Many may have heard the attempts to shift U.S. education increasingly toward STEM education: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics focused classrooms and programs. A big prompt for this movement is the growth of technology in our society with a lack of qualified professionals to move forward. While many professions may be interchangeable, it is difficult for individuals without a STEM degree to enter a STEM field. STEM degrees, however, transfer into skills in non-STEM related fields – at least, that’s been the established belief.
Importance of the Arts
STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics. The arts are not exclusively just the visual arts. Instead, the term arts encompass language and literary arts, fine arts, practical arts, as well as ties to integrate social sciences into the sciences category – hence the “why and by whom things are done” . The STEM movement has produced a sort of counter movement vying for the preservation of traditional aspects, and even the accentuation of aspects that have fallen by the wayside, of emphasizing the importance of art and history in the creative decision-making process. Indeed, creativity is a crucial facet when it comes to technology and engineering. Incorporation of the social sciences and arts into STEM through STEAM would promise a more flexible K-12 education that provides a wide pathway that gears students for success in post-secondary education within most fields.
Well-Rounded or Spear?
Two terms that come in focus in the minds of students, parents, and educators are the concepts of a “well-rounded” student and a student who is a “spear”. Essentially, these terms contrast how a student highlights their interests in a specific direction. A STEM education might mold a student into more of a spear, while a STEAM education is more well-rounded. There has been a shift in preference amongst universities and employers to candidates that seem like spears – is this bad news for STEAM? Not necessarily. Of course, a candidate who is a specialist or expresses mastery in their respective field is ideal. For students who know that STEM is their passion, a STEM program is the ideal solution for them. However, it is best to think of STEAM as an initiative that would work great in synergy with STEM programs. STEAM is an important way to expose students to the concepts of engineering, sciences and mathematics, that have an affinity for the arts and social sciences. It gives students hands-on opportunities to see how letting their creativity flourish can have profound impacts in
advancing technology. While STEM programs are receiving investment by the Department of Education, the introduction of STEAM programs doesn’t have such a jumpstart . The gradual implementation of STEAM, whether local or broad, may usher in a wave of great change when it comes to meeting the growing STEM demand; this responsibility lies primarily at the level of our teachers and local educators.
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