By Amanda Leigh Brozana,
National Grange Lecturer
Reprinted from The Patron’s Chain, the e-newsletter of National Grange
Recently I caused quite a stir – surprise, surprise – by sharing a video on Facebook that suggests schools include in their curriculums things previously taught in what was known as shop and home ec classes.
Many of my friends – hopefully that includes many of you – argued that teaching things like cooking and sewing and finding a stud to hang a picture are the responsibility of parents and other family members.
Yes. Yes, I agree.
But there was much more in those classes that I, as a member of one of the last classes of students in my district to have them under these titles, learned (and a few things I wish I would have).
Sure, most kids can learn how to cook the basics through observation of our parents or grandparents but formally teaching young people how to prepare food in nutritious, safe and appetizing ways is still important. Food safety is second hat to those who cook frequently, but for time-strapped individuals who are just learning, it’s so easy to worry about less dishes and choose to use the same cutting board for raw chicken and cucumbers for salad, not knowing the risks.
You can watch someone change a tire and learn or figure out how to sew a button by finding a YouTube video, but more complex subjects you often can’t learn just by seeing – like balancing a checkbook, understanding interest rates or planning an investment strategy. These are vital for youth to know, especially before signing for that first college loan or taking out that first credit card. However, many parents – of young kids, teens and beyond – don’t understand these topics in detail themselves.
These are the things modern home ec classes were starting to teach as I entered and exited my high school years. But most schools have since done away with these type of classes because of reduced budgets, lack of teachers in their area in that subject, focus on academic areas covered by standardized testing and many other reasons. This is the same for many districts that have cut agriculture education (and FFA) programs.
And with those cuts, there is certainly a noticeable void. People who lack these skills and training often ignore problems because they do not know how to deal with it, or they spend money they often don’t have to fix a problem they could have easily taken care of with a little knowledge and training. In the long run, it may help the local economy for someone to call out a plumber to fix a leaky sink for $100 rather than go to the hardware store and buy a $1 rubber washer, but there are $99 fewer dollars for that individual to spend on healthy food, paying down credit card debt, or giving to your Grange Hall fund.
Still, the argument that all of the personal, home and life skills necessary should be taught by parents, or the larger parenting community, and not the burden of already stretched public school budgets is valid.
So, maybe there is a call to action for Grangers to fill this void.
Instead of asking schools to provide this type of instruction on the backs of taxpayers, or expecting parents who sometimes graduated out of schools and homes that did not prepare them in these fields, our Grange members who have an area of expertise could share their knowledge as part of an ongoing Lecturer’s series on “Life Skills.”
In the coming months, I will be seeking assistance in creating programs in this area and hope Granges will put on their own programs, then share them with me for further distribution. It’s time to return to the lives of our community members as educational hubs we were meant to be, and what better time than as we prepare to celebrate our founding and prove our relevance in this new age.
Won’t you consider providing ideas for Life Skills Basics and Advanced Lecturer’s Programs that could be offered at meetings or on weekends by your Grange? Email your ideas or completed programs, in the form of a Lecturer’s Program in a Box, to lecturernationalgrangeorg (lecturernationalgrangeorg) , or call 202-628-3507 with suggestions.
Lecturer’s Program in a Box Standard Form
Program should be completed on PowerPoint or similar presentation software and must include
- A title slide
- At least 10 informational slides
- A closing slide with author’s name, contact information and basic details (ex. Larry Smith has been a licensed contractor with his own business in Hartford, CT, for more than 20 years).
- A handout/stand alone document that includes either a step-by-step guide, tip sheet, frequently asked questions, resource list, comparison guide, activity or other tool or activity to engage the audience and reinforce your instruction
If you are unable to use a presentation software, you can create a speech script with attached photos or illustrations in addition to the stand-alone handout.