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Back to the Future

Reports on the comeback of home economics. Three classes of home economics; Comments from Wanda Fox, professor of Purdue University; Its social significance.

Home ec. It calls to mind freshly waxed floors and freshly baked cakes,clothes perfectly pressed and cupboards neat as a pin. In other words, a world away from the lives we live now.

But home ec is making a comeback, with a new name—"family and consumer sciences"—and a new mission. "These classes focus on decision-making skills, career planning, consumer economics, balancing work and family," says Wanda Fox, Ph.D., professor of curriculum and instruction at Purdue University.

Fox sees the field's new popularity as a reflection of a bigger change. "For a while, society placed less value on family life and became very career-and business-oriented," she explains. "Now we're realizing that we need both."