HigherEdMorning.com'Seriously, that's a major?'

‘Seriously, that’s a major?’

April 5, 2010 by Claire Knight
Posted in: In this week's e-newsletter, Latest News & Views, Student Life

Apparently, it’s true: Students CAN be anything they want to be. Here are a few examples of roads less traveled:

Those crazy kids are taking advantage of all the world has to offer. Check out these majors (and yes, they’re real):

  1. Student Nick Hudson enrolled at Carnegie Mellon University. And in 2009, he became the only U.S. student to  graduate with a Bagpipes major.
  2. Good news for millions of “LOSTIES” who have dedicated countless hours to untangling timeline theories: Those efforts won’t go to waste at Western Kentucky — the university that offers a major in Pop Culture.
  3. Jeff Foxworthy is probably thrilled with school administrators at Winston-Salem University in North Carolina. Students who enroll there can major in Motor Sports Management.
  4. Think sports is just about competition? Not so at Belhaven College in Jackson, Mississippi. Students can major in the school’s Sports Ministry program and learn how to use sports as “an effective ministry tool.”
  5. Believe it or not, Idaho State University STILL offers a major in Home Economics. The less said about that, the better.

Any other out-there majors we forgot? Share them in the comments section below.

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  • Bob

    Hey, there are lots of PIANO majors, why not BAGPIPE majors? Kinchyle!

  • King Louie

    I think that it is nice that Idaho State University still offers a major in Home Economics, why do what other schools do, pretend it is something like “human environmental sciences”… There is a great deal that can be taught about cooking, running a home, designing for the kitchen, that relate to the home and to economics. But they are not sciences. Why use fake names like “political sciences”… and just be honest. Home Economics is a fine old name.

  • Eileen Neubaum-Carlan

    Why, exactly, is the less said the better about offering Home Economics as a major? As King Louie noted, many colleges still offer similar programs under different names. At the University of Georgia, where I have worked for 25 years, it is called Family and Consumer Sciences. I disagree with King Louie, though, that Home Economics does not involve science. My bachelor’s degree was in Home Economics with an emphasis in Family and Child Development. I had to take biology, chemistry, psychology, and sociology courses, and the nutrition course that my department required included a heavy dose of biochemistry.
    With obesity and type 2 diabetes among children rising, with people losing their homes from a basic lack of knowledge about the ways in which credit and mortgages work, with adolescents shooting up their schools and their parents claiming that they had no knowledge that anything was wrong, perhaps society would benefit from a comeback of Home Economics.

  • http://www.boisestate.edu/ Sandy Howell

    I totally agree with King Louie, the home is more than half of most peoples lives and it deserves more attention. Healthy eating through education might help clean-up the obesity problem that plagues Americans. Nutrition and Nurture begins in the home. It’s great to see a school promoting course work with something like basic to advanced lifestyle techniques to encourage a healthier generation and acquaint them with a better living environment.

  • eilis_artis

    Home Economics involves a whole host of ‘subjects’. Baking and cooking involve chemistry, botany and some biology. Remember when we were asked to identify substances by their smell or taste? Sewing requires both mathematics and spatial recognition (for placing and cutting pattern pieces efficiently and on the grain). And some creativity if you like to alter patterns or combine styles.

    Our local junior high had a 4 part required course for all 7th graders that included cooking/baking, sewing, wood shop and an elective. Since the course has been discontinued, I’m wondering where today’s students learn to cook, bake, sew, hammer a nail etc. Many parents don’t seem to have the time to teach their children the basic life skills that used to be considered important. I may sound like an old-timer but both my son and daughter can cook, clean, do laundry, etc. Today’s college students are more about games, gadgets and the internet and many don’t seem to have the basic ‘life’ skills’ to survive. Maybe it’s time to get back to basics and bring back Home Economics!

  • Bob Vance

    My Mother was one of the “rare females” who, in the 1940′s was a college graduate, he major was in “Home Economics”! Why should there be “…the less said the better???” Her sister (my Aunt) went on to complete a Masters Degree in Mycology!

  • bugeater

    Home economics, taught for present families should be a major in every 4 year school in the country. If not, then two years in a community college would at least help. Every K – 12 system should have it as mandatory for graduation. We are seeing just how ignorant many people are when it comes to running a home. By the way, it should be required for males and females.

  • wkbcat

    all of the majors in the article are valid, at least as concentrations. many schools have programs in pop culture, a fascinating topic. and, the more people know about the sociology of sport the better. the other commenters have already discussed the value of home economics.

  • Randy West

    Agree with all of the above. I think Carol Warner is a little too harsh on folks who choose to take Home Economics. Sure, it may not be as “sexy” as some other liberal arts degrees, but is no less important.

    I’m sure by “…the less said about that, the better” you somehow are implying that it is degrading or sexist. Get over yourself Carol.

  • Andrew Dundee

    Well, that will teach you to question Home Economics! I quite agree with those who protest that valuable skills and philosophies should not be dismissed. But Auld Bob is right: how is it that someone can graduate almost any liberal arts college with a music degree and a major in trombone, voice, piano, or saxophone, but the bagpipe is somehow frivolous? No bagpiper has ever humiliated the people of the United States with questionable moral behavior. Not all saxophonists appear to have learned as much. A complete knowledge of “Lost” may no equip one for social contributions of the highest order, I grant, but leave the pipes and the economists out of this. Slainte.

  • M. Waddell

    I took a home economics course in junior high about 55 years ago. It was very valuable in teaching me proper food prepration, clothing management, etc. I am, by the way, very definitely a male. The captain of the football team was also in our class and virtually “forced” half of the team to take the course with him. We all had a great time and outbaked the females in the second period.

  • Roytoric

    Well, I understand why “the less said the better”; despite the great number of people who like the good old fashioned major, a university that continues to promote traditional roles for women (and let’s face it there are a hell of a lot more women than men in that major) does a disservice to a place of higher learning. When universities start on the vocational track, things can only go down. I respect a woman’s decision to choose a life of homemaking, but drawing on universities to acheive this is just inappropriate. Our schools are in enough trouble without trying to raise a trade/craft to the level of academic dicipline. There are trade schools, there are community colleges, polytechnical institues and universities, and each has it’s own niche. Home ec, if it is taught, should be taught in a vocational school. Sorry if the seems elitist; it’s not meant to.

  • Michele

    If you take the time to look at the home economics major on their website, it falls under the Teacher Ed program. The Home Ec teacher is now called the FACS – Family and Consumer Science teacher. So you could have skipped the sarcasm in your review of the programs. It is a valid program that is still taught in many secondary schools. Maybe if we had more people studying some of these concepts, there wouldn’t be so much of a breakdown in the family, and maybe people would understand how live within a budget in their private lives. I don’t understand the comment in the article “enough said”. Can you explain what is so “obvious” that all your readers should understand here?

  • Ann Randall

    I notice that the Home Economics description linked from this article is to an old webpage left over from the 1994-1995 catalog. The current catalog offers a teaching degree in Family and Consumer Sciences, the updated name for Home Economics, plus minors in Consumer Economics and Family and Consumer Sciences.

  • joan

    Have you ever heard of Will Shortz? Guess his major!

    I have to add that I agree with the previous posts, what is wrong with a Home Economics major?

    Please reply.

  • feeder_goldfish

    Bowling Green State University in Ohio began offering a Masters in Popular Culture in 1973! They also publish the fascinating Journal of Popular Culture. I used to peruse it regularly at the library. In fact, that’s how I discovered such a degree existed. I thought it sounded pretty darn interesting!

  • Margie777

    In Fountain Valley and Costa Mesa, CA Home Economics is still offered to high school students, both male and female. It teaches them to manage money and avoid credit card debts.
    In Orange Coast College we have Family and Consumer Sciences as part of our Consumer & Health Sciences division. I wish my future daughter-in-law had learned to cook, clean, sew and put up curtains! She grew up in Iowa.

  • Gael

    I took the comment “the less said the better” as a reference to the “old days” (up through the 60′s) when, in High School, “Home Ec” was a “track” taken by those students who did not qualify for “college prep” classes. It included classes in very basic cooking and sewing, balancing a checkbook, etc. And in College, “Home Ec” majors were there to get an “Mrs” by marrying a law or med student.
    Running a home today is vastly different than the “old days,” i.e., computer-driven appliances and lighting; executing spreadsheets for carpool duties and play dates; managing home remodels, etc. Whether a home is for a “traditional” or a multi-generational family or for non-familial co-inhabitants or a single person, a basic knowledge of how a home is run, maintained and repaired is vital.
    I agree that we need to go back to teaching “home basics” in High School to every student: male, female, gifted, regular, vocational, whatever. Whether it’s a TV remote or a food processor or a variable-speed washer or any vehicle or a financial statement, these are far more complicated than ever before and our children need a solid understanding of how these things work and how they are maintained and repaired. If not, they will be giving an extraordinary amount of their hard earned income to those who do.

  • Shay H. Jones

    It is so encouraging to read all these comments! I find that many college students sitting in my classes no longer receive basic life skills training in their homes or in their education prior to attending college. I fondly remember Home Economics classes and they are more involved now than what we were taught. This could be a revival of common sense living.

  • collegeprofessor

    Home Economics is a great major and should be a required subject in the public schools. However, I woiuld like to see the name of the major restored to its’ 1920s iteration: Domestic Science. This is a better indicator of the curriculum.

  • Marketing Major

    I don’t believe a 4-year University is the correct venue for Home Economics. Students should have basic education before they enter college. Home economics should stay in High School and at most, community colleges. The problem today is that the Millennial generation believes that they deserve special treatment and colleges, being businesses, do what ever is necessary to attract them.

  • Eileen Neubaum-Carlan

    Home economics was not invented for the “millennial generation.” It was founded in the early 1900s as a way to combat the unhealthful situations in which many people lived in the wake of the industrial revolution. As Gael said, another revolution in technology has taken place, which has brought about changes in everyday living that I never imagined when I was taking my bachelors’ and master’s degrees in Home Economics from 1975 to 1981.
    As I mentioned in my previous post, and as Margie777 mentions, the skills taught in Home Economics are as needed today as they were after the industrial revolution–maybe even more needed. Obesity and diabetes epidemics and massive home foreclosures resulting from a lack of understanding about credit are only two of the most obvious problems that Home Economics should address.
    Home Economics also was never designed to oppress women. Granted, few men enroll in these classes, but that comes from a culture in which men have not been perceived as responsible for their homes. Even when I was in school, it was assumed that we would be employed after graduation, and we were taught how to manage home and work responsibilities and how to divide home responsibilities with our spouses–IF we chose to marry.
    Finally, as for limiting Home Economics to high school: If your local high schools are prepared to offer courses in advanced biochemistry, construct on-site nursery schools or make intership arrangements with local day care centers in which students can get practical experience in relating to children, and enable adolescents to understand complex economic information, give it a try.

  • http://www.unlv.edu Rob

    University Staff Member

    The objective of a UNIVERSITY, (say it out loud, you can do it), is to provide and EDUCATION for a CAREER. You don’t make a career out of “Home Economics”.

    If you can’t balance your bank account you should have paid closer attention in high school. Perhaps such a student should consider the military before college to learn about SELF DISCIPLINE. If someone is so slow that they need a professor to tell them how to shop for a washing machine maybe they should get a job at an appliance store for a year. If they need help organizing their kitchen and picking out drapes maybe they should be watching Martha Stewart. If you think the PEOPLES MONEY that support state universities should be going to this crap instead of MARKETABLE SKILLS such as engineering, math, science, and medical professions then that would be the PERFECT question to corner a Board of Regents member in a debate who’s up for re-election.

  • JR Fezziwig

    “The less said about that [Home Economics major] the better.”

    What a patronizing, supercilious, and bigoted comment!

    Anyone running a household is essentially running a small business with a 5- to 7-figure gross income, and needs to know time management, resource management, finance, budgeting, accounting, personnel management, chemistry, nutrition, physiology, microbiology, and elementary medicine. And that’s just for starters.

    Given the state of many US households in this economy, perhaps the MORE said about home economics, the better.

  • Charles Dickens III

    Too many universities, as they face budget cuts, are scrambling to develop and offer 4-year degree programs of questionable quality just to attract students and earn tuition revenues. For example, some departments at Iowa State University, prodded by the university’s “new budget model” are fast developing new undergraduate majors that are of questionable quality, with the tacit approval of the university administration. For example, the college of Engineering is going to teach courses in sales engineering (over objections from the College of Business). I won’t be surprised if next on the agenda is a degree program in sentence engineering (that is, English composition) offered by the College of Engineering. There are plans to develop 4-year degree programs based on curricula that are lightweight even in comparison with associate degree programs offered by community colleges. One such program that is currently in the works is a Bachelor of Engineering Technology program being developed by the College of Engineering (again to draw students to the university that would otherwise end up in a trade school or a community college). This trend, if left unchecked, will turn our institutions of higher learning into glorified community colleges.

  • http://www.boisestate.edu/ MagickWord

    I believe a four year university or college can be a continuing venue for Home Economics (outdated terminology), or aka as Family and Consumer Science in secondary schools. Why not provide a curriculum updated to meet today’s high tech living environments and considerably more complex financial accounting for adults? Many of today’s generation are pushed through K-12 without gaining critical understanding about managing their personal obligations. Colleges build on core areas that promote expertise, and these areas are already emphasized from this group of topics that are taught together in secondary schools:
    * Consumer Education and Resource Management
    * Early Childhood Education and Services
    * Family and Interpersonal Relationships
    * Food Production and Services
    * Foods, Nutrition, and Wellness
    * Housing, Interiors, and Design
    * Parenting Education and Human Development
    * Textiles, Apparel, and Fashion
    I say yes, many college students would benefit greatly from expanded Home Economic topics, and perhaps learn that as fledged adults “unaided” they must build a stronger base to grow from.

  • http://theconstantviewer.blogspot.com Paul M.

    I’m teaching a writing class this term the major assignment is a research paper. I tell the students they need to develop their own topics–but it must be an “academic” topic. I explain to them that ANYTHING can be “academic”; it’s a matter of depth and breadth, a willingness to contribute to a field with serious inquiry. These are intended as persuasive/problem-solving papers, and over the years I’ve gotten stuff ranging from soil erosion to education of the hearing-impaired, from custom car culture to genetic engineering, from food marketing and children to the problems faced by women in Yugoslavia during and after 1990-1994 war. As you might guess, I’ve learned about all kinds of things over the years. Wish we had a Home Ec department.

  • http://theconstantviewer.blogspot.com Paul M.

    I’m teaching a writing class this term; the major assignment is a research paper. I tell the students they need to develop their own topics–but it must be an “academic” topic. I explain to them that ANYTHING can be “academic”; it’s a matter of depth and breadth, a willingness to contribute to a field with serious inquiry. These are intended as persuasive/problem-solving papers, and over the years I’ve gotten stuff ranging from soil erosion to education of the hearing-impaired, from custom car culture to genetic engineering, from food marketing and children to the problems faced by women in Yugoslavia during and after 1990-1994 war. As you might guess, I’ve learned about all kinds of things over the years. Wish we had a Home Ec department.

  • Charles Dickens III

    It looks like there are lots of fans of home economics. I am one too. I am sure the skills that are taught in Home Economics majors are valuable – just as basic personal hygiene that is taught in kindergarten. The question is not whether Home Economics skills are valuable; The question is whether such basic skills deserve to be packaged as 4-year degree programs in major universities (as opposed to community colleges). What next? College courses on the proper use of toilet paper in the restroom?

  • http://www.cfr.uga.edu/ Eileen Neubaum-Carlan

    Thank you, Rob! You have given me the perfect opportunity to point out something that I have forgotten to mention during this entire discussion.
    The fact is, most Home Economics majors DO make a career out it. I have done so for the past 25 years. I am employed as a research support specialist at the University of Georgia. During my time here, I have helped with research projects on divorce adjustment, sibling relationships, and, most recently, the well-being of impoverished African American families in rural areas. This last project, based on more than 15 years of research with the targeted population, has produced a group of universal preventive interventions that have been demonstrated to reduce drug use and unsafe sex among adolescents and young adults as long as 6 years after participation in the program.
    Home Economics at the college level is not designed primarily to prepare people to become homemakers, although some Home Economics majors do choose that occupation. Do not disparage homemakers because they don’t receive a paycheck; without their “stitchin’ and stewin’” and cleaning, many people would have grown up very cold, very hungry, and very dirty. Most people with a degree in Home Economics, though, graduate to pursue paid careers, as nutritionists; as teachers and directors of day care centers; as interior decorators; as textile chemists and colorists; as fashion merchandisers; as business owners; as journalists; as teachers of those high school and community college classes; as extension agents who teach the general public; or as researchers who discover the new knowledge that Home Economists in all the other jobs put into practice.
    The uniqueness of Home Economics comes from its focus on improving home and family life. Granted, some of the careers I named could be pursued through departments of Biology, Education, Art, Business, Chemistry, and English. Home Economics, however, brings ALL of these fields of study together, and distills from them the knowledge that can be used to improve family life. It is not an academic discipline; it is a profession, one that is still vitally relevant to the needs of families today.

  • Ann Randall

    I’d like to add another response to Rob. I disagree that *the purpose* of higher education is prepare students for careers. It may be one purpose, but certainly not the entire purpose. Higher education should be helping to build educated adults with critical thinking skills and a sense of meaning. College graduates usually have sufficient breadth of knowledge to enter more than one field. A large proportion, if not the major proportion, of those I graduated with ended up in professions quite different from their majors. I have no doubt that Home Economics (or a modern-day version of it) could accomplish the goal of building educated adults very well and, as Eileen has pointed out, provide a career path as well.

  • John

    Home Economics was my mother-in-law’s major. She used it to teach the blind how to carry out basic domestic chores such as cooking for themselves, cleaning, shopping, and sewing. She had a background in nutrition and taught them to eat well and avoid sugar-laden foods. Pretty useful life lessons, I’d say!

  • Charles Dickens III

    If Home Economics is a misnomer. It has as little to do with economics as human science has to do with science. The fact that one can make a career teaching young adults in college level degree granting programs how to cook, clean, sew, or wipe themselves after going to the bathroom underscores the sorry state of higher education in the United States. No wonder the US is on an accelerated program of rapid descent to mediocrity in science, math, or for that matter, even the humanities.

  • http://www.cfr.uga.edu/ Eileen Neubaum-Carlan

    Hey, Charles, the only people I ever taught to wipe themselves after going to the bathroom were the preschool children whom I taught and for whom I cared in nursery schools and day care centers while their parents were out pursuing their college-degree-careers, minimum wage jobs, or whatever they did to put food on the table and a roof over their heads. Providing for one’s family is part of economics, defined for me by a college graduate with a degree in economics as “the allocation of scarce resources”–and some of the resources of those families in minimum wage jobs were pretty scarce.
    As I said in my last post, Home Economics at the college level prepares people to be, among other things, nutritionists (which definitely involves science) and business owners (which definitely involves economics). I made my career keeping young African Americans from getting AIDS. I’d like to see someone in the humanities match that.

  • http://www.unlv.edu Rob

    Eileen brings up some good points, HOWEVER, you write that:

    “Providing for one’s family is part of economics, defined for me by a college graduate with a degree in economics as “the allocation of scarce resources”–and some of the resources of those families in minimum wage jobs were pretty scarce.”

    That being the case, if someone is earning minumum wage wouldn’t it make more sense to be getting a university education in a more marketable skill that would get you OUT of that financial bracket rather then a degree that would help you cope living with it?

    I have no doubt that there are tangible social careers where some of these skills could apply, however it would probably be more beneficial as being part of another degree, not a degree in itself. I’d feel pretty silly having a diploma on the wall of my office from a four-year institution with the words “Home Economics” written in bold print for everyone to see. It seems to me that the Home Economics degree would be more appropriate for a community college. Then if a student has ambitions to build upon that they can transfer to a university to continue their education.

  • http://www.cfr.uga.edu/ Eileen Neubaum-Carlan

    That’s assuming, Rob, that those families have the resources with which to get a university education in the first place. Those minimum-wage parents didn’t have any degrees at all; they had high school educations at the most. I was referring to my own degree that enabled me to provide developmentally appropriate care and education to their children while the parents were making a living. (“Developmentally appropriate” is the key phrase here; I’ve seen education majors who expected 3-year-olds to act like 10-year-olds.) Knowing how to allocate resources is important at any income level.
    My bachelor’s degree does, in fact, have Home Economics written in bold print on it, and I don’t feel the least bit “silly.” I don’t have the degree on my wall because I don’t display my academic trophies. It’s in storage along with my master’s degree, my President’s Scholar award from my college, and my Reuben Hill award from the National Council on Family Relations.
    Why don’t we just acknowledge that some people aren’t interested in Home Economics and others have put their educations in that profession to good use? Just because it would make you feel silly, Rob, doesn’t mean it’s worthless.


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