In my high school in the 1960s, the girls took homemaking classes while the boys studied civics / local history (Letters, December 17). The DS courses began with the making and embroidery of a gingham apron; for practical lessons, we were taken by bus to the kitchens of a modern high school 15 miles away as our high school did not have a DS “lab.” The boys used to eat our lemon meringue pies on the bus on the ride back to school. One of my reports said, “Her results are fair but she shows little enthusiasm for washing dishes and cleaning sinks.” I was not able to earn my dish badge at Brownies, unsurprisingly.
In college in the late 1960s (where I was studying politics / sociology), a frequent conversation of male college students (who hadn’t had DS classes) was “show me how to boil an egg. / fry bacon ”. In my first job in the 1970s as a high school professor of politics and sociology, there was a “school apartment” with a kitchen. The girls were to clean up and serve a weekly meal for the manager and staff. A male colleague regularly slept in the apartment as he lived miles from the school – he was often spotted by amused students having breakfast at a nearby cafe.
I remember seeing a question on a GCE exam copy at the time that clearly viewed DS as a female activity: “Your brother comes home late after a football game at school. Describe how you would wash, wash and iron their PE kit ready for the next day, taking into account that some items were muddy and torn.
By the 90s, when my sons were in high school, “food technology” had replaced cooking and home science, and thanks to equality legislation all students were studying the subject. Instead of doing the dishes, the students had to produce a design brief showing each step involved in making a pizza. My sons probably learned more from Ready Steady Cook on TV than from these lessons, but they’re both excellent cooks today (they can do the dishes too).
Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire