International Research and Theory in Human Ecology

Vol. 18, No. 1
ISSN: 1546-2676

Guest Editor:
Elizabeth B. Goldsmith

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Kappa Omicron Nu FORUM, Vol. 18, No. 1. 
1546-2676. Editor: Dorothy I. Mitstifer. Official publication of Kappa Omicron Nu National Honor Society. Member, Association of College Honor Societies. Copyright © 2009. Kappa Omicron Nu FORUM is a refereed, semi-annual publication serving the profession of family and consumer sciences. The opinions expressed by the authors are their own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of the society. Further information: Kappa Omicron Nu, PO Box 798, Okemos, MI 48805-0798. Telephone: (727) 940-2658 ext. 2003

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Kappa Omicron Nu


International Conceptualizations of a 21st Century Vision for the Profession

Sue L. T. McGregor,
Mount Saint Vincent University


One hundred years after our inception as a profession, it is time to learn all over again how to regenerate and how to ensure our vitality, sustainability, relevancy, and potentiality as a powerful social force. In the spirit of the theme of this international issue, this paper shares five vignettes that present literary scenes of how home economics thinkers in particular regions of the world are envisioning the future of the home economics profession: Europe, Asia, United States, Canada, and Australia. The paper provides growing evidence of international scholarship around the philosophical underpinnings for the 21st century.


The theme of this special issue is International Issues: Discussion, Theories, Research. It is billed as a gathering point, an inspiration, a bringing together of international scholarship on home economics/family and consumer sciences (Goldsmith, 2006). This paper is offered as a tribute to our professional thinkers and was inspired by the growing evidence of international scholarship about our philosophical underpinnings. It represents a collage of many international voices speaking out about the future of home economics. The hope is that some configuration of the ideas in this paper will contribute to the stated intentions of this special issue: to inform the continued progress as a field of study, lead to stimulating thought and global collaboration, and identify future directions for the field (Goldsmith).

The more I read, the more I realize that home economists in different parts of the world have similar but varying visions of our future. This makes sense I guess, given the complexity of the world context. Home economists in different parts of the globe have different ways of knowing home economics. I propose to share vignettes of the voices of home economics philosophers in Europe, Asia, United States, Canada and Australia.1 Each vignette developed in this paper will present a literary scene of how people in a particular region of the world are envisioning the future of the home economics profession. These vignettes are incomplete sketches and are intended to lure you to the boundaries where you can look for more details and come to your own conclusions.

You will note that most of these ideas were penned within the last 36 months, and that most of them are either in books or conference proceedings rather than peer reviewed journals. This tells me that these ideas are relatively untested and waiting for us to view and comment on them. And, that is exciting! These thinkers have created a space for us to work together. They have taken the time to put their ideas to paper. It is now up to the rest of us to read, reflect, and reframe home economics for the 21st century. In the beginning, there were 11 of us at the first planning meeting for the profession in 1899. Now there are tens of thousands of us around the world. One hundred years after our inception as a profession, it is time to learn all over again how to regenerate ourselves and how to ensure our vitality, sustainability, relevancy, and potentiality as a powerful social force.

The 36,500 Step Journey to a Convergent Moment

Pendergast (2006a) observed that the national boundaries between members of the profession are down now, making it easier and necessary to network on the international level. I agree. I also am in full agreement with her assessment that we have the choice of saying that the profession is experiencing a convergent moment toward a common centre rather than continuing to travel on parallel paths. Members of any profession are always on a professional journey. By my rudimentary calculations, home economists (or whatever label you wish to use for now) have been traveling for over 36,500 days to get to their current professional crossroads (365 days per year times 100 years)—either a critical point or a small community situated at an intersection of two or more roads (McGregor, 2006a). Nickols (2004) concluded that home economics is an international community, characterized by (a) an identity, a history, and a memory; (b) a general interest for humanity; and (c) a propensity to participate freely, equally, and responsibly for the good of the common life of the people in the professional community.

A decade ago, McGregor (1998) identified three major stressors on this professional community: (a) incongruent philosophy, central values, and belief systems; (b) a knowledge base that was too heavily grounded in the positivistic, empirical mind set; and (c) modes of practice that were not sufficiently transformative, reflective, politically savvy, or morally justified. Nickols (2004) reported finding similar stressors on the profession, stressors that are now spilling over onto individuals, families, communities, and society: (a) over reliance on technical mode of practice leading to a sense of powerlessness and not making a difference, (b) a ubiquitous need to brand and fix the broken image of the profession in order to make it legitimate and valued by others, (c) a disconnect between our multidisciplinary training and our ability to meet the needs of families and society, and (d) a decline in membership and involvement in professional associations.

To come back to our metaphor of journey, many members of this professional community may be tired travelers that have reached a decisive point in time—they have reached the proverbial crossroads. One has to wonder about the nature of the conversations unfolding at this juncture in our 36,500 step, 100 year-long journey. People who are tired and lost often ask the locals for directions; they engage in trivial, small talk (McGregor, 2006a). I am convinced that this is not the case for a few members of the home economics international community. Thus this paper shares ideas discovered from around the world, evidence that the deep thinkers in our professional community are working hard to create a healthy and vital community. They are engaged in deep reflection and dialogue at this juncture in postmodern times. They are unwavering and resolute in their contemplations about the 21st century vision for the profession. And, now, for the vignettes: Europe, Asia, United States, Canada and Australia.


Competent Thoughtful Practice, Sacred Everyday Life, Narratives, Integral Specialists

Both Jette Benn (2004, 2006) and Rosemarie von Schweitzer (2006) (from Denmark and Germany, respectively), shared the exact same set of ideas about the very essence of home economics professionalism: to ensure that people are able to participate in everyday life, now and in the future. Benn held that this can be best done if home economics professionals are competent in thoughtful practice, meaning that they are trained to teach people to have an understanding of coherence between action and consequences, be able to handle everyday activities (capable and cope-able), be responsible and willing to participate, and be caring. von Schweitzer suggested that this competence was predicated on four parallel values: sustainability; purposeful and sensible daily requirements that sustain culture and society; personal and social responsibility; and willingness for living and managing together.

Another strong voice for home economics in Europe is Kaija Turkki (Finland) (she acknowledges that her thoughts are deeply informed by Ellie Vaines, a Canadian). The core of Turkki’s professional message to the world is that the phenomena of everyday life in households and families deserve our deepest attention and scholarship (2005). European home economists tend to use the concepts of everyday life and households, more so than their global counterparts who tend to say individuals and families. Everyday pertains to routines and practices found in the ordinary course of events. Focusing on something as mundane as day-to-day life is unique and risky in a world that values markets more than people and sees people only as producers and consumers. But fellow practitioners in Europe convincingly assert that everyday life is paramount to humanity.

As an aside, Tuomi-Gröhn (2008) and her co-authors in Finland developed another compelling perspective of everyday life. They used insights from French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty to develop the idea of the art of meaning making in everyday life. Powerful new ideas that can inform home economics practice are woven throughout their collection: human connections, human consciousness, spiritual and tacit knowledge, embededness in the world’s life, and the idea that a main feature of systems is that they have creative properties. Tuomi-Gröhn also espoused the notion that it is the humble, daily activities of people that sustain humanity and that we need to have a deep respect for the need to value and study the ordinariness of people’s daily lives (see McGregor, 2008a). von Schweitzer (2006), from Germany, goes even further to propose that everyone on earth has a right to a basic education in life competence (p. 303). This rights-based approach is very intriguing and infers an attendant responsibility. She argued that everyday activities for survival, care, and living (she calls this the culture of family life, p.304) need to be learned with determination and lived with responsibility (a sentiment echoed by Benn, 2004, 2006).

Another Finnish home economics scholar, Heinilä (2004) (again drawing on the thoughts of Ellie Vaines and Kaija Turkki) stretched our thinking even further with her idea of humans being-in-the-world (rather than our comfortable use of the idea human beings). Drawing on the idea of unity of being (many ways of knowing and being-in-the-world), we can embrace the thought that we have to honour the interests of all living systems, especially as we journey to understand what it means to be in this world. Attendant concepts are enlightenment, moral visions, the tenet of care, and authentic living. Especially powerful is the idea of wholesight, wherein home economists use all the ways of knowing (see, feel, do, know) to create a better tomorrow.

Turkki (2005) continued with this idea, repeatedly referring to the home economics knowledge base and clarifying that sciences means both the natural (more positivistic) sciences and the social sciences and humanities (which tend to be more interpretive and narrative in nature)—multiple ways of knowing. With collaboration from American studies, McGregor (2007a) observed that any home economics scholarship that is narrative in nature comes mainly from Scandinavian countries at this point in time. As part of that cohort of thinkers, Turkki reminded us that we have to make explicit, reflective decisions about “which [philosophical] orientation we select, which scientific base we want to promote, [and] which [theoretical] frameworks to believe” (2005, p. 93). She challenged us to critically question ourselves, to engage in conceptual inquiry, and to concern ourselves with the approaches (both scientific and practical) we adopt, as well as the frameworks within which we place families: whether from the point of a single person, a group of people, a community, or the whole society. She urged all of us in the profession to inform our practice through conducting research, rather than leaving that task to academics and scientists (Turkki, 2004, 2006).

Kaija Turkki, always the thinking, intellectually curious professional, modeled a valuable posture, specifically being willing to add new lines of thinking to our work and to construct new kinds of wholeness for our practice (2005). She proposed a new definition of specialization (rejecting the term generalist). She explained that if we choose to see home economics as holistic and integrated (rather than a collection of separate subjects and content areas) then we would all become new kinds of specialists with “expertise that integrates, links bridges, coordinates, and communicates” (2006, p. 46). Wearing the mantel of this new type of specialization, we would “have to pay attention to the dynamics and processes involved and try to search for all hidden processes as well” (p. 46). We would become concerned with “What is integrated knowledge?” rather than be confined by our current focus on discrete knowledge. McGregor (2006c) proposed a similar idea, referring to it as the holomovement principle.

Drawing heavily on musings from the World Future Society, she encouraged the profession to incorporate a holistic view, a long-term perspective (rather than a short-term fix), a focus on moral issues, a respect for chaos and complexity, values of balance and harmony, a different conception of time (aside from the conventional linear approach), and a global perspective (Turkki, 2004). More recently, she called for an integral and transdisciplinary approach to practice. Integral is different from integrative. The latter conveys images of balance and harmony, while integral places emphasis on an emergent and healthy tension that is holding things together as they continually evolve in an attempt to find order in chaos. See also the International Federation of Home Economics (2007), Lee (2007), and McGregor (2006c).

In more detail, our profession has historically called itself holistic and integrative in its approach. Asking us to evolve to an integral approach is timely and forward thinking because it respects the reality of constant, unrelenting societal change (the impetus behind the newly released Japanese philosophy of home economics to be discussed shortly). We have to trust that new insights will appear in this chaotic state and we have to believe that we are self-organizing beings who are able to be stable while being open to change. Being stable, while being open, happens because of our deep stabilizing center (philosophy) where we know who we are, what we need to do, and that we are not acting alone. As we mature and develop self-knowledge, we become more adept at this deeper, core stability. People leading from this stance strongly believe in keeping themselves off balance so that they can change and grow through an open exchange with the world. It is then that these leaders can behave in ways that defy the normal expectations and move people to new states of disequilibrium, knowing that a deeper stability is serving as their foundation (McGregor, 2006c, Wheatley, 1999).


Visualize Humane Society, Human Protection, Home as Habitation, Civil Minimum

Both Arai (2005) and Fusa (2004), from Japan, urged home economists to help people strive for a more humane society. Arai encourages home economists to help people nurture a sense of joy in their lives through an appreciation for aesthetics, culture, and history. As well, home economists should encourage people to form human relationships based on cooperation and equality. The profession should ensure that people learn how to perceive and understand others with empathy and adaptability, underpinned by self-understanding and self-respect and a concern and acceptance of others. Interestingly, she argued that this affective sensitivity can be nurtured by fostering an appreciation and taste for art and culture.

Fusa (2004, originally published in the Japanese language in 1977) proposed a deep philosophical discussion of the home. Her focus was on the protective nature of the house and the wholesomeness of human life in the communal life of the family. Her guiding philosophy was that habitation is a relationship between a human being and the world, and that this type of habitation (two-way relationship) takes place in the home first and secondly within the world through the medium of the home. The ultimate nature of human beings is tied to the nature of their habitat (where and how they live).“ Home is where the inner ascendency of human beings is maintained and where, in an atmosphere of repose, truly human qualities are developed” (p. 86). When people experience despair, they experience a loss of self. With human protection comes hope, and with hope existential despair is thwarted. There is a beauty to the simplicity of the logic she uses to weave together ideas from a variety of philosophers (but especially Otto Bollnow) and relate them to what home economics could be. Her philosophy is expressed with conviction, passion, and commitment. Topics that are developed in eloquent detail include:

  • home economics and the human condition;
  • the basic meaning of human existence (ensured by protection of the home);
  • the modern spiritual condition;
  • human-centered science;
  • orientation of the protective sphere;
  • dwelling construction and human life;
  • first principles of human protection and home economics (which are love, nurturing, and technology and humanity);
  • human protection and social home economics;
  • the concept of civil minimum (entrenching into state and local policy accepted minimum standards by which people should live);
  • the idea and principle of community as protection;
  • public and private domains as issues in home economics;
  • nurturing and maintaining stability; and,
  • the house as a place for humanity (habitation is a two-way relationship between a being human and the world).

According to Fusa, the philosophy of human protection should underpin the philosophy of home economics, wherein protecting the domain where families live (from the rampant incursion of the ills of an industrial society) is believed to promote the complete actualization of the true human nature and the soundness of human life. She proposed that the protective nature of the home has to be upheld if families are to regain resiliency in the face of constant change. Loss of this resilience leads to existential despair and lack of hope for the future. The restoration of humanity depends on home economics as a discipline for human protection.


Reflective Leadership, Critical Science, Qualities of Living, Communities of Practice

Historically, lead home economics philosophers in the United States include Marjorie Brown and Beatrice Paolucci (1978) (see also Brown, 1993), Margaret Bubolz and Suzanne Sontag (1993), Patricia Thompson (Hestian/Hermian dualism), and Dorothy Mitstifer (of Kappa Omicron Nu). These scholars brought us key elements of our philosophy that continue to inform our intellectual work (McGregor & MacCleave, 2007). Their legacy continues to be strong. Most of us, around the world, draw on their notions of family ecosystems, human ecology, systems of actions, practical perennial problem approach, values reasoning, holistic practice, critical science, interdisciplinary, alternative modes of inquiry, well-being, and quality of life. Many of these ideas were developed and nurtured over the years in the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (AAFCS) (formerly the American Home Economics Association) and in the Home Economics Teacher Education Year Book Series (1988-2001). This series is no longer in print but some copies can be purchased from Central Washington University at the Family and Consumer Sciences Education Association (FCSEA) headquarters.

In 2000, AAFCS published a philosophical framework for use by American practitioners (Baugher et al., 2000). The framework includes nine cross-cutting threads (contemporary societal trends central to our work) and seven specialization threads: “the basic foundation of the profession” (p. 4). The premise of the model is that family and community systems, resource acquisition and management, and human lifespan development are fundamental to the knowledge base of the profession. The profession is described as integrative based on a knowledge base of the specializations and an ecological perspective. Although it is billed as a work in progress, no changes to the body of knowledge have been publicized since it was released eight years ago.

AAFCS moved away from an organizational model of sections and divisions to one of communities of practice (see Instead of the body of knowledge stewarded by the organization, it will be led by an open-membership system operating in living and open communities of learning—people who benefit from and inform the work of the profession (McFall, 2006).

McFall (2006) repositioned the AAFCS Body of Knowledge as a platform for practice rather than a static collection of concepts and threads. Her formulation of the construct of qualities of living (instead of quality of life) is heralded as a revolutionary approach to advancing the intellectual capital of the field. Her work quantifies 18 named qualities of living, relating to both well-being and satisfaction. The intent is to provide an approach and tool (index) that professionals can use as they nurture people during their lifelong experiences. Her reinvented Body of Knowledge is billed as agent-centered rather than discipline or content centered.

Mitstifer’s (2006) recent work (and that of her colleagues associated with KON) on reflective human action (RHA) theory and leadership is leading the way in North America. Leadership through the RHA perspective is authentic, ethically sensible, and spiritual. Integrating the powerful work of Terry (1993) and Wheatley (1999) (based in the new sciences of quantum physics, chaos theory, and living systems), Mitstifer posited that leaders of home economics organizations should grow their own leaders, using an RHA informed theoretical framework. Leadership development should not be happenstance; it should be planned, coordinated, and choreographed.


Transdisciplinary, Transformative, Philosophical Well-Being, Focus on Human Condition

Historically, lead home economics philosophers in Canada include Eleanor Vaines, Doris Badir, Margaret Arcus, Dianne Kieren, Lila Engberg, and more recently Gale Smith and Linda Peterat. They have echoed the message from United States set out above, but also have called for moral value reasoning, values informed practice, a global perspective, congruent philosophies, ethical orientations, reflective practice, contextual practice, dialectic practice, meaning making, and the notion of home economics as a system (philosophy, knowledge and practice). These ideas are distilled by McGregor (1997a,b). Canadians, especially Ellie Vaines, also called for many ways of knowing, the spheres of influence model (rather than the dualistic private versus public domain approach), action research, and appreciative inquiry. Ellie Vaine’s thinking is especially noteworthy, grounded in metaphors, maps, and meaning making (Smith, Peterat & de Zwart, 2004). Like the home economists in Europe, Ellie and her colleagues (Badir and Kieren) promoted the idea that everyday life is sacred and must be approached with respect, a moral vision, ethical and reflective practice, and a commitment to care, ecology, and connections.

During the late 1980s and into the mid-1990s, Vaines, Badir and Kieren (1988) published a series of booklets about current issues for practicing home economists around the world. It was called the People and Practice: International Issues for Home Economists series, and came to be known as PIPHE. The intent was to promote global dialogue about contemporary issues from a strong intellectual and philosophical base. They dealt with issues of reflective practice, feminism and home economics, the ecosystem approach, complexity of living conditions, everyday life, the meaning of a family perspective, stories and narratives, and critical orientations to practice. No longer in print, the plan is to post these at the new website of the Canadian Home Economics Foundation (CHEF) as a record and depository of the long standing Canadian knowledge base,

The philosophical legacy of these Canadian thinkers lives on in current practice in Canada, and abroad (McGregor & MacCleave, 2007). More recently, McGregor (2004, 2005, 2006c) called for the development of powerful new paradigms to take us into the 21st century. Of paramount interest are the notions of transdisciplinary inquiry and transformative leadership and education. The 2008 IFHE position statement identified both (a) transdisciplinary inquiry and pertinent paradigms and (b) transformative powers and action as essential dimensions of home economics. Other new paradigms and lines of thought for home economics proposed by McGregor include authentic pedagogy (thanks to Janet Reynolds from Australia for this idea), philosophical well-being, the critical science approach, critical discourse analysis, the holomovement idea, intellectual curiosity and skepticism, knowledge management, communities of practice, social change agency, and reconceptualizing development and consumption in light of globalization and life in postmodern times (2006c).

Another innovation for home economics is the notion that improving humanity is the most honorable professional commitment (McGregor, 2008b; McGregor et al., 2007). Our future practice should focus on the human condition, in addition to well-being and quality of life. This shift in focus means embracing a normative approach to practice as we interpret the living conditions of families (rather than just describing the living conditions and standards of living). We would do this through a lens comprising concepts and principles that focus on issues of oppression, marginalization, and exploitation leading to enlightenment, consciousness, emancipation, and liberation (Brown, 1993; McGregor et al., 2007). To that end, McGregor (2001) lobbied for the profession to bring its insights to bear on issues of peace, justice, rights, security, power, equity, freedom, and structural violence. Turkki (2006) agreed, arguing that the profession should focus on these universal issues rather than local or confined, particular issues. This approach is very different from the conventional strategy of describing and defining different kinds of well-being (McGregor & Goldsmith, 1998).


Carnival(esque), Expert Novice, Beyond Patriarchy, Convergent Moments

The current leading philosopher in Australia is Donna Pendergast, with earlier, rich contributions from Edith Baldwin (1991) and Margaret Henry (1995). Donna shared several compelling new ideas for us to ponder as we entered the 21st century. Pendergast (2001) presented a deep, philosophical reflection about modernism (the belief that mind, body, and soul are separate) and postmodernism (the belief that mind, body, and soul are interconnected and culturally inscribed). She discussed such concepts as carnival (having fun and taking pleasure while we teach) and carnivalesque (taking the risk of exceeding the home economics norm so as to challenge the margins of the profession). Donna brought us deep pedagogical issues like posthumanistic body research, discourse analysis, and transformative leadership. She maintained that home economists can, should, engage in risky activities that mock officialdom and refuse order, normalization, and being kept in place. There are rules for performing as a home economics teacher, rules governed by unchallenged folklore about what it means to be a recognizable home economics teacher. She dared us to break these rules (Pendergast, 2004). She astutely noted that it is through the practice of risk and experiencing the incomplete that the possibility for transformation becomes available.

Can we, should we, strive for a universal identity for home economics, one that is grounded in an agreed-to philological stance? Would this philosophical identity contribute to our understanding of ourselves as a professional group? Donna challenged us ask these questions, as did McGregor (2006c) in her discussion of philosophical well-being. Pendergast (2001) also brought the idea of being an expert novice to our attention. In a backlash against the profession’s conventional stance of being technical experts (discussed by Brown, 1993, McGregor et al., 2004 and McGregor et al., 2007), she proposed that we have to learn how to be experts at being novices. Because the world, people, and communities are changing so fast, we have to change too. To do that, we have to become amenable to expecting change and being comfortable with continually having to learn new things while letting go of expertise if it is not meeting the needs of society anymore. Coupling the idea of expert novice with carnivalesque created the intent to celebrate and learn from those home economists who admitted they were practising on the margin of the home economics culture .

Speaking of margins, Pendergast and I developed the idea of what home economics looks like within a patriarchical society and proposed what it might look like positioned outside, in its own space (Pendergast, 2006a; Pendergast & McGregor, 2007). The longer the profession remains confined within the boundaries of the great man’s system, the longer sources of new insights are closed to us. These new insights provide the power to change individually and to move the profession to a liberated stance, free of the influences of patriarchy. The result will be home economists working towards a world free of dominance, hierarchy, racism, gender bias, inequalities, or militarism. This would be a world that is truly human and one where home economists are no longer relegated to the margins. Instead they would be at the very core of posing and solving the world’s problems.

To ensure that we move to this new space, Pendergast and McGregor (2007) proposed that innovative, celebratory leadership is fundamental. In the future, home economics leaders will work from a grounded vision and from the intellectual and philosophical capacity to move beyond the known. They will be secure in their actions to challenge the status quo, to consciously shift paradigms, and to practice from a transdisciplinary approach (fusing academia with civil society to address problems of humanity). Professionals will value their role as transformative change agents and embrace an authentic, empowering pedagogy as well as intellectual skepticism and curiosity (rather than complacency). They will stop accepting the status quo in power relationships and challenge oppression, exploitation, and marginalization.

Pendergast’s most recent innovation in home economics thinking was shared at a conference in Finland (Pendergast, 2006a,b). She delivered a keynote that applied a generational analysis to understand the evolution of home economics. Interestingly, AAFCS arranged a keynote on this topic for its 2007 conference—how to reach the millennial generation of professionals. Pendergast concluded that home economics is at a convergent moment and that what we do right now will determine the future position of the profession. Her most valuable contribution in this talk is the affirmation that “we must assert a place for home economics and plot a preferred future” (p. 4). She underscored her argument of convergence by explaining that the societal and professional catalytic forces that are aligning simultaneously provide us with “a never before experienced opportunity to re-vision our profession” (p. 7).

She made the uncomfortable assertion that our lived culture within our professional community has failed to recognize and take advantage of past opportunities to reconstruct the field. Further, she observed that “the whines of being devalued” are ubiquitous at home economics gatherings around the world (p. 23). Pendergast went on to say, “It could be argued that home economics is in fact a failed institution” (p. 23). With that, she turned more hopeful by discussing the next decade (2010-2020) as one of possibilities and hope for a new home economics. “The profession must have an internationally united philosophy which shifts it to an agenda-setting position and which clearly articulates the uniqueness of the discipline” (Pendergast, 2006a, p. 28).

Convergence of Spirit, Mind, Action and Communication

This paper shared vignettes of regional perspectives about the philosophical underpinnings for the profession: Europe, Asia, United States, Canada, and Australia. It is a timely exercise in light of the 100th year celebration of IFHE in 2008. Donna Pendergast is right—we are at a convergent moment! We have traveled for over 100 years to get to this point in time where again, as with Ellen Swallow Richards and her colleagues in the late 1800s, we are holding international conversations about visions for the profession in a new century. In 1899, there were 11 people working on the future of a brand new profession. One hundred years later, another 11 or so people (cited in this paper) continue to work on our intellectual and philosophical future. Compelling and fresh ideas are summarized for your respectful consideration:

  • new notions of what it means to be an expert (expert novice and integral specialist);
  • the idea of having fun and taking pleasure while practising on the margins and of resisting normalization (carnival and carnivalesque);
  • suggestions to move far beyond interdisciplinary to the energizing spaces of transdisciplinarity and transformation;
  • celebratory, reflective leadership with a focus on human action (ethical, spiritual and authentic) and human as well as intellectual capital, rather than conventional management and transactional leadership;
  • a focus on the human condition and qualities of living rather than quality of life;
  • new conceptualizations of the home (the house as a place for humanity and the ascendency of human beings rather than just shelter for individual families);
  • the concepts of wholesight and being-in-the-world;
  • conceiving our body of knowledge as agent-centered rather than subject or content centered (facilitated via communities of practice instead of separate specializations);
  • a newfound respect for everyday life, especially how people make sense and meaning within their daily life;
  • different notions of what competent practice looks like (predicated on sustainability of culture and society, personal and social responsibility, and a willingness to live and manage together);
  • the idea that everyone on earth has a right to basic education for life competence (a rights-based approach) so as to foster the culture of family life;
  • movement away from integrated practice to integral practice (shift from balance and harmony to a respect for the emergent and healthy tensions that hold things together as they continually evolve in an attempt to find order in chaos);
  • positioning the profession beyond patriarchy;
  • authentic pedagogy and leadership; and,
  • the restoration of humanity is dependent on home economics as a discipline for human protection (based on the assumption that the destruction of private life leads to the destruction of the conditions of humans in general - to the soundness and fullness of human life and existential hope).

Things are now in the hands of all home economists, who have to dream big and make a difference (Hira, 2006). Pichler (2006) urged us to reflect on the current state of home economics and become radical. Turkki (2006) posed the wondrous notion of how important it is for us to figure out how to change the creative source of our possibilities—a deep, profound, and exciting idea. The 2008 IFHE position statement called for the active creation of preferred futures for home economics. To ensure that creative possibility, members of the international home economics community have to work on four major tasks (informed by Thoresen, 2006):

  • First, they have to develop certain qualities of spirit such as self-confidence, gratitude, fortitude, openmindedness, empathy, courage, honesty, and commitment.
  • Second, they have to develop qualities of mind that enable them to envision a new future and they have to prioritize ideas related to this future in such a way that they work on the ones that are feasible, reliable, timely, and culturally compatible. Each in their own time, but each eventually completed and integrated into an integral whole.
  • Third, home economists have to create qualities of action whereby they take steps to implement their plans and steps to make sure they can hold fast to hope (a connection to the future). Talk is easy. It is the doer who changes the world. But every doer needs a scaffold of moral, logistical, and intellectual support. We are a community—united for a common cause—our future and that of humanity and the Earth.
  • Finally, members of the international home economics community have to develop qualities of communication so they have a sustained means of diffusing the changes they are effecting, so they can encourage others to come on board, and so they can measure how well things are unfolding. Communication entails tapping the groups’ collective genius so that personal and professional hopes can be transformed into global realities.


Let our carnival and dance begin,

let the joy shine in our practice, and

let our journey continue.



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1There may be home economics philosophers in countries in Africa, India, the Central and South Americas and other parts of Asia, but I have not had the privilege to read their work.