Some people have wondered whether it’s appropriate to teach “girl” skills like cooking, cleaning, and sewing to boys. To me, this is not about politically correct notions that men and women are completely interchangeable with the exception of some “plumbing”. It’s about survival skills and self-respect.
I’m not pleased with the low number of kids entering their years of majority not being able to fend for themselves on a basic level. Yes, diets of cold cereal and microwave pizza are expensive and unhealthy — that’s a given — but on a deeper level I see it as a manifestation of an uneducated human. Acquiring food, clothing, and shelter are foundational skills for a person to be able to lay claim to some degree of independence. Take away the luxuries of modern convenient living, and they’d grow desperate.
Some have argued that modern conveniences make these skills obsolete, but what are the results of not knowing one’s way around the kitchen? Reliance on pre-packaged foods. Not knowing how to clean or do laundry? Living in filth and chaos. How, then, is this progress of the human over the previous millennia? Our ancestors would be dumbfounded at our collective ignorance.
The good news is that these skills can be acquired with a little effort. Cooking is the trickiest, but with a few basic principles one can become competent, even pretty good. The key is to find the inner strength to fail through one’s ignorance. Mastering new skills opens up new worlds of understanding and self-respect. This self-education process, when made a habit, allows one to grow out of dependence into an adult mentally.
I feel grateful and fortunate that my mother taught me to cook, clean, and sew. Cleaning can be a grind, and sewing is something one does in an emergency — but I can do it just as willingly as I can shoot a gun, paint a building, paddle a canoe, program a computer, or chop wood. It didn’t throw me into “gender confusion”.
I can’t force my children to learn, or obtain wisdom, but they’ve been eagerly soaking up these skills by associating with my wife and me. When they’re adults we’ll see how much sticks.
Update 2008-12-08: Fixed typos.