV) (2011) http://www.homeeconomics.com.au/

International Federation for Home Economics (IFHE) (2011) http://www.ifhe.org/

King & Amy O’Malley Trust (2011) http://www.omalleytrust.com.au/

The Earth Charter (2011) http://www.earthcharterinaction.org/content/

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