Family studies to take place of home economics

January 18, 1993|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,Staff Writer

"Home ec" hasn't been cooking and sewing just for girls for a long time. It has been coeducational for nearly two decades in Baltimore County schools and has included such topics as child development and family dynamics for longer than that.

Now, officials say, it's time the name catches up with the content.

So the Baltimore County school board has decided to let home economics become family studies, moving the emphasis into relationships within and between families.

The new name "more clearly communicates the shift in philosophy . . . and responds to the needs of society to address the well-being of the family," says Peggy Mahlstedt, coordinator of the schools' Office of Home Economics, which will officially become the Office of Family Studies.

Students look at family relationships and how family members get along with each other. When food is the subject, students learn more than preparation and nutrition; they study how a family unit can be nourished through meals, she says. "There is a need for information to help students focus on families," Ms. Mahlstedt says.

The office recognizes that families aren't what they used to be, either. In its "mission statement for home economics," the office defines a family as "a unit of intimate, transacting and interdependent persons who share some values and goals, resources, responsibility for decisions and have commitment to one another over time."

Home economics -- or family studies -- is required in seventh and eighth grades. It's an elective in high school, with 12 percent to 15 percent of high school students taking a course, Ms. Mahlstedt says. About 30 percent of those students are male.

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