- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 3, 2003

Home ec’s exile

“Want to combat the epidemic of obesity? Bring back home economics. … [T]eaching basic nutrition and food preparation is a far less radical remedy than gastric-bypass surgery or fast-food lawsuits. …

“Banished by feminists, Becky Homecky was left to wander backwater school districts. For a while it seemed that mandating male participation might salvage the discipline while satisfying political correctness. By the late 1970s, one-third of male high school graduates had some home-ec training. … Since then, ‘home economics has moved from the mainstream to the margins of American high school,’ according to the U.S. Department of Education, with even female participation — near universal in the 1950s — plummeting by 67 percent. …

“[T]he hunger for home economics didn’t die with its academic exile. Martha Stewart made millions filling the void, vexing home-ec haters like Erica Jong for having ‘earned her freedom by glorifying the slavery of home.’ Home and Garden TV, the Food Network and countless publications thrive on topics once taught by home ec.”

Jennifer Grossman, writing on “Food for Thought (and for Credit),” Tuesday in the New York Times

Tween scene

“For more than a decade now, it hasn’t been just savvy marketers who have trained their sights on ‘tweens.’ Professionals and parents have grown increasingly obsessed with what was once dismissed as the ‘no man’s land’ of the middle school stage; a Carnegie Commission report in 1995 called ‘Great Transitions,’ which reported the latest research on rapid bodily and brain change, roused a new sense of concern and helped put the early-adolescent phase on the map. …

“Empathetic listening and therapeutic understanding, the kids suggest, can be overrated: What they really need are adults who can help them look and think beyond the often-narcissistic travails of middle school, not prod them to obsess more explicitly about every personal problem. ‘Don’t treat me like your patients,’ teenage Anna shrieks at her therapist-mother in ‘Freaky Friday,’ a comedy in which the pair swap bodies for a day. ‘Mom, stop shrinking me!’ …

“From the outside looking in, we can see that this is a period that is not so much formative as transformative, or so we can hope. But if what kids see when they dart desperate, astute glances our way is adults fearfully transfixed by all the flux, they’re likely to have a harder time marshalling that dizzying energy of theirs to move on.

“They can make that ‘So?’ sound very derisive, yet not far from the surface they’re still deeply inquisitive. But if all we do is reflect their unhappiness back at them, where will they get any answers?”

Ann Hulbert, writing on “Tween-Age Wasteland,” Aug. 29 in Slate at www.slate.com

Che chic

“In a new course at Princeton, ‘Topics in Spanish American Literature and Ideology: Ernesto Che Guevara Between History and Literature,’ students will study Guevara’s own writings as well as various hagiographies of his brutal and bloody career. It should come as no surprise that this is the largest fully subscribed class in the Latin American Studies department. Che Guevara’s face is as ubiquitous on the walls of American college dorms as Anna Kournikova’s cleavage.

“Why is someone who devoted his life to spreading totalitarianism on two continents so popular on American campuses? With left-liberal academics, it’s fairly simple. Inveighing against ‘capitalist exploitation,’ El Che was a photogenic hero to many in happier, hippier days. With American undergraduates, Che’s appeal is less ideological and more immature. Che has remained a symbol of rebellion for the pimpled, the pierced, and the politically confused. They cannot quite make a world revolution. But it’s still more legitimacy than a killer like Guevara deserves.”

from “The Week,” in the Sept. 15 issue of National Review

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