My cousin’s little fellow (arguably the most gorgeous little imp around) tells me that he’s off to do a cookery course as part of school summer holiday activities. He’s as excited about this as if he were off to play football with the greats of the game. It’s something fun and interesting to do with his holidays. More importantly, the idea of cooking being a ‘woman’s work in the kitchen’ is totally irrelevant.
How things have changed!
I almost want to cry when I think back to my own primary school days. I was lucky enough to attend a small rural school and for the most part it was a positive experience. It had 3 teachers when I started and somewhere along the way that 3 became 2. There was one classroom for the infants and lower classes (ages 4 to 7 or thereabouts) and one classroom for the older children.
Here’s what typically happened on a Friday afternoon: the younger classroom become the home economics room (i.e. sewing, knitting, cookery etc) for the girls and the older classroom became quiz / games room for the boys. Guess where yours truly got sent …. to involuntary prick herself with sewing needles, involuntary ruin perfectly fine yarn and involuntary burn any cooking utensil that lent itself to buring? The part that really hurt was hearing the cheers and whoops and hollers of the boys in the next room as they got to enjoy learning through (what at the time were unorthodox) methods of sheer fun. It hurt!
Another example – the school had a small library and pupils were allowed borrow books from it. Being wonderfully democratic the pupils were allowed to run the library, the male pupils that is! Oh how I remember gritting my teeth with envy as the boys in the 6th class (11 or 12 year olds) took turns to run the library. I remember how important it all seemed, sitting behind their disks, checking and stamping library cards and books.
A non-academic example involved a mouse! It was a rural school and so the odd rural 4-legged creature ventured indoors every now and again. I vividly remember one such occasion. The little mouse had dared to enter the older classroom and was duly spotted. The reaction – all the girls were sent off to the juniors classroom to be safely out of the way of the fun while the boys had a whale of time chasing the mouse around the room. I still remember the whoops and hollers from the boys. I’m still convinced they eked out the chase just to annoy us girls before the invader was safely dispatched to a nearby field.
Back to the 21st century and things have certainly changed. Now all pupils, male and female, partake in home economics. The library (as far as I know) is run on a computer and book-checking is electronic and self-service. 4-legged pests are kept at bay with electronic beeping devices.
It’s wonderfully egalitarian and civilised. I hope all the pupils, male and female, have plenty of opportunities to whoop and holler with excitement now and again.