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A place in history, 1960s-1990s

Submitted by Frances Smith from Ames, Iowa, USA
Professor Emerita, Family and Consumer Sciences Education
  • Ph.D. Home Economics Education 1966

Memories of home economics teacher education

The most vivid memories from home economic/family and consumer sciences involve the many wonderful secondary teachers and the curricula they taught after receiving their credentials through the College. I remember a young married teacher in the 1960s who struggled with her students to consider the role of women in society in the future. All their role models were women who did not see themselves making major contributions outside the home. The community thought maybe the teacher should teach not what might be, but what was for women there. The question was should the teacher teach the values of the community as expected or try to introduce female students to new possibilities?

I remember the discussion about continuing to teach year-long courses labeled Home Economics I, II, and III, or whether to develop new semester courses in areas such as child development, family relations, Foods I and II, Clothing I and II, Tailoring, etc. What would happen to the integrative focus of home economics? Pre-requisites?

In the 1970s there were more students preparing to be teachers than jobs available for them. Should the curricula be such that other jobs were possible? Was it OK to get a college degree and not work? Just find a man and get married, not even work until you had children?

In the 1980s, as I recall, the curricula began to include the new middle school movement. Home Economics/Family and Consumer Sciences teachers could be key players in defining and creating an integrated curriculum involving English/science/math/social studies. These teachers had the expertise, having integrated the various areas of their curricula. Then, the question became what role would the vocational (home economics, industrial technology, etc) and other non-academic subjects (art, music, etc.) play in the scheduling?

By the 1990s we were defending the importance of a required home economics/family and consumer sciences course in the middle school curriculum. The students liked the hands-on activities of the foods and clothing areas, but school boards and administrators questioned the expense of these curricula. Were they worth it? Educational reform emphasized science and math, not human relationships and financial astuteness.