For the past few years, the hot new buzz acronym in education has been STEM, which stands for the four disciplines science, technology, engineering and math. Everyone from educators to politicians have been promoting STEM education as a way of pulling our country out of the economic recession and securing our economic future as a nation. Recently, there has been a movement to add arts into the educational mix to create an emphasis on STEAM vs. STEM.
Why I support STEAM (adding arts to STEM) in education
I come from a STEM family. The majority of family members are medical professionals and engineers. So, they had hopes that I would be too. And I don’t fault them for that; they wanted what was best for me and STEM jobs usually mean a good income.
I was taken to every “Women in Science and Math” and “Students in Technology” event that my parents could find. I would go, but I’d proceed to sit there and draw or flip through the program and mentally rate the quality of advertisements in it instead of paying attention.
You see, I like STEM; in fact, at one point I wanted to be a marine biologist. But the reality is, STEM isn’t where my strengths are. I would do very well in my STEM classes, but I’m a marketer through and through, and no matter how much I was encouraged otherwise, I was still more geared towards the arts.
How adding arts improves the model
The STEAM model with arts included opens new doors for education, employment and innovation, and it recognizes people like me as having gifts that can help this nation move forward. One of the biggest false assumptions is that you cannot make a good income if you are in an arts career. The reality is, there’s value in those who can market and sell products and services and, because of that, my income is similar to many STEM jobs.
The other assumption is that arts don’t integrate with the rest of the occupations as well as the others do. This is also not true. I may not use science or engineering in my role often, but I absolutely utilize technology and, as I pointed out to a marketing student recently, if you’re planning to work as a marketing director, you had better be very good at math.
Allowing people to follow their talents
In addition, we should be looking at the natural talents of our people and matching them with careers that will utilize those talents so they can excel to their full potential.
I know of several friends who are in the middle of career transitions because they’ve come to realize that they aren’t happy with their work. In most cases, there is nothing wrong with their chosen career, it’s just not where their natural talents are, so they struggle in it and/or don’t find joy in it. Imagine, as an example, someone naturally talented at engineering being a painter. I’m not saying this combination couldn’t work, but I am saying that, in most cases, the person geared toward engineering would struggle less, be happier, and be more productive in an engineering job. The opposite is also true for an arts-oriented person.
So, adding arts creates some opportunities for people to utilize their natural talents in a way that can benefit us all. That’s why I support the movement to focus on STEAM.