American schools should teach their kids about home economics, the way the Japanese do, writes Christine Gross-Loh, in The Wall Street Journal (10/1/13). In Japan, "every student … studies home economics from fifth grade through high school." They learn "woodworking, meal planning, cooking and even grocery shopping. They make wooden pencil holders, bookshelves, lamps and stools. They mend clothes, fasten buttons and sew wallets and aprons." In America, such coursework is typically deemed non-essential, and cut from school budgets.
Christine came to this conclusion while living in Japan, and sending her children to school there. In addition to learning "math, reading and science," they also learned "practical life skills." Beyond the practical, she argues, home economics courses "foster concrete know-how, as well as the confidence to improvise. They teach children to make good choices, take the initiative and make connections. When a student measures a bookcase, he is learning math and geometry in a hands-on, applicable way."
Japan’s combination of "academic and non-academic subjects," says Christine, has yielded some impressive results, including "the lowest rates of child obesity in the industrialized world," and children who "report being happier in school than their counterparts in other developed nations" (even though they have fewer holidays and more homework). Japanese students also "consistently outperform US students on international achievement tests, especially in math and science." Christine concludes that Americans "need to embrace the idea" that home economics "is essential" to a "sound education."