Although their school offered several classes, none of the seniors I spoke with took electives in home economics nor did they have any interest in signing up for vocational education. They regarded the kinds of domestic work taught in the vocational education classes as demeaning or, in Lena's words, "crappy jobs where you take care of other people's dirt and brats."
There was an obvious disdain for employment in food, clothing, cleaning, and child-care services where jobs are low paying, low status, and stuck on the lowest rungs of the economic ladder. And students clearly resented messages that encouraged them to seek these kinds of jobs. Messages about opportunities in such areas, in students' opinion, were discursively equivalent to servitude. Seniors did take the required health class. When I asked them about what they learned, most provided cynical commentaries on a "boring" curriculum that struck them as disconnected from reality.
Much of the time, the health teacher had students read textbook passages and fill out worksheets on material about good nutrition, the nature and avoidance of sexually transmitted disease, birth control, and other topics. Adam said that on the few occasions when there was a lecture, the teacher would talk about "not doing drugs, sex, and everything else kids do around here."
Lona recalled a unit on AIDS that made her think twice about having sex with gays and other people with whom she was not inclined to have sex in the first place. David said that as far as he could tell, the purpose of the health class was to "stop kids from acting like adults." In these and other remarks, seniors poked fun at what they perceived to be an uninteresting, rather naive curricular approach to the realities in their schools, their families, and American society.
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