STEM vs. STEAM

A quote from Carolyn Caldwell on the topic of The Arts included with STEM

A quote from Carolyn Caldwell on the topic of The Arts included with STEM

How the Team with STEAM can win

STEM is the buzz word these days, it’s on everyone’s lips, it’s being touted as the salvation for our educational system, and it seems like every funder wants to support it. But it makes little sense. Science, Technology, Engineering and Math are not all it takes to make a whole person.

The arts are where children and youth learn resilience, dedication, respect and other important social skills. Teamwork, questioning the status quo, seeking creative solutions to problems, taking risks – we learn these through engagement in the arts. It will take all these skills to solve the problems facing us in the future and today.

Instead, a ton of money is being thrown at STEM, but art and music are no longer taught in the schools.

STEM programs are not the full answer to what’s missing in our educational system. The arts need to stand side by side with the other elements of STEM to support the creativity required in all the STEM professions: the inventor’s inspiration, the engineer’s ability to look at a problem differently, the mathematician’s love and understanding of music, the computer geek’s ingenuity. All these professions and their ability to contribute to society are static without bringing in the originality, imagination, resourcefulness, and vision that the arts require of us.

So now we all know why we need the arts and we need to foster the creativity in all of us. But here’s the burning question: how do we win the argument for dollars when we’re up against health and human services operations with the sad kids with cancer or the preemies or the homeless vets? If we’re at the corporate offices of XYZ Company or talking to Funder ABC and we pit ourselves against hungry children, how do we get their ear and not get bounced out on our ear?

Here’s an answer for you: We couch that argument around the longer view. Sure there are immediate needs (food, clothing, shelter), but the forward-thinking funders should realize (if we frame it right) that the real issue here is – for the sake of humanity as we know it – that the arts have to be supported, that they have to be #1 or close to it.

If all we have is scientists and engineers who have been trained to study the textbook and pass the test, and have not been encouraged to ask the questions themselves – then we will be that much further from that cure for cancer.

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