Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Homemaking Courses - Majoring in home-ec?

There was a time when women weren't given access to all that academia had to offer. These women of yore had limited resources in education and often had to take training as they could get it - secretarial, nursing, teaching, and homemaking. Times changed and women can study physics, linguistics, microbiology - you name it. The world of education is now open to the women of today and hip hip hooray to that! But in this passage to broader knowledge, the skills of homemaking, the science of cooking, sewing and tending a home, were left in the dust.

Sure, I can see how that happened. Who would want to take a course in home-ec at the college level when the doors of knowledge were finally open? Plus, there are those in the world who say "Why train students in home-ec - is that really a college level course?" My answer to that question is that there is housekeeping and then there is homemaking. There is cooking and there is preparing meals. What's the difference, you say? What is the difference between a fast food burger and a homecooked meal? What is the difference between a cold drive-thru and a warm kitchen? Plenty. Homemaking requires skills that can certainly be learned through trial and error, but many fields of study can say the same thing. Musicians study and achieve degrees, as do writers, researchers, political science majors. So why should homemaking be left out in the cold? (Plus, what constitutes "college level" any way? Students at UCLA could take a course in the films of Keanu Reeves. I'd put baking up against Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure any day.)

Well, the sticky wicket here is that some schools are offering courses but in a religious context. Here's where I part company with many of my homemaker chums. I don't see homemaking and religion as two sides of the same coin. I don't think you have to be a religious person to make a good home and I don't think good homemakers have to be religious. It's fine if you happen to be both things, but they aren't interchangeable. Enter the program at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Tennessee. The school began offering homemaking courses that were open to women only. I have a problem with that. Why women only? Can't men have a need to create a home for their families? Now granted, this is a religious school, so of course, there will be a religious bent to the program. But my issue with this is that homemaking isn't about religion. By creating a program in a religious environment and by restricting it to women only, the school makes it a sexist and cultural issue. Offer the program, if it makes sense to their students, but don't ban half the population from learning skills. Would we stand for such a situation if the class was about algebra or architecture?

Ok, this post is a bit preachy (I get the irony of that statement) and I'm sorry for that. I just take issue with pigeon-holes, square pegs in square holes and labels for people. Not everyone accepts what I do as valid, and that's ok because I don't let myself be defined by others' opinions. But education is something that should open doors, not close them. Courses set up to segregate students and pigeon-hole people just don't make any sense.


Anonymous said...

Amen sister and pass the peas please. That was an excellent post!
You know, when I left home at 18 I didn't even know how to iron my clothes? It's true. I didn't know how to balance a budget, clean a tub or bake bread either. Homemaking isn't in the curriculum because it's assumed to be learned at home. Sadly, not all of us had that kind of home.

Buck said...

I have a Master of Divinity from U. of Toronto, but I would LOVE to have a homemaking degree from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.


Lorraine said...


more cowbell said...

I read about that program last year, and started a post on it, but abandoned it, because I didn't know how to write it without it coming out as "anti-homemaking". You've really hit the nail on the head, it's the automatic link to religion and that woman-subordinate way of thinking that makes the program icky (note professional term, there). One of my issues was that the women, after spending the years getting their Bachelor's degree, wouldn't have any other aspect to their education, with this program. What if the man they've hung all their hopes on gets hit by a truck? WHat additional skills were included in that degree that will allow them to pay off their student loans and support the kids then?

And yes, it should be an option for both genders, not as the default for women to keep them where they belong. Your last couple of lines are gold.