Friday, February 21, 2014

YELLOW, ORANGE, GREEN, AND BLUE:  A list of courses and topics which I recall having in middle school but which are not, apparently, going to be part of Lucy's grades 6-8 curriculum at her "vibrant learning community":

  • home economics, including sewing and cooking
  • wood shop
  • metal shop
  • (was there another shop?)
  • "keyboarding" class taught on electric typewriters
  • "consumer education"
  • regular health classes, including a unit on Those Magical Changes You're Experiencing. (Apparently, we have to teach this ourselves. Yikes.)


  1. lisased9:43 AM

    I suspect all of these kids would have mastered that keyboarding class by age four.

    Our seventh grader had many options for her two electives per semester, including an engineering/technology design class that took the place of wood and metal shop. She signed up for Family and Consumer Sciences, which includes sewing, cooking, time management, basic money management/budgeting, and life management (e.g., how to organize your room/locker).

    She has had Family Life Education ( a k a Those Magical Changes...) since fifth grade, and we all read a book and have ongoing discussions, so we're covered there.

    My middle school was severely lacking in electives. We were all forced to take ballroom dancing. I was the tallest girl in a class of uneven numbers, so I danced with the female instructor. To this day, my husband has to remind me not to lead.

  2. Jordan9:59 AM

    As one of the younger commenters here (middle school in the mid to late 90's), 7th grade consisted of shop and "family and consumer sciences," which in English meant one semester each wood shop, metal shop, cooking and sewing. Drafting (the other shop?) was included in metal shop, "consumer education" the first part of cooking. I switched school districts between 4th and 5th grade, so I got typing twice. Every kid touch types in elementary school. We still had computer class, but by then we were on to something else by then (powerpoint?). I know we had health every year, with that unit coming in 8th grade. No electives, everyone takes the same classes (save for choosing your language and tracking, but only in math). Public School!

  3. Christy in Philly10:07 AM

    I went to Catholic school and was in 6th-8th from '90-92. My school was k-8 so there was no "middle school." There were no electives. We watched "The miracle of life" movie. That was the extent of our "health" class, other than that one day when a teacher told everyone they needed to start wearing deodorant if they weren't already.

  4. I definitely had typing in 7th grade, on typewriters. Never took shop (though my Junior High had wood/metal shop classrooms), but wound up (because of scheduling, not really my desire) in a "home management" type class, with six weeks on cooking, six weeks on sewing, and six weeks on financial management. (I did very well on cooking/financial management, but sewing was kind of a disaster.)

    Health was required by the State of Texas, but was a one semester course in High School (I took it in 9th grade, I think). I'm actually glad I graduated then, before Texas put some silly new graduation requirements--I had US History (9), World History (10), Government/Economics (2 one semesters in 11), and then had my choice of options in 12. Now, students have to take a full year of "World Geography" on top of that, which makes it harder for folks to take AP History (I did AP Euro my Senior year).

  5. At Gresham Middle School in Tennessee, in either 6th or 7th grade (I can't remember now), all the boys took shop and the girls took Home Ec. Since I'd already been baking/cooking with my mom and had made clothing for dolls and myself with my grandmother, I took shop. Only girl in the class. When it came time to make our big final project (a small set of curio display shelves) I signed up to make two, instead of just one like all the boys, just to prove I could.

    Also in seventh grade you took "Hunter's Safety" for six weeks. (They rotated it through the Science section - Biology, Chemistry, Shooting Things - you know, the basics.) My parents refused to sign the permission slip allowing me to participate in the class, the final activity of which was a trip to the rifle range. They said to the principal, "We see no reason why our child needs to be taught anything about hunting and she has no interest in learning it." So I was the only kid that year, or in recent memory, not to take Hunter's Safety. They had no idea what to do with me for the six weeks, so they sent me through Biology again. The first time through, the homework was always the "odd" questions at the end of the chapter, so I had to do the "even" questions. And instead of the tests, I had to do special reports. I remember doing one on seahorses and one about quasars. (Biology was rather loosely defined.)

    I went to see Michael Moore speak on one of his college tours, in the mid- to late 90s, and he was talking about skits they never aired on his short lived sketch show "The Awful Truth." He described one in which they criticized the efficiency of school shooters - like, they fire all these rounds and have a very low hit percentage. The skit was going to be about a class that taught teenagers how to have better aim. I raised my hand and got his attention and told him about Hunter's Safety. He said, "See, this is the problem with trying to do satire in America now."

  6. Actually, you'd be surprised about teenagers and typing skills. Both my German and my Polish exchange students marveled at how fast I type, saying they never learned really how to type for speed. And I see it with the UGA students I work with - I'm faster than most of them, despite old age, bad eyes, etc.

  7. I think Lucy is going to be ok without metal shop. Oh, how I hated that class. Lowest grade I ever got. For many years after, my family joked about how I had "failed Doorstop." (I hadn't failed, precisely, but it wasn't good.)

  8. Also, typing on a full size keyboard is a completely different skill set than thumb-boarding, which is how many learn.

  9. Marsha11:25 AM

    Amy, if I ever win the lottery, I'm going to hire you to just tell me stories all day.

  10. Marsha11:26 AM

    My dad taught junior high school Industrial Arts (we were not allowed to call it shop) for his entire career. I am very sad to see its slow demise.

  11. Maggie11:51 AM

    Nice to see that most Catholic schools followed the same curriculum - ours was called "Family Life" and we also watched the Miracle of Life. I have a distinct memory of being split into boys and girls and having the parish priest talk to us separately about abstinence and secondary virginity. With pamphlets. Horrifying.
    But no other electives until high school and then, since it was all girls, there was only cooking/sewing, no shop. Now, they've replaced cooking/sewing with personal finance and business classes and more computer and design focused class. I'm on board with that change.

  12. Which district?

  13. Marsha11:57 AM

    Uniondale, on Long Island. Lawrence Road Junior High (which is now Lawrence Road Middle School).

  14. gtv200012:15 PM

    We had drafting and electronics shop also. Half semester each for wood shop (milk carton holder), metal shop (hammer), electronics shop (continuity tester) and drafting (instructor carved a bar of soap and then we had to draw it in isometric and three views, then a project). I guess since I remember it 45 years later it must have been good for me. I regret never taking typing (as it was called then).

  15. gtv200012:18 PM

    and for those magical changes, we had a evening with the parents watching a filmstrip to a record that beeped when the frame was supposed to be advanced. I am really old...

  16. I always wish I had been taught Home Ec in school (without the gender expectations of course). I didn't really learn how to cook for myself until law school when I taught myself from cookbooks mainly as a way of procrastinating.

    We did have electives though, and while I'm pretty sure I mainly took arts classes in middle school, we had to take at least one semester of typing in middle school (on the computer by this point).

  17. I think all students should have both Home Ec and Woodshop (or a basic home maintenance class).

    Also -- "Consumer Education" (which we called something else but covered what I assume this one covered: stuff like balancing a check book and creating a budget), more than any other, was the one class I remember recalling skills from when I first went out on my own.

    And I still remember that day the girls went away and came back looking at us funny. We didn't know what they had learned, but they seemed pissed off at us.

  18. Cool. (I was East Meadow School District.)

  19. Karen Peters1:30 PM

    I'm with you - it's remarkable how many college kids get by on touch typing. We've got my 10-year-old doing keyboarding at home so that he can properly type (which I remember learning in 8th grade, back when it was still called typing).

  20. Adam B.1:51 PM

    All I remember from Consumer Ed was stuff about advertising techniques. If we covered budgeting or anything sensible, I don't recall. It strikes me that 10th-11th grade makes more sense for this, where you can start getting into "how do credit cards work?" and college loans.

  21. victoria1:52 PM

    I had Those Magical Changes You're Experiencing in fifth and sixth grade, though not as part of health classes -- they spent about two or three days each year doing that for a good chunk of the day, with the boys in one room and the girls in another.

    Seventh grade I had home ec (which was not a hands-on class), career planning, and keyboarding. Eighth grade in a different district I had French one term and PE too. And chorus all the time -- people who didn't do chorus/band/orchestra took PE every term and another elective each quarter.

    I don't think I ever went to a school that had shop classes. I went to a high school where pretty much everyone was college prep and there was little demand for vo-tech type classes, so the way the district handled it was that most high schools had one or two vo-tech classes and if you wanted to take one your school didn't offer they'd bus you to a school that did. I think we offered auto repair and drafting.

  22. Andrew1:53 PM

    Keyboarding (tought in the early 90's on computer -- essentially just a quarter of the year running Mavis Beacon, IIRC) was one class where I felt like it was a total waste of time. I could type perfectly well by looking at the keyboard and using my two index fingers. Out of stubbornness, I deliberately avoided learning how to properly touch type and spent more time practicing looking down with my eyes while looking forward with my head to not look like I was looking at the keys.

    Of course, by the time I was in high school and using the computer regularly to write papers, I was touch typing with proper form because it is so much quicker and more efficient than hunting and pecking.

    We didn't have metal shop, but pretty much everything I built in wood shop is still in use in my parents' house.

  23. Dan Suitor1:56 PM

    I didn't truly get to choose my own electives until I was a junior in high school. Until then, it was just a matter of degree of difficulty (basic math or Alegebra in eighth grade, Geometry or Geometry with Proofs sophomore year).

  24. sconstant2:36 PM

    We had health, which was the alternate days you didn't take gym. I clearly remember the day we had a "all the names you can think of for genitalia, lets get it all out there" list, from which I learned a lot. And I remember a lot of facts about illegal drugs that we had to memorize (also had an "all the names you can think of for different drugs" day. I think the teacher was very into getting the giggling all out in one day so she could move on.)

    I also had keyboarding, wood shop, home ec (cooking and sewing), and everyone took all of it. Keyboarding may have been an elective, it was taught on computers, and we could print out our files at the end of the day, and was a lovely way to spend a lot of time writing notes to friends.

    Trying to teach my older kid to touch type. BBC's "Dance Mat Typing" is a favorite, but I still see a lot of hunt-n-peck when she's not playing it.

  25. Jordan5:04 PM

    Closest I ever came to failing a class was sewing. I had to stay after on the last day to finish my bag. Thankfully, no one ever pulled the drawstring, because while it looked like everyone else's, that bag would not close.

  26. Genevieve5:21 PM

    My son's middle school elective options are: chorus, drama, visual arts, photography, film and video production, band, orchestra, languages, creative writing, econ, robotics, and yearbook. All the 6th graders take a semester of "digital input/computer applications," which is keyboarding plus learning Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and graphics.

    When I went there, we had some but not all of those (no film/video, econ, robotics, or yearbook as an elective), and I took typing and home ec for a semester each. Home ec was just cooking. I think shop was an elective too.
    We have a desk my husband made in wood shop.

  27. Genevieve5:29 PM

    Oh, and Health is still part of the PE curriculum, and Those Magical Changes (aka Family Life Education) are part of that.

  28. Roger5:45 AM

    I never had any of those classes in middle school (1991–94) or high school (1994–98). (I think I took health by correspondence — a weird loophole you can do in Texas — to meet a graduation requirement.) Some of them (home ec, generic "shop") were electives in high school, I think. I have no idea what "consumer education" is.

  29. Marsha9:59 AM

    "When you pull the trunk, the light's supposed to go on. My light didn't go on. I got an F..."
    "Why'd you think it would be easy?"
    "You see some of the dopes who take shop?"
    "*I* take shop."

  30. Marsha10:02 AM

    Taking Home Ec in school didn't really teach you to cook, at least not in my school. I learned how to make cinnamon toast and brownies. (And I, too, sewed a non-functional duffel bag, for which I receive a ladies' C.)

    Imagine how fantastic Home Ec could have been if they ACTUALLY taught you how to cook - systematically and scientifically. Talking about the various reactions that the food goes through, cooking techniques, how different pans have different effects on cooking, why you want to cook different types and cuts of meat in different ways... man, I would have LOVED that.

  31. Adam B.10:22 AM

    Two problems: (1) on technique, you'd want the kids to be at an academic level sufficient to understand things like the Maillard reaction; and (2) it needs to be cooking things that schools can afford to provide, and meat would've been way beyond my school's budget.

    What I remember learning in 7th grade Home Ec were things like "how to use measuring cups and spoons" and "how to clean up."

  32. Marsha10:28 AM

    Of course it has to be grade level appropriate, but if you're going to teach me to make cinnamon toast (which really only barely survives the most basic definition of "cooking") then teach me what is happening to my bread in the toaster. If you're teaching me to make brownies, teach me why there is salt in virtually every baking recipe. Teach me what baking powder and baking soda do and how they are different. A seventh grader can understand simple chemistry just fine.

    You also don't need to actually cook meat to talk about the basic principles, but if you want everything to be hands on, there is plenty to talk about just on basic baking.

  33. Genevieve10:46 AM

    Sounds like it would be Cooks Illustrated Junior Home Ec. That would be terrific.