old school - home economics and chemistry classes

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Zeno Marx

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I've been thinking about this a bit lately. Partly because of the person asking me to hang out while they make bread and partly because of an interview I watched with the 2022 Teach of the Year.

I grew up in a very small rural farm town. Our school had no budget, but we had some good teachers. Back when it was a requirement to take classes like home ec (cooking, sewing, checkbook keeping, etc), agriculture (germinating seeds, animal husbandry, etc), industrials (woodworking, leather, metals), and civics. If I remember correctly, we were required to take a quarter of a school year of each around the 8th grade year, which wasn't much time, but it was better than nothing. We had college prep classes that included chemistry and chemistry II in high school. We had an entire regular-sized classroom of sewing machines, washing machines, stoves, and sinks.

Here's the thing: I'm surprised that the home ec class didn't combine with the chemistry classes. While we had no budge for buying supplies and chemicals for chemistry experiments, why didn't they teach chemistry via cooking? Was it because the chemistry teacher (we only had the one teacher) was a man and maybe didn't know how to cook? Or the home ec teacher (a woman) didn't think of cooking as chemistry (most people don't). Everything about cooking, from caramelizing onions to bread making to spices is about chemistry. I know I didn't really think of cooking as chemistry until much, much later when I was exposed to things like Alton Brown's Good Eats (back when the Food Network was actually about cooking).

Did anyone have classes like this? Or your children or grandchildren?

It seems like it was a real missed opportunity to teach cooking on a deeper level, and possibly pique some interest in either a cooking or a science direction, while utilizing what little resources many schools had and still don't have. Both teaching a life skill and preparing for advanced education. There's the old volcano experiment with baking soda and vinegar, but I mean something that could have very easily moved beyond that.
 

Puffy

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I went to a technical trade high school in Detroit.I took drafting and machine shop..Didn't earn a living in either one.I wanted to learn Spanish.They taught Latin..No Thanks..I wanted to take cooking.Only girls could..I wanted to take typing.Only girls could.Here I am 60 years later pecking away on a key board. My point here is schools should teach some that has an eye to the future. I think that finances should be included in today's teachings.
 

Brewdude

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Sure, my HS had home ec for girls and shop (wood or metal) for boys. This was back in the old days when either sex would never even think about taking the one intended for the opposite sex. It probably wouldn't even have been permitted come to think of it. It would have been considered sissy back then but boys could have learned a little about cooking to sustain them when they were on their own. Typing class also was girls only if they were embarking on a secretary position. Think all that's changed now.


Cheers,

RR
 
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Zeno Marx

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We all, as in boys and girls, had to take the classes I mentioned. I had to take home ec, and the girls had to take shop. Only around 8 weeks of each, but still, it was good. Typing was for everyone as an elective class. I took it, but I can't tell you why. No computers, and we didn't have a typewriter in the house. Those old, cool IBM Selectrics, taught by a man, who was known in town as less manly, despite having a family and kind of being an aggressive jerk. There was nothing effeminate about this guy, other than teaching typing.

I know my small town was unique. Many decades earlier, a tiny liberal arts college was the center of town (the town was originally formed around a creek and was a wood mill in the 1800s). The college had been closed for many years even before I was born (and is now a historical landmark), yet the town still held onto some progressive elements and attracted eccentric people whose parents were blue collar conservatives. We were the county seat, and everyone in county and city government was Republican. Quirky, somewhat moderate Republicans. Gender roles were obviously still a thing, but maybe not as strongly as a thing even the next town over and in the rest of farm country. Still, as I said above, the guy teaching typing must be less of a man than the one teaching woodworking. It's amazing we aren't still living in caves.
 

Brewdude

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Frankly, what they should have taught back then was subjects like how to write a household budget, balance a checkbook, manage finances and investments, fill out a tax return, and so on. This we all learned by the school of hard knocks.


Cheers?


RR
 
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Timbo

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Frankly, what they should have taught back then was subjects like how to write a household budget, balance a checkbook, manage finances and investments, fill out a tax return, and so on. This we all learned by the school of hard knocks.


Cheers?


RR
I agree totally, never had those classes in my high school that would've actually been relevant to my life. As a boy only school, we had only wood and metal working classes, no home ec which I actually asked for and was laughed at for doing so. "Why would a boy want to learn to cook." When I'd asked I'd already been cooking for my familiy for nearly ten years, my main reason for wanting to do home ec was for the ec side of things like learning to budget etc. was very annoyed about the whole situation.

At least my son was able to do home ec when he was still at school but then again he went to a co ed school.
 

Blackhorse

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Re having classes at school for “how to write a household budget, balance a checkbook, manage finances and investments, fill out a tax return, and so on”…I imagine there are so many federal, state and local district mandates for curriculum (scope and sequence of instruction) that fitting what are called “life skills” in would be almost impossible. Interesting that these kinds of skills are often included in Special Ed programs.

Hmmmm. Different populations of kids have different needs and different resources. Me? I was one of the lucky kids. I had parents. 🙂
 

Zeno Marx

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My home ec class of 8 weeks did cover a checkbook and I believe a tax return, but it would have been the EZ form I'm pretty sure. I don't think we covered budgeting or investments. It was before 401Ks and common people getting involved in Wall St. There wasn't any stigma to it because it was required for everyone. And we got to bake a cake. Even boys wanted in on a cake.
 

Blackhorse

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My home ec class of 8 weeks did cover a checkbook and I believe a tax return, but it would have been the EZ form I'm pretty sure. I don't think we covered budgeting or investments. It was before 401Ks and common people getting involved in Wall St. There wasn't any stigma to it because it was required for everyone. And we got to bake a cake. Even boys wanted in on a cake.

Yeah…cake…and mascara!
 

Ranger107

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I took typing in HS and found it very valuable. When I got to college and was able to type term papers, etc. I was several steps ahead of guys who only had shop. Also had parents who taught me how to cook, sew, and balance a checkbook, and fix cars.
 

Zeno Marx

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Some handy people and fix-it folks aren't much in the teaching department. I know it is viewed as a common skill to teach, but I've found it definitely is not...usually not. That's a whole discussion though. It's great to have the mindset of "you CAN do it" handed down, but "this is how you do it" is a whole other ball game. It's crazy to me how underrated, and undervalued, being a good teacher is. "they're a dime a dozen." No, they aren't.

As an aside, I came to the conclusion a couple years ago that some of the greatest graduation and "next phase of life" gifts are tools. With the great tool of youtube itself, giving tools as gifts has such great potential. Even if the person isn't naturally mechanically inclined to fix things, they can look it up on youtube and hopefully figure it out. And if nothing else, in a time of real need, they can sell the tools and pay a bill or some of rent or whatever. Of course, having in mind that the tools you're gifting aren't the cheapest Harbor Freight versions but the quality of tools someone can grow old using.
 

DWSmith

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I took typing in HS and found it very valuable. When I got to college and was able to type term papers, etc. I was several steps ahead of guys who only had shop. Also had parents who taught me how to cook, sew, and balance a checkbook, and fix cars.
I ran into some gal that said they wouldn't let her take typing in high school because she was 'too smart'!?!?!? I told her at my high school everyone who had any chance of going to college was encouraged to take typing.

For me it was very, very valuable. I type for many hours every work day. This is my 45th year of working in I.T.
 

DWSmith

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Frankly, what they should have taught back then was subjects like how to write a household budget, balance a checkbook, manage finances and investments, fill out a tax return, and so on. This we all learned by the school of hard knocks.


Cheers?


RR
One of my college majors was mathematics. (I'm also certified to teach secondary mathematics.) One of the most valuable course I ever took was near the end of my college education when I took Math of Finance. It was a very easy course (especially after my advanced classes) full of very useful information taught by an old instructor that gave us common ways to apply what we were learning. After graduating nearly 45 years ago I still think it was my most valuable college class. It included things you mentioned above.
 
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Brewdude

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When I was in HS, all assignments were to be done in longhand. I clearly remember one kid in some class asking if they could submit it in typed form and the answer was a big fat NO!

One of my best buddies in HS wanted to go into journalism, and he had to take typing as an after school elective as it wasn't taught in the regular curriculum. I never asked him if he was the only guy in the class but it was probably accurate.



Cheers,

RR
 

Blackhorse

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HS class of 1965 here. Typing was an open class and LOTS of guys were in the class. If I assigned a gender ratio to it I would totally be guessing. I do remember that the woman that taught the class was a hot first year teacher that drove a Ford Galaxy 500 Skyliner…a retractable hardtop. Now THERE’S a rare item. (Both the car AND the hot teacher.)

0224A501-2D04-46BE-96A7-03EE27754390.jpeg
 

Ranger107

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HS class of 1965 here. Typing was an open class and LOTS of guys were in the class. If I assigned a gender ratio to it I would totally be guessing. I do remember that the woman that taught the class was a hot first year teacher that drove a Ford Galaxy 500 Skyliner…a retractable hardtop. Now THERE’S a rare item. (Both the car AND the hot teacher.)

View attachment 4800
I had one of those. Hot teacher, not the car. Ms. Wolf. Taught math, trig, geometry, etc. She was tall, almost 6' and had a huge German Shepherd she called Dammit. And she drove an Austin Healy Sprite, the Bugeye. Tiny car. Funny as hell to see her driving around top down, her long silky black hair blowing in the wind and Dammit looking over the windshield.
 

Ol'Dawg

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When I took a typing class in the summer ('62), she looked like Ms. Krachett. Not even close hot! They used the Remington 1929 typewriters that used similar Walter Winchell. It took a good time to get my fingers strong enough to depress the keys.
 
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