Home Economics 10/3/21

Thoughts by Richard Bleil

The dynamics are changing.  It feels like, more and more, people want schools to teach their children rather than taking the responsibilities for themselves.  This leads to problems, of course, because as parents rely on schools to teach subjects such as sex education, for example, then the teachers and schools are open to criticism based on morality.  If, for example, a school tries to do the responsible thing and teach about prophylactics, then some parents who see birth control as immoral will complain about this, and before you know it the governor is threatening to pull funding because the school is doing their job. 

When I went to school, much more of these topics were considered to be subjects to be taught at home.  I had a health class where they separated out the boys and girls and put up a diagram and taught us the physiology of the penis.  We weren’t even privy to vaginal physiology at the time, but they did discuss some of the basic misconceptions.  I distinctly remember that we were told about masturbating, and that we should not be worried about it.  If we think about a girl, she will never know (unless we tell her) and she won’t get pregnant if you masturbate while thinking about her.  This was good to hear, because it was at an age where this was a legitimate fear that I had myself. 

But the rest was for home.  They didn’t cover prophylactics, or morality, or just the plain decency not to talk about it if it happens with our friends to protect her reputation.  Damn, be cool, don’t talk about it.  She’s a human being, you know.  That was up to the parents to discuss at home, or, as my parents did, to sit the child down and throw a book at them and say, “read chapter three, four and five.” 

Home economics was another thing to learn in the home.  I think most kids learned how to budget money through their allowance.  If you wanted something, then you learned how to save up for it, make cuts in your candy, and learn the patience during the process.  It also made the children think about if they really wanted it or not considering how much it was, and that once spent, that allowance money was gone.  My parents never did give me an allowance, which I why I think I might be so bad with money today.  Instead, they bought me everything I wanted.  Kind of.  We never really had a lot of money, so if I wanted something, their answer was always the same.  “Wait for Christmas (or your birthday) and MAYBE Santa will get it for you.”  Usually, Santa only got be socks and underwear, and I had to clean the reindeer poop off of the roof.  So, when I started making my own money, I never really learned to save money.  Instead, it was free rein to go out and buy everything I ever wanted like a new guitar and three vehicles and a folding phone. 

One of the things that I’m hearing more and more these days is how people wish schools would teach useful life skills like balancing a checkbook.  Honestly, this is something that I think should be taught at home.  If anything, parents need to be taught that they, too, can teach their children life skills.  When I was in school, though, they did try to teach us practical life skills, but, of course, this was in the sixties and seventies, so practical life skills were also segregated by gender.  Not that they would admit it.  For example, in middle school we all had the choice of taking the practical home economics or the practical wood working class.  They never came out and said, “if you’re a boy, take wood working”.  So, being clueless as I was, I was the only boy in the home economics class where I learned to be a good little wife and cook meals, iron clothes, and make macrame hanging plant holders.  At that age, it never really occurred to me that I was the only boy in the class, nor that every boy was taking woodworking and learning practical life skills to land them jobs in industry making birdhouses.  And with skills like that, who needs college?  By the second half of the school year, though, I was pulled aside and simply told that I would be taking woodworking.  I have no idea what they were learning in home economics in the second half of the year, but I was certainly not a favorite of the shop teacher, especially since they were on to power tools and I was still learning the screwdriver.  But man, could I macrame! 

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