- Sandra Ericson
Human Ecology Education, The Last Mile
Updated: Oct 26, 2022
Human Ecology, as taught inclusively with both the humanities and life skills, is like solving the "last-mile" problem, a la Amazon. It is the edu. element that enables human beings to be secure, safe, and self-sufficient, but it is not reaching American households. Just as carrying goods the last mile to the doorstep is the element that enables the completion of a purchase, there also needs to be a solution for taking social and life skills education the last mile into the home. It does no good for the 'goods,' whether a new toaster or knowledge, to make it to the warehouse (higher ed research institutions) but not to the front door.
Higher education is the knowledge warehouse, but it cannot complete a purchase and deliver its knowledge to the front door. In addition, higher ed assumes that they have all the answers, not realizing — because of their absence from the home — that they are not meeting their mandate for having the answers. Essentially, they are being mugged by reality, reflecting poorly on the research. Therefore, the humans inside the home are just as bad off as if there was nothing in the warehouse. What they need is out of reach.
The front-door educational delivery systems, the local school districts, assume that families are somehow supposed to conjure up and deliver the 'goods' from inside the home. Families no longer have the skills, the knowledge required, or access to them. And they are becoming less and less able to stretch resources and make something out of nothing. All slack is gone for those at or below the poverty level, 40% of the population.
The schools are ignorant of what is missing because most school leaders today were born after 1980 when leaders pulled Home Economics (former title) courses from schools. Also, many administrators and school board members were and are now men with little understanding or experience with the importance of household or family skills. Demographically and historically handicapped, schools no longer know how to complete this missing educational element or even that it exists.
By default, therefore, families cannot become educated to maximize self-sufficiency. They continually struggle, trying to wring solutions out of complicated and biased social systems that invariably try to' sell' to them, government programs that 'treat' them, and charities that 'give' to them. All are very complex, none simple to figure out before failure.
This problem is not an ideological, political, or spiritual problem; it is simply a practical reality problem. Meeting human needs in the first stages of life is THE foundation of Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Human Needs. Those needs are as fundamental as breathing, but serving them requires a skilled hand at the wheel.
Or, think of it this way . . .
Suppose one were to think of building human and social capital as a trade comparable to building houses, like employing the male-role trades in construction. Managing a household and raising a family is a trade. But the problem is that building a person to maturity takes much longer than building a house. Human beings are cast socially and culturally decades before adulthood. For instance, experts say that cultural intelligence is set by age nine. Therefore, a universal system for educating each generation about the human-building trade must happen during the parent's school years before producing another generation. That's just common-sense timing. Fallaciously, one could say that one learns how to do it by doing it, but on-the-job training, in this case, is high risk and not an option.
In addition, educating for the trade of building human and social capital from birth to age eighteen must be applied to both men and women; and it takes about fifteen years because its complexity must be geared to each level of student growth and maturity.
Like other trades, skillful human-building should be paid work; it is at least as valuable to the nation as construction! Maybe unions? Strikes?