Letter to the Editor: Serious Social Science Taught in FCS Department

By and


The Jan. 29 Chronicle contained an editorial cartoon entitled “FCS–Then and Now.” This cartoon makes the point that the family and consumer studies department has changed over time. We do not think anyone would disagree with that point. But we do take issue with the implied message of how the department has changed.

FCS has been a department on this campus for more than 100 years. Throughout its rich history, FCS course work and research have focused on enhancing our understanding of the complex institution of the family.

The impetus for the department’s creation in 1902 was a need to train home economics teachers and thereby help families meet the challenges of providing for their basic needs. As the challenges faced by families shifted over time, so did the curriculum in our department.

Today our curriculum focuses on the social, psychological, political, health and economic challenges that families face. For example, topics covered in our classes include: the role that parents play in early child development, influences on family expenditure and savings patterns, the challenges faced by families caring for an aging parent and the roles that families play in affecting the vitality of the neighborhoods and communities in which they live.

Today FCS students can select one of two majors within the department. The Human Development and Family Studies major provides students with an interdisciplinary understanding of family relationships and individual development over the life course.

The Consumer and Community Studies major provides students with an understanding of how families are affected by and sometimes change the marketplace institutions and communities in which they are embedded.

Many of the students in this major obtain jobs in private business or in non-profit community organizations after graduation. Others go on to graduate school or professional programs (e.g., MBA, law school) after obtaining their CCS degrees.

Clearly, FCS has changed over time, but not in the way portrayed in The Chronicle’s cartoon. It is difficult to fathom why a Chronicle cartoonist would depict our students (or any students) as witless, cigarette-smoking narcissists, when in reality they accept the very serious challenge of using social science to advance the interests of families and communities.

Cathleen D. Zick, Ph.D.

Professor and Department Chair

Robert N. Mayer, Ph.D.

Professor and Director of

FCS Undergraduate Studies