US Future Homemakers: a changing image

They had just come out of "opportunities for progress" sessions on such topics as "choosing a career and looking at the job market for the future," "recognizing and combating apathy in yourself and others," and "recognizing stress in your own life and directing it into positive energy."

The half-dozen high school juniors and seniors seemed positively full of energy to the reporter they were about to "rap" with.

would these members of the Future Homemakers of America (FHA) really be attuned to the future, despite that anachronistic- sounding word in the middle of the organization's title?

There seemed little doubt about FHA's future. Members were asked at the national leadership meeting here in San Francisco July 11-16 to "stick their necks out" and get behind a drive to raise $2 million in the 1981-82 school year. It will be used to build a "National Leadership Center" in Reston, Va.

These were leaders -- achievers. They had earned all, or a major part, of the $1,000 it cost each to attend the convention. They wore their self-confidence as obviously as their name tags:

Amy Montierth of Mesa, Wash., national FHA president and the only member of the group who had completed high school; Kenneth Ivory of Buena Vista, Ga.; Scott James, national vice-President, from Gadsden, Tenn.; Karen Leong of Honolulu; Robin Coffer of Washington, D.C.; And Steven Virgil of tiny Berthoud, Colo.

Yes, boys. Boys have been eligible since they began enrolling in home economics courses -- in the 1960s. Taking "home ec" is a requirement for future homemakers membership.

As to that seemingly anachronistic word -- it was immediately defended, and redefined.

"Society has changed," said president Amy, "and ways of thinking have changed. FHA has changed and broadened, too."

All members of the "panel" made clear they were speaking for themselves, not for FHA. The organization helps young people develop, it does not mold their opinions.

There are some 500,000 boys and girls in 12,500 chapters in all the states and territories of the U.S. Some are HERO (home economics related occupations) chapters, which place major emphasis on preparation for jobs and careers.

The youth were asked if they had any particular feelings about some major national issues:

* The divorce rate, they felt, might drop if young people waited longer to get married and more carefully considered the obligations involved. It was also felt that the stresses of modern living -- husband and wife both working, separation from other members of their families, inflation -- pushed up the divorce rate.

* The consensus was that people should not consciously limit the size of their families. If the ability to provide is present, there is no reason not to have a large family, it was felt.

* The jobs outlook was thought to be improving, because of an improving economy and because schools are doing a better job of preparing students for jobs and guiding them to occupations.

* On the arms race and the threat of nuclear weapons, there was agreement that US leaders should seek disarmament. But it was also felt that conventional and nuclear arms should be sufficiently strong to deter communist aggression.

* As to women's rights, no dissent was expressed when three of the group asserted that while women should have equal rights, the ERA seemed too broad (two of the young people had actually read the amendment).

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