Posts Tagged ‘individuals’

Opinion Paper written by Jay Deagon @ HomeEcConnect 

This Youtube video is apparently the product of one bored student in a home economics class.  At least he knew he was learning about Tacos!

My observation is that home economics has suffered from ‘bad press’ for over a century. Is it coincidental that a passage from the 1901 Lake Placid conference papers can be directly quoted today and still hold relevance? Editor of the Boston Cooking School Magazine, Mrs Janet Hill wrote

“The chief concern of thoughtful men and women today is for the physical, practical and economic welfare of the community. In the attainment of these results journalism in the past has played a conspicuous part, but the science of home economics has not yet been considered seriously; the latest thought is looked on as food for a reporter’s ‘story’ or the filling of so much space”.

Home economics is not “women’s work”, nor is it an antiquated “fluffy subject” for the meek and mild.  I believe that home economics is a severely underestimated, misunderstood and misrepresented subject for study and academic discipline. We would not be having this conversation if we were from a “hard science” academy such as chemistry, biology or mathematics. Home economics is a multi- and interdisciplinary applied science that draws its knowledge from many sciences and applies it to human situations. Home economics is, in my considered opinion, one of the most valuable “frontline of defence” tools we currently have to address some of the world’s most pressing issues.  Regardless of the origins of influence, may it be due to lack of respect, oversight, imbalanced value of the role of family, corporate greed, deliberate misinformation or patriarchal oversight. Since 1901, the home economics message has remained clear – teach individuals, families and communities survival skills for an ever-changing world.

Can't stand the heat on TwitterHome economics is serious business.   I am currently in two minds as to the current upsurge in ‘revival of home economics’ discussions.  On one hand, I am rejoicing that my chosen field is getting much-needed attention in the media; on the other hand, I am getting a little  distressed that the valuable work home economists are doing is being overlooked and dismissed by so many.  How deep is this problem?

For the past few months I have been monitoring internet activity through Google alerts for “home economics” and the #homeeconomics hash tag. I have found a few disturbing trends that I would like to share – not only with the global home economics community but with the general public.

  1. There is a distinct lack of quality “home economics” news;
  2. General public comments about “home economics” are not encouraging, frequently
    misinformed and sometimes malicious;
  3. Developed countries are currently talking about “home economics” in relation to “the obesity crisis” and current effective home economics practices are being glossed over;
  4. Amy Hoaks, a journalist who writes the “Home Economics” column for MarketWatch,
    has tagged “home economics” to everything financial and real estate related in America;
  5. Teenage Twitters & YouTubers think that “home economics” is either a “bludge” subject, not exactly inspiring or the place where they eat cupcakes, cookies or tacos;
  6. An exceptionally proactive generation of retired and well-respected home economists are passing away; and
  7. The most popular “home economics” line from a movie is said by Tom Hanks in a mature audience segment of Forrest Gump.

These have been the main items of focus in online media (News Articles, Twitter and Youtube) for the past few months.

For over a century, the role of journalism in spreading messages about home economics has been, at best, just “media filling” –  pieces of “feel good” news about how lovely the food was that those delightful home economics students cooked.  Do not get me wrong, this is excellent news to be reported.  However, apart from hospitality and catering, where is home economics? At this point, I wish to point out a few exceptional stories that I have found (see my previous blog or the HomeEcConnect Facebook page). Unfortunately, these stories are few and far between.   It just seems that in 100 years, not much has changed. This has been somewhat depressing news for me.

I believe home economics is one of the most valuable subjects available in schools. It (should) teach about self-reliance, independent and critical thinking, food and nutrition, clothing, shelter, the critical role of ‘family’, sharing resources and skills, love, respect, social justice, equality, how to shop as an aware, conscious and ethical consumer of goods and services… basically – the importance of sustainable practices for the future security of the planet and its people. These are basic human needs and rights.  It is no small matter that the future of humanity depends on us (re)learning these basic human survival skills. We seem to be losing sight of what is important. The skills taught in home economics are not inbuilt human instincts, they are skills. It is home economics’ honoured position and capacity to teach these skills that inspires me to advocate for home economics.

Home economics is a global phenomenon. There are thousands of home economists doing extraordinarily valuable work around the world. Home economists are found at grassroots intervention levels working directly with students in schools; representatives within policy and decision-making areas at local, national and international associations and agencies; and industry professionals ensuring that the health and well-being needs of family are kept in focus.

I have no doubt that home economics will “survive” but the difference between home economics “surviving” and “thriving” comes down to a concentrated effort of spreading positive messages that infiltrate public and government opinion. How can we, as a profession, achieve this? One insightful member of HomeEcConnect pointed out that sharing our news is probably the most effective way. It is the old adage… if a tree falls in the forest…? If we are truly doing all this inspiring and effective work and don’t tell anyone – how will anyone outside the profession ever know?

I empathise with the busy home economist. So much time and energy is spent delivering programs and marking assessment for the local communities they serve, they do not seem to have enough time to advocate for their own profession. For many home economists, the ‘ethic of service’ is strong.  Specific subject areas get attention, for example, food and nutrition and the obesity crisis, but what about home economics in its entirety? I understand that it is different in different countries, counties and states, but as a whole and holistic subject, home economics does much more than teach “bout cooking n sewing n shit”.

I don’t know about you, but for me, home economics is a serious and life changing business. Legitimising home economics will come down to how much of our professional work we share with the world. It is essential that we keep connected.  We know what is “wrong” with the world and with home economics… but what is going right?  Many home economists are well-informed through their professional associations and newsletters, but how often do we share news through means of mass communication?

One of the most valuable lessons I learnt during my own undergraduate home economics education was to advocate for my own needs and to stand up for what I believe in.  Until now, home economics may have been undergoing a somewhat silent revolution. For over 100 years we have kept working and moving forward; but with the world in crisis and home economics offering some solutions, now is not the time for silence or fear of the unknown. We are a courageous and innovative profession. We need to tell people about the work we do or home economics will continue to be glossed over in the media and by governments who grant us funding.

I am an independent voice for home economics.  One purpose for me building the HomeEcConnect website is to unite and invite you to share your positive home economics experiences. It may be generational and I may be criticised for having this opinion, but unfortunately, home economics’ future may depend on ‘they who shout loudest’ – because at the moment – the media and general public are drowning out our voices.

I am one voice, I need yours.


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