STEM workshops, STEM classes, STEM schools and even the toy industry is now capitalizing on this. AGHHHH!
I first started hearing about STEM around 2012 while teaching music at my current middle school. STEM has actually been around since president Dwight D. Eisenhower created NASA. Shortly after that, President Kennedy pushed for innovation in the areas of math, science and engineering. In the 1990’s, the National Science Education Standards and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics helped guide STEM into U.S. classrooms. The idea of STEM seemed kind of interesting to me at first. I personally love science and engineering (I married an engineer). However, many of us have questioned the true benefits of an intensely focused math and science curriculum. Where does creativity fit in?
“It’s interesting that people see creativity and critical thinking as being opposed. It’s partly because people associate creativity with being totally free and unstructured.” says education leader and New York Times best selling author, Sir Ken Robinson.
“The current focus on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning is a good example of adults looking at where jobs are right now and trying to make education fit. But who knows what other skills might be necessary 20 years from now?”
Read Sir Ken Robinson’s article on “How To Create a Culture for Valuable Learning” here: https://www.kqed.org/mindshift/46055/sir-ken-robinson-how-to-create-a-culture-for-valuable-learning
I personally think a lot of our current and future scientists need arts training. Why? Because in the world of science and technology, we need a lot of thinkers who can come up with ideas that take into account strong morals and ethics. Thinkers who can bring the public something totally original AND benefit society in a positive, ethically responsible way.
Here’s a good on-line article on this idea: https://theconversation.com/steam-not-stem-why-scientists-need-arts-training-89788
Another argument for adding the “A” is the need to create more jobs. I’m currently reading a great book called “The Rise of the The Creative Class” by Richard Florida. In it, Florida analyzes the economic relationship between the increase in creative class employees and the decrease in unemployment and vice versa: The past has shown that when the supply of “Working Class” and “Service Class”employees was higher than the “Creative Class” supply of employees, unemployment rose.
Some people argue that STEM should be left alone because artists are not in the same category as scientists. May I remind those people that there are some famous examples of scientists who were also artists; Leonardo da Vinci (painter) and Albert Einstein (violin player) to just name a couple.
So what are we to do about this? A broad education that includes arts courses is better than just a program that focuses on STEM. If you are a parent, don’t be afraid to attend your school district’s board meetings and speak out about this during the public comment time; especially if there is an agenda item that is related to science and technology. Arts are an important part of our lives and students deserve an education that motivates and inspires the whole mind.