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letters | do we need home ec back in schools?

When we can’t fry an egg or swing a hammer, something is lost

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RE “BRING back home ec!” (Ideas, Oct. 13):

The loss of home economics and shop is a devastating loss not only for our young people, but for our culture. Many of our high school and college graduates don’t have a clue about healthy eating and cooking, or about budgeting, planning, how credit works, and basic financial management.

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As a high-tech refugee, now in my 12th year as a middle school woodshop teacher, I am particularly aware of the loss of these life-critical skill classes. Mastering the use of hand tools and power tools, or at least learning how to use them safely, is (or was) learned in middle or junior high school. More importantly, real problem solving, the ability to learn from mistakes, to build or make something to be proud of, to find out how something does (or doesn’t!) work, and to think creatively on your own are taught in shop and home ec. Lifelong survival skills are taught in these classes. They are transferable learnings.

I have just completed my master’s in education and wrote a position paper/thesis, subtitled “Why Your Child Needs to Take Wood Shop”. My argument has been that neo-educational reform, the focus on the all powerful standardized test, has failed our students, and in the process, we have abandoned John Dewey’s concept of a complete or liberal arts education. It will be difficult in this climate of accountability and measurable math and language test scores to bring back these fundamental classes, but let us consider having hands-on woodshop and home economics classes in the engineering/technology wings we are building in our new schools, and keep supporting the existing programs that are still producing citizens with these skills.

Ben Kellman

Executive director,
New England Association
of Woodworking Teachers

Andover

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