8 Useless Things I Learned In Home Economics Class (And How They Failed Me)

In middle school, I took a cooking class and a “life skills” class, each of which promised to prepare me for fancy grown-up tasks like adequately feeding myself, running a household and holding a baby the right way. Instead, I learned a slew of pointless tasks that did nothing to prepare me for grownup-dom. High school was no better. I went to great schools growing up, and in Home Ec, our awesome teachers were just doing the best they could with the crappy curriculum they had to work with. Still, those “life skills” lessons left me and dry. I’ve since become a domestic goddess in some areas of my life (I can sew like a boss), but I’m still muddling through learning some basic skills that my 7th grade teachers promised I’d know by the end of the semester. After the jump, some useless junk I learned in Home Ec and how they failed me.

1. How to make monkey bread and puppy chow.

How it failed me: I believe we made pasta at one point in the semester-long class, which to my (spotty) memory is the closest we got to making a healthy meal. Look, monkey bread is freaking delicious, but how is making sugary junk food a necessary life skill? I’m pretty sure most of us seriously believed these were okay things to eat for dinner on a regular basis.

What I wish I learned instead: How to make a damn salad, or any actual dinner dish that wasn’t made of sugar and chocolate. Extra credit for how to make a fancy dessert really quickly to impress scary in-laws and creative ramen recipes for the inevitable broke-ass lifestyle that awaited us once we reached young adulthood.

2. How to wipe down a classroom kitchen with wet paper towels five minutes before class ended.

How it failed me: Well, for starters, this doesn’t actually clean much. It did, however, teach our designated “cooking groups” how to delegate tasks to get the cleaning done quickly (read: it taught the most obnoxious kids in the bunch how to yell at other kids to do all the work.)

What I wish I learned instead: How to actually tidy up a kitchen using household cleaning products. It also would’ve been nice to know other food-related skills like the art of freezing/defrosting food, removing red wine stains, and how to plan meals for one without wasting leftovers.

3. How to sew a food-shaped throw pillow.

How it failed me: To be specific, I believe it was this cherry soda pattern, and it still exists somewhere in my mom’s attic. It was really fun to make, but how is this particular project useful to anyone ever? The kids at the next school district over got to make pajama pants instead — at least that’s a mildly helpful skill set.

What I wish I learned instead: How to do basic alterations, like hemming my pants or taking in a dress. How to fix tears in sleeves and how to tell when those tears are just unsalvageable.

4. What a condom looks like on a banana.

How it failed me: The teacher spent about two minutes demonstrating this at the front of the room while we students sat in our desks watching from like 20 feet away, and then called it a day. The nonverbal takeaway from this was essentially “you don’t need to know the details, since I’m obviously not showing you, so just kick back and assume your partner will know how to put it on.”

What I wish I learned instead: Anything about STIs, like, at all.

5. How to care for a doll/pillow/egg as if it’s a baby.

How it failed me: Maybe you remember this infamous assignment, in which kids are put into hetero pairings and given some object (usually an egg) that they’re told is now their baby and must be kept alive for the next week. You have to carry the damn thing around everywhere you go, and sometimes call into the school at random midnight hours to prove you’ve “woken up to feed the baby.” It’s supposed to be a lesson in how all-consuming it is to have a child, as if carrying some inanimate object around for a few days is in any way comparable to the insanity-inducing terror of spending 24/7 with a colicky baby or screaming toddler whose cries are slowly embedding themselves into both your formerly sane mind and your worried parent-heart that just wants them to smile again.

What I wish I learned instead: How to not make babies in the first place. It’s usually assumed that this project will just magically teach kids to never have sex ever, which is obviously an epic miscalculation. Bonus points for a lesson with our assigned baby mama/daddy on having actual functional romantic relationships using little-known concepts like basic communication skills and conflict resolution.

6. What childbirth looks like.

How it failed me: Nobody, ever, needs to watch a John Lithgow-narrated PBS special with creatively edited footage of a baby’s birth in a room full of their self-conscious adolescent peers. Who is this expectant couple that volunteered for this film? How much did the producers pay this woman to allow her lady bits be seen by thousands of horrified teenagers across America?

What I wish I learned instead: How to budget for future astronomical hospital birth costs, or any and all lesson on the fact that kidlets are expensive (and once again, any practical advice on how to use contraceptives so as not to have one at the wrong time).

7. How to change a (male only) baby’s diaper.

How it failed me: I specifically remember a lecture on how to wipe boy babies’ butts because it requires a certain order of execution. Not sure if we ever covered the whole “what to do if you have a girl” thing.

What I wish I learned instead: For starters, how to change the diaper of both genders, but also just how to hold a baby in the first place. I realize it’s not really plausible to just “borrow” someone’s baby to teach 13-year-olds how to care for them, but reading this stuff from a textbook was a bit bizarre.

8. How to manage your money.

How it failed me: JK, I never learned this in school! At all. Ever.

What I wish I learned instead: Wouldn’t it be nice to know how to finance all this cooking, sewing, and babymaking that we learned about useless aspects of? Or how much of a paycheck to put into savings, or how to budget for a week’s worth of meals before heading to the grocery store? Wouldn’t it be even more awesome, as a naive and eager teen, to be taught that the credit cards that magically appear in your mailbox when you turn 18 actually have to be paid back? It would be nice to know those things, you guys.

[Image via Shutterstock]