At the age of six, I made my parents breakfast in bed. To the best of my knowledge, this meal included a glass of orange juice (disregard the expiration date; that’s for wimps), some berries (don’t bother to wash them; your mouth does that for you) and, above all, a piece of freshly burnt toast. After a solid 15 minutes, I popped open the toaster and pulled out the toast which, at this point, was really more ashes than bread. The only flaw in my plan was that I attempted to take out the toast with a paper towel, which promptly caught on fire. I dropped the towel on the floor, ran screaming into my parents’ room and began to weep. Luckily, I’m quite sure that their idea of a peaceful Sunday morning included calling the fire department. Doesn’t everyone’s?
My kitchen skills have hardly improved. My most recent accomplishment was learning how to boil water—seriously. But my handicap isn’t limited to cooking. I’m equally bad at all areas of household life: cleaning, electrical repair, sewing, washing clothes. You name it, I can blunder it. And I feel quite confident that I don’t stand alone. How many of you can honestly say you know how to iron your clothes without burning a hole in the torso, or mend the hem of your Uniform skirt without winding up in the ER? For that matter, how many of you know what it means to “hem” something?
I believe that by reinstating a highly recommended but not mandatory Home Economics class, Marlborough girls could become more self-sufficient.
In the good ol’ days (aka the 1920s-30s), when the Uniforms were the color of uncomfortably cheery Easter eggs and saddle shoes were a must, students had the option of taking a class called “Domestic Economy,” which included managing household accounts, repairing clothing and cooking, including a specific emphasis on “fine desserts” (wow, nothing has changed).
Admittedly, this probably prepared Violets to be well-mannered, sedate mothers and wives, but at least girls were learning invaluable skills that would serve them for the rest of their years as opposed to learning, say, which president died after only a month in office (William Henry Harrison, in case you were wondering). While the latter might be a good icebreaker at a party— although it’s best to not mention dead politicians while gabbing over shrimp kebabs if you’re attempting the terrifying feat of making friends—the former is of more long-term importance.
The tacit belief in this community is that by teaching us traditional feminine skills such as cooking and cleaning the School would be subtly encouraging us to relegate ourselves to the domestic sphere. On the contrary, I think we become more reliant on guys if we are such damsels in distress that we can’t fix a sink or use a lawnmower without their manly assistance.
A Home Ec class could also deliver important lessons in making decisions, investigating potential careers and maintaining self-esteem. Moreover, Home Ec would be a good opportunity for girls who do not participate in the Caswell Scholars Dollars and Sense class to learn basic financial management skills. Unlike Health, which focuses on anatomy and living a healthy lifestyle, Home Ec would teach us how to clean a toilet, mop a floor, do our laundry, change a tire and kill those scary little spiders that somehow always end up in your bathtub.
Because let’s be honest: you need a lightning-fast, totally mind-blowing crash course on, well, life, and the skills necessary to not end up starving on the trash-covered floor of your new apartment.
My freshman year of high school was the first year after Home Ec had been abolished. While some of my classmates agreed that Home Ec was “antiquated”, silently, I was sad. I wanted to learn how to use a sewing machine to make my own things. I would have loved how to do so many things that my mom recalled so fondly when she reminisced with friends.
When I went off to college, I was glad that my mom had taken the time to teach me how to wash my own clothes and make my own bed. Home Ec would have enhanced my knowledge and I think I would have felt more self-sufficient.
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