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Can We Be Clear On Something? It’s STEM, Not STEAM.

by Brian Dunning, Mar 14 2013

STEM = Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.

The STEM fields are of special significance in the United States, as they are considered by the government to be strategically important, and because we have a shortage of experts in these fields. As a result, many government and educational agencies have STEM programs, and we’ll discuss some of those in a moment.

My purpose today is to nip a growing trend in the bud, which is the tendency for people involved in the arts to expand it to STEAM (A = Arts). Nearly everyone in my family (except me) is musical, and so I sit through a lot of fundraising presentations at concert halls, always hearing the pitch of why STEAM fields are so important. It’s in the high school newsletters, it’s in the local performing arts community brochures; it’s everywhere you look when you go to an art show.

I love the arts. Music, literature, art, philosophy — it encompasses a wealth of fields, and students do truly remarkable work within them. Arts are important, but they are outside of STEM for some very good reasons. When educators and art patrons talk about STEAM, they are missing the point. The importance of art does not lie in any association with STEM, and arts are important for their own reasons unrelated to the the importance of STEM.

  • The America COMPETES Act recognizes the likelihood of the United States’ future inability to compete with foreign countries in STEM, so it encourages investment in STEM education. It authorizes funding for NASA, NOAA, National Institute for Standards and Technology, National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, and a whole array of merit-based education grants, fellowships, and training. We love the arts, but there is no corresponding strategic need for them, so they are not included in this program
  • US companies are constantly lobbying Congress to allow more foreign holders of advanced STEM degrees to have permanent resident status, because such experts are in high demand. (The controversial STEM Jobs Act is one attempt to address such demand.) There is no corresponding demand for students in the arts.
  • The shortage of STEM experts in the United States is such that the Department of Homeland Security maintains a special list of STEM degree programs, foreign students enrolled in which are eligible to stay in the country longer while pursuing their work. No such incentives are offered to foreign art students, as the need for them is not keenly felt.
  • STEM is especially important for women, as there are still severe shortages in the number of women who pursue them. Arts suffer no shortage of women.
  • The United States National Academies, NASA, National Science Foundation, US Department of Education, and the Department of Energy all have STEM education initiatives of their own, which you can read about by searching their web sites for STEM.

Allow the arts to stand on their own merits, and don’t confuse them with the strategic importance of STEM. It’s time to release the STEAM.

157 Responses to “Can We Be Clear On Something? It’s STEM, Not STEAM.”

  1. Tracy Edmunds says:

    You are missing the point. The creativity and original thinking necessary in the arts is also necessary in the sciences. The idea is to boost the creativity of science students via the arts, not create artists.

    • RCAF says:

      To be blunt, no it’s not the same thinking. Arts is so self-indulged, self-deluded, and irrelevant that no one outside its walls has a clue what they think, or even cares.

      I love classical music, and art, but listening to artsies drone on about how much hidden meaning their is in some painting that a four-year old would be embarrassed by is just irritating.

      • RCAF says:

        I know the difference but my spelling sucks.

      • michael says:

        So does your thinking.

      • Phea says:

        RCAF, I understand, and share your frustration. I’ve been a musician most of my life, and when it comes to creativity, I’ve found there seems to be two extremes. On one side you have those who claim, “there is nothing new under the sun”, that every melody, plot, theme, etc. has already been done. The other extreme are those who believe every turd that falls out of there ass is a “unique creation”, worthy of the title, “art”. The truth, as in most cases, lies somewhere in between.

    • Student says:

      Not in the least. I wonder now if you even graduated high school.

      STEM subjects involve advanced training in those fields, technical and scientific fields, which are important to a whole list of things: Hence a shitload of legislation.

      The Arts is not. Arts training will not help you to utilise creativity to solve unsolved maths problems. It will not help you to think of new treatments for illnesses. It won’t help you to perform in the slightest in engineering.

      • Max says:

        It helps for acoustic engineers to play an instrument, for optical engineers to learn photography, etc. Erik Demaine’s arts training helps him solve math problems.
        Everyone can benefit from knowing how to make a visually appealing presentation.

        So I agree with Tracy that STEM students can benefit from the arts, but “STEAM” implies that artists are in the same category as scientists, which is a huge stretch.

      • Bill says:

        “Artists are in the same category as scientists?” That’s another one of your assumptions. Try quoting some real people instead of straw men.

        Like this:

        “STEAM = Science & Technology interpreted through Engineering & the Arts, all based in Mathematical elements.” Georgette Yakman

      • Max says:

        I don’t know what that means. Even “science interpreted through engineering” doesn’t make sense, much less the rest of it. I’d have to see what’s actually taught instead of vague high-level descriptions. Show me a typical assignment or a test question.

      • Bill says:

        She’s put out a lot of reading material.

      • Max says:

        She’s put out a lot of fluffy marketing material — her experience is in marketing — but few actual samples of material for students.
        In fact I only found two, and both indicate she doesn’t know what she’s talking about.

        This worksheet shows that she thinks Science is “elements and materials” and Engineering is “process.”

        She recommends teaching STEAM with the board game Go, and the slide on math relationships says, “four quarters symbolizes the four seasons.” That’s not math, that’s numerology. And it says “binary math.” Why? Because the game pieces are in two colors? So are chess pieces, and neither game involves binary arithmetic. The slide on science relationships includes, “Bowls: wood, woven & decorative.” Mmmkay.

      • Bill says:

        I have my own criticism of her work, but I’m not going to go into detail about it here because I don’t want to give the skeptics any ammo to use against STEAM. I think she started off on the right foot by attempting to explain the interrelation between the letters in the acronym.

        The distinction between science and engineering is of goals, more than process. But I give her credit for trying to get the ball rolling in the discussion that needs to be had. And I commend her efforts. The main problem with the art community is its reluctance to organize. The main problem with the engineering community is its tendency to oversimplify and dismiss the importance of human emotions.

        In general (with many exceptions) artists lack technical expertise, and engineers lack social intelligence. Art is incomplete without engineering. And engineering is incomplete without art. To make better artists, teach them engineering and how to work with engineers. To make better engineers, teach them artistic skills and how to work with artists. This is going to be the main goal of integrating art into STEM. The specifics of how to do that and the curriculum come later.

      • Max says:

        The proof’s in the pudding. If you want to teach students to use Photoshop as well as how its image processing algorithms actually work, that would be a good mix of art, technology, engineering, and math that I could get behind. But if it’s substituting board games for math and science, then forget it.

      • Student says:

        The knowledge that they can gain from this is not knowledge they will gain from an arts course in a university.

        So you’ve made a massive categorical error.

        Funding for the arts also doesn’t encourage STEM students to take arts classes. Science and Engineering degrees are heavily structured, and don’t necessarily include space for electives.

        To make a visually appealing presentation: Not gained by funding arts.
        To learn an instrument: Not gained by funding arts.
        And individual annecdotes about people who “Use arts training to solve math problems” will be taken into account when you present a study justifying funding an additional 3 year degree to be undertaken by maths students, based on a rigorous demonstration that this is useful in an advantaguous number of cases.

        The arts have their merits, but those are seperate to the main STEM ones, and the advantages to thinking present in Arts are not ones requiring an arts degree. These things could be improved by improving STEM courses, not giving more money to courses in another fucking school.

      • Bill says:

        Did you look at the link?

      • Max says:

        You weren’t arguing about funding arts in your previous comment. You said arts training “won’t help you to perform in the slightest in engineering,” and that’s what I was responding to.
        The MIT Media Lab has a Program in Media Arts and Sciences.

  2. Aidan Cauthorn says:

    I couldn’t agree more with this. The arts are a luxury, not a necessity. Necessities must come before luxuries and when we are failing in our necessities that is where we must focus.

    I have nothing against the arts, in fact I have played classic piano since I was a child and love attending the symphony. But I treat my education in and love for music as a luxury not a necessity. Thus it takes a back seat to my real world job. Education should likewise prioritize STEM over the arts.

  3. Aidan Cauthorn says:

    Tracy, I don’t think Brian is missing that point. Art of course teaches creativity, but so do STEM programs. The point of STEM is that we are currently failing in STEM teaching and failing to produce enough graduates in STEM fields. The problem is not lack of creativity in STEM students, it is the lack of STEM students. Thus we are focusing on the area that needs improvement, STEM. The arts, though they may teach creativity, are not as important of an issue currently. Hence the focus on STEM and not STEAM. If we had a problem with STEM students who lacked creativity then STEAM would be an appropriate solution, but that’s not the problem we face.

    • Rick says:

      Well put. In my experience (which is predominantly engineering-based), North American and other Western-trained engineers compare favorably in so-called “creative” solutions to problems. That’s a cultural thing though, it has little to do with their training. But North America simply trains too few expert engineers to keep up with demand. If public/private investment in STEM training provides a reduction in business burden to hire or outsource overseas (which is often a complex and uneven process), lumping in arts is a misuse of this kind of funding.

  4. Max says:

    Can’t leave out economics, language, social science, dance, underwater basket weaving…
    Yeah, if you focus on everything, you don’t focus on anything.

  5. Willy says:

    And worse, many, in fact most, of the artists I know are sucked in by the most unscientific of woo. Not exactly what society needs either.

    • michael says:

      Willy, you don’t seem to know many artists then. Sure, the woo crowd gets most of the attention, but the majority of artists I know (painters and musicians) absolutely love and understand science. Don’t believe in stereotypes.

  6. Trimegistus says:

    The government is throwing money at promoting STEM education. The arts crowd wants a slice.

  7. Phil says:

    While the arts does indeed stimulate creativity, particularly music, the point is that the US is in need of homegrown scientists, engineers and mathematicians. I don’t think the US has a shortage of artists and musicians. In fact the US leads the world in musical influence. The skills needed for science are highly specialized. It’s much harder to teach yourself calculus or chemistry than to learn how to play the guitar. Because you can learn a few chords and be off and running with the guitar. However addition and subtraction won’t get you far in learning how fast a cone fills with water. And let’s face it guitar is fun and math is torture.

    • Joffbaum says:

      Maybe true for guitar. However, I am a Mathematician and a Violinist and I find it easier for me to learn and understand math both at the abstract and applied level than learning how to perfect my violin playing. I would say that the learning the violin is the most difficult and challenging endeavor that I have ever undertaken. However, I enjoy both Math and the Violin and I find neither of them torture.

  8. Old Rockin' Dave says:

    What is the point of all the science and technology if it delivers us into an ugly world where the arts are dispensable?
    As one who grew up from the 50s through the 70s, I saw that one of the things that made technology disreputable was the plain damn ugliness of a world that seemed to place its emphasis on utilitarianism without esthetics or a place for human values. Shoebox skyscrapers, puffing smokestacks and eight-lane superhighways made for a world not meant for humans to live in, however much they were presumably meant to improve our lives.
    The Works Projects Administration of the 1930s produced many useful public works, but most of those are dated. What is remembered best and valued most today are those projects that put artists to work, that gave us murals and sculpture and photography that continues to enrich our lives.
    I agree that STEM should not become STEAM, or STREAM, or STREAMERS, or whatever letters can be crammed in there. But let’s not lose sight of the fact that what makes life livable is not only better medicine, faster transportation, or cheaper electricity.

    • Max says:

      Well, it’s a good thing that modern art has put a stop to ugly buildings.

      • Old Rockin' Dave says:

        It’s at MIT. See a little bit of irony in your citing that?

      • Max says:

        The Pei Toilet may be designed by an MIT alum, but the Stata Center was designed by Frank Gehry, and the Sponge was designed by watercolorist Steven Holl.

      • Old Rockin' Dave says:

        But as you see, scientists want nice-looking things to look at, work in or with, and live in.
        Those with power seek the same.
        For the rest of us, ugliness is often imposed either in the name of practicality or by indifference.
        But those nice-looking things have to come from the minds of creative people, and those creative people have to be encouraged and educated and valued. So why not have programs for them, too? Let’s not mix the two, but let’s promote both.
        There is a false dichotomy here. It can’t and shouldn’t be either/or.

  9. JB says:

    “I’ve said this before, but thought it was worth repeating: It’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough. That it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our hearts sing.”

    Steve Jobs

    • Max says:

      Jobs also said the American education system was “hopelessly antiquated” and crippled by teachers’ unions. Apple’s factories, for example, needed 30,000 skilled engineers — something the U.S. education system was not producing. He suggested the President completely overhaul the system and proposed an 11-month school year with days that lasted until 6 p.m.
      “You can’t find that many in America to hire,” he said. “If you could educate these engineers, we could move more manufacturing plants here.”
      Obama apparently took the advice to heart. He would tell his aides “we’ve got to find ways to train those 30,000 manufacturing engineers that Jobs told us about.”

  10. Cameron says:

    One point missed by the article is what is considered “ART”. I have a psychology degree, which is entirely science based, but it is considered an Arts degree. Similarly, many social studies (yes, I know some of them are fluff), economics, urban planning, policy studies, etc. are also often called “arts”, just because of the institutions they happen to be administered by and not their actual content. Many of these “arts” are integral to the proper integration of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics within society. For example, if a municipal government and some private engineering firm want to team up to implement some city wide, state-of-the-art new infrastructure technology they will have to consult with urban planners, psychologists, social workers, and even visual artists (for aesthetic integration); all of which are considered “arts”. While I agree with the aims of STEM, it does seem to provide an over-simplified directive to solve the very complicated issue.

  11. tmac57 says:

    I thought that the emphasis on STEM was due to the belief that the U.S. is falling behind other developed (and even some developing) nations in these important areas. Is there any indication that we are falling behind in the arts as well? If not,then the arguments that some are making would not seem relevant,other than to make the case that arts are important too,which I doubt that Brian disputes.

      • tmac57 says:

        Hit a pay wall.

      • tmac57 says:

        Yes,that worked,thanks.
        Interestingly, the author’s point about the usefulness of a History education was really about acquiring the skill set of “critical thinking, creative problem-solving and communication”,which could and should be skills that apply to all subjects in education.
        I have no idea how history is taught in general today,but when I was in school it was just a dry and boring exercise in rote memorization,with the noted exception of my Latin-American history teacher in my senior year,who finally brought history to life by presenting it with enthusiasm,context,and creating a narrative that integrated the story of the various countries into a whole. He also wrote the text,and his tests were the most challenging of any teacher that I have ever had, yet students clamored to get into his class every year.

      • Max says:

        He says, “We need to take this opportunity to ensure that today’s history teachers are teaching in a more enlightened fashion, going beyond rote memorization and requiring students to conduct original research, develop a viewpoint and defend it.”

        AP US History was pretty challenging. A lot about causes and effects, like what caused the Civil War. A lot of questions in the form of “To what extent was…”
        And you know Santayana’s saying, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

        I’ve heard people say that English literature fosters critical thinking, but in my experience AP English taught how to BS. Everything was a metaphor for something else.

      • Max says:

        It’s former Lockheed Martin CEO Norm Augustine writing that American 12th graders perform even worse in history than in math and science according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).
        “In my position as CEO of a firm employing over 80,000 engineers, I can testify that most were excellent engineers—but the factor that most distinguished those who advanced in the organization was the ability to think broadly and read and write clearly.”

        On the other hand, see the Dilbert Principle.

  12. Max says:

    There’s a demand for nurses too, but it’s still not STEM.

  13. michael says:

    Let me address it directly. I loved both science and art as a kid, but I went forward with a classical music education (focusing on composition). After graduate school, I look at prospects in the academy and switched horses. I started at an entry level in technology, eventually becoming a principal software engineer and architect for a major corporation. I’ve had a long career and been responsible for products that are broadly used in the markets I serve.

    My musical education was invaluable in ways that non-musicians can’t possibly understand. Understanding music (I’m talking about serious music) involves visual thinking at a high level. It means taking a pure temporal experience and transposing it into a spatial experience. This is EXACTLY a skill that is needed in designing high level software systems. It’s about moving the boxes around in your head–seeing the gazintas and gazoutas as physical entities in space. And I can’t begin to say how many times my understanding of tempo has reinforced my ability to diagnose issues.

    I don’t like the term “The Arts” very much. Call me a bigot, but I don’t rank throwing a pot in the same league as writing a string quartet. Music is special, allowing us to understand time and space in a deeply intuitive way–a way that provides an underpinning for much of science and technology. You teach kids music in school and you’ll get more and better scientists.

  14. STEM Advocate says:

    The whole purpose of us pushing STEM is because we have fallen behind the rest of the world in those areas. The “arts” are OVERLY represented in the USA. Take a look at the growing industries and job offerings. STEM educational backgrounds have lower levels of unemployment. Our BA degree holders are finding themselves unqualified and under employed. The arts will always be represented, but the NEED for STEM qualified candidates will continue to increase. If you don’t want to continue to see our tech jobs off shored then keep crying about arts.

  15. JB says:

    I am an professional artist (musician) and a proud skeptic. I support the idea that STEM should be separate from the arts, but I am discouraged by much of the tone of these comments. To write off the arts as some kind of meaningless and unproductive sector of our nation’s output is silly. If you take where our service based economy is going to an extreme end, the US will no longer be a labor based economy. Already we can consider ourselves a service based economy. Certainly, STEM is vastly important because we could become leaders in research, development and technology that keeps us at the top. However, the US is also a leader in entertainment media that has a significant workforce and economic output. We should foster the creative minds because not everyone, myself included, was cut out for science, math, etc. The kid that does poorly in math might foster in writing and become a bestselling author. A kid in high school band could be the next top ten artist. These children who despite the best efforts to improve their STEM skills just might not be suited for those callings. Some kids are whizzes at programming computers, others excel at mastering the piano.

    To reiterate, I agree that the arts are separate from the “technical” schools, but as I have a more than a comfortable living in the arts that increases the financial gain of this country and entertains people as a bonus, the arts should not be forgotten as a legitimate way to preserve our stronghold on a major US industry.

    • JB says:

      If you would indulge me, I’d also like to add that beyond the purely entertainment aspects of art, it should be considered that the fruits of STEM often require the arts to package the deal to make it worthwhile. Consider that much of Apple’s surge in popularity is not only a function of engineering, but of artful design. The success of many internet technologies also require that they simply look good and catch the eye of the consumer. The latest pharmaceutical innovation requires the artistry of ad agencies to market the product. An electric or hybrid car isn’t going to sell unless the driver feels sexy at the wheel. I understand the sort of albatross much of the art community bears, telling my parents many years ago that I wanted to study music was like abandoning the family. However, I knew that I could make money and followed the path to do so. As “un art” as it might be, we should consider training our kids in arts that really do produce results. Graphic design, UX, music production, film making, marketing, etc and leave the more “risky” arts to those that are so passionate that no educational burden will stop them.

  16. Daniel says:

    We’re not talking about whether the Arts should get any public funding at all, or whether it has intrinsic value. The issue is whether the arts should fall under the rubric of STEM (or “science”/”applied science”). I think it’s clear that they are two different things, and the “where’s my slice” mentality doesn’t do anyone any favors. Like the arts, I like sports, and I think school sports is overall beneficial. It just isn’t STEM. I would just the same find it silly that a football coach would claim that STEM should be “STEMS” as a painter claiming STEM should be STEAM.

    In addition, the arts probably requires a lot less funding to produce results beneficial to society than does STEM. It costs a lot of money to educate a physicist, engineer or doctor, and even more money to build and maintain laboratories, particle accelerators, space probes, etc. I’m sure a lot goes into training an opera singer, but the amount would seem to pale in comparison.

    Also, for better or worse, there’s a public agenda to produce more engineers, doctors, scientists, etc. The public, in general, feels the country has enough artists.

  17. Max says:

    I’m not even sure if physicians and surgeons count as STEM careers. It’s just a different category.
    For example, this list of STEM degree programs that Brian referenced mentions various medical scientists, engineers, and technologists, but not medical doctors, surgeons, and nurses.

  18. Gavin says:

    This is probably the most disappointing article I’ve read on this site; with the exception of Shermer’s gun-apologetisisms. Yes, the Sciences should be distinguished from the Arts; but likewise from purely technolological fields. Pure Science is just the search for knowledge, and pure Art is simply the refinement of communication.In terms of public education, I think such things go hand-in-hand.

  19. Amy says:

    Disappointing for sure. I think this writer is misunderstanding the point. Arts can be used to enhance the STEM push. Especially in younger students. Example: If Susy is having trouble reading indepth fiction or non-fiction, why not use drawing in a sketchbook as a way for her to come up with ideas to write about. Once she has these ideas she may start to inquire more information which might inspire her to read and ultimately research. Which, by the time Suzy is getting her PhD in science, she can look back to 4th grade and think how much those initial sketches helped. Just a simple example from an actual research paper. You might want to try it sometime. I personally took violin lessons at age 4 until 15. Currently (25 yrs later), i am a math wiz, i teach math. Patterns and formulas come very easy to me with disciplined practice. Thank you Suzuki Method.

    I don’t think the negativity about the arts on this page is properly thought out.

    Nip in the bud? All you just did was confirm for me, why the trend must increase.

    • Negativity about the arts? I don’t believe you read the article.

    • Daniel says:


      No one is arguing that what I’ll lazily call “non-STEM” education — literature, reading comprehension and other liberal arts — isn’t necessary for what I’ll also lazily call STEM practitioners. A doctor, a physicist, chemist needs to know how to read and write at a high level. In the same way, they need discipline, which, to be clear, is distinct from “obedience”. Athletics has been shown to instill discipline in people.

      The discussion about STEM in the public discourse, though, is whether we need more physicists, doctors and engineers, and how much funding from the taxpayer is needed to accomplish that goal and where that funding should go (frankly, I think the supposed STEM “crisis” from a funding standpoint in the United States anyway is overblown, but that’s just me). And the fact of the matter is, we don’t need to provide any more funding to the arts to help accomplish that goal. That is, the reason for the supposed shortage of scientists has nothing to do with the underfunding of things like music instruction, athletics, creative writing, art appreciation, etc.

      Like I said, the obvious reason for people wanting to sneak the letter A into STEM is purely a matter of increasing their slice of outside funding, usually from the taxpayer. That’s unfortunate.

  20. Max says:

    I never understood why universities have a College of Arts and Sciences, or Letters and Science, as if plasma physics has much in common with French literature.

  21. Lumen222 says:

    Brian, I don’t see any negativity in your article about the arts, and I agree with you that the concept of STEM should be kept unique and requires a large amount of funding that those areas are not currently getting.

    To me (and I suspect to some others) it’s just disappointing to see such strong backlash against the arts in the comments section. A lot of people seem to be under the impression that enjoying classical music makes them expert enough to judge the adequacy of arts education in the schools.

    I believe the problem for the arts is less a matter of funding. They are just taught poorly or not at all, and often with too heavy an emphasis on self expression in a class room setting, and not enough emphasis on learning basic skills of criticism and analysis.

    The point of having some basic training in the arts should not be to train legions of artists. It’s to give them the tools to more critically watch, enjoy and criticize the movies, commercials, packaging, music etc that they are so eagerly slurping up. As a designer I seek to present a point of view. But many people seek to manipulate. At the current level of cultural sophistication in the US, I fear that it’s functionally the same thing.

  22. Tiffany says:

    Seriously, some comments here have no idea what goes on in art schools. “Self indulgent”? Maybe some, but I trained to be a tailor, which is a serious exercise in geometry and mathematics. I make pretty clothes for weddings, movies, television, proms, parties, etc. It may be trivial to you, but I enjoy what I do, and I think a dry world of JUST scientist would be a terrible world. We need a little color.

    I ask that some commenters stop to think before stereotyping. We are not all hipsters.

    And some of us experience STEM people as priviledged ass hats that look down on the “janitors” of the world. There may be so few people in STEM because it’s not a very inclusive industry. It can be extremely “members only, no outsiders”. People like to feel like they belong, and the arts can bring that. Scientists need to bring that attitude, too.

    • Student says:

      “Seriously, some comments here have no idea what goes on in art schools. “Self indulgent”? Maybe some, but I trained to be a tailor, which is a serious exercise in geometry and mathematics. I make pretty clothes for weddings, movies, television, proms, parties, etc. It may be trivial to you, but I enjoy what I do, and I think a dry world of JUST scientist would be a terrible world. We need a little color.
      I ask that some commenters stop to think before stereotyping. We are not all hipsters.”

      Then you go on to spout this utter tripe:

      “And some of us experience STEM people as priviledged ass hats that look down on the “janitors” of the world. There may be so few people in STEM because it’s not a very inclusive industry. It can be extremely “members only, no outsiders”. People like to feel like they belong, and the arts can bring that. Scientists need to bring that attitude, too.”

      So, let me get this straight: Lets not stereotype the arts people, but the science guys are often asshats, and there’s an exclusionary attitude?

      “Extremely Members Only”? In what way, would you say that? It’s completely beyond anything I’ve experienced as a student in STEM programs that it’s exclusionary, or anything of the kind, in fact, I’ve sat in on lectures from subjects I’m not even taking. Nor do I see any indication it’s to do with a culture associated with the degrees.

      Honestly, it sounds more like you’ve gotten offended at some mudslinging and slung some back. Not cool.

  23. Justin says:

    The arts are drastically improved by all the letters in STEM. The “a” in no way improves the state of STEM.

  24. SteveH says:

    Although I live near RISD, I’m just finding out about STEAM. I’ve been struggling for ages trying to get my son a decent education in math (I’ve had to ensure mastery of the basics at home), but STEAM is something that will weaken the rigor needed for a STEM career even more. We don’t need lessons that vaguely talk about how geometry and perspective drawings are related. That’s so easy and cheap. We need math classes that properly prepare students to be able to understand and define 4X4 perspective matrix projections. They need to know what homogeneous coordinates are. We don’t need silly discussions about how, generally, computer graphics rendering programs work. We need to ensure mastery of the basics in math so that sudents can get into college engineering programs where they learn how to write those programs. It’s not art that’s holding them back. In fact, my son’s K-8 grades were filled with things like coloring pictures of science terms. At the same time, I was making sure that he mastered fractions at home. It’s been a couple of decades since K-8 schools taught facts and rote skills, but there has been lots of art – coloring, dioramas, and even videos. Where are the results?

    One of the fundamental flaws of STEAM is that is makes no difference between what is necessary to become an expert in math, science, or art versus what is necessary for these people to work well together. Art does not own creativity. Engineers are very creative. I come up with great ideas all of the time. Ideas and creativity are cheap.

    RISD is known for expecting a lot of rigor in art, but it’s foray into combining art and STEM in the lower grades falls victim to modern fuzzy ideas of K-8 educational pedagogues. Students don’t need more fuzzy, in-class, group art projects on real world themes. They need high individual expectations on developing specific skills, whether it’s in art or math. We don’t need art in math and we don’t need math in art. I remember how many art projects my son had to do and the schools never taught him anything about colors, graphic design, layout or tools to use. They didn’t even teach him how to properly hold a pencil in Kindergarten. In fifth grade, many of the kids still didn’t know the times table. The classic analogy is Professor Hill’s “Think System” in The Sound of Music. Many K-8 educators believe that all you need is motivation, creativity, and vague notions of critical thinking. They hope to get something from nothing.

    Whether it’s art, math, physics, or music, one has to work hard on mastery of individual skills. Often, the bogeyman of rote learning is used to flip the learning process around to approach skills from the top-down rather than the bottom up. What this usually ends up doing is hiding lower rigor behind happy talk of integrated and real world learning. Mastery of skills is not achieved. Interestingly, once kids move up from middle school to high school, these fuzzy concepts give away to much more rigor; rigor that’s driven by the realities of college degree programs, not the silly ideas of K-8 pedagogues. By then, however, many students are so damaged in math that any chance of a STEM career is gone. Even to be able to get into RISD, students have to learn so much more on their own. When I was young, my parents didn’t have to help me one bit for me to get to calculus in high school. However, I had to help my son a huge amount on mastery of the basics to help him get to calculus. No amount of art in K-12 would fix that, and that is the problem in the STEM world.

    For a proper view of STEAM, one would be better off looking at what Carnegie Mellon offers for an optional(!) graduate program in Entertainment Technology. Graduate school, not K-8. Bottom-up, not top-down or thematic or art-across-the-curriculum. Art does not hold the key to creativity and success in STEM.

    Art is valid all by itself. One does not have to make up things like the “Mozart Effect” or STEAM unless the goal is just to tap into where the money is.

  25. SteveH says:

    I also make a big distinction between art and music. In music, it’s all about skills. You can’t hide bad playing behind a veil of modern neo-thought, except for perhaps John Cage’s 4’33”. There is a YouTube video of it, but they do that poorly. They don’t turn the pages of their music together.

    Generally, however, music is one of the first places where kids experience the importance of basic skills. Musicality and creativity cannot precede that phase. Jazz requires an enormous amount of skill to be creative, and one cannot even begin to think about interpreting a piece by Chopin without proper technical skills.

    In art, however, it’s a different world. One can have a show displaying only white paintings. At a recent piano competition where my son played at our university, while kids played high level pieces requiring skills developed since they were 5, the art department displayed sloppy art work made from black and red swizzle sticks. One was a very bad rendition of a piano. The juxtaposition of the two art forms what quite telling. We’re not talking about “Pictures at an Exhibition” played alongside Viktor Hartmann paintings.

    I would be more sympathetic if K-8 schools actually taught skills in art, but it’s rarely that way. Athletics is another good area where kids learn the importance of skills, but too many educators react with “drill and kill” horrors when you start talking mastery of skills in academics.

    There is a philosophical and pedagogical war going on in K-8. Many parents are now required to enforce mastery of skills at home or with tutors. Unfortunately, educators never ask what parents do. They just want to take credit for the results. We aren’t just modeling a love of learning and taking our kids to museums. We are teaching and enforcing mastery of the basics. Now, even art teachers want to tap into STEM money to further their fuzzy ideas of learning and lower the chances that any student will develop the basic mathematical skills required to get to any STEM career.

    • Daniel says:

      You can point to anecdotal evidence all you want, but there isn’t a shortage of education funding in the US. Close to $1 trillion in taxpayer money (or taxpayer debt) is spent on K through 12 education throughout the country every year. In my home state of New Jersey, public schools in Newark spend about $25k per pupil annually (yet the graduation rate is abysmal and what those graduates can actually do even moreso). If you take the money that individuals/families spend to attend private K-12 schools and universities, the number is even higher.

      FWIW, I think the perceived lack of STEM practitioners in this country comes from the fact that STEM studies are difficult. I went to public school in a very affluent school district. Virtually everyone who enters the school system goes to a four year college, and, at least at the undergraduate level, does not need loans or financial aid. Out of a class of 180, my rough estimate is that you had less than 20 that majored in a STEM field at college. Probably between five and ten ended up going to medical school. By contrast, I could count 30 of my classmates off the top of my head (in addition to myself) that ended up going to law school. It’s easy to get into law school and it’s easy to graduate law school.

      If you have the smarts and drive to be an electrical engineer or a physicist, funding levels are not going to hold you back. It just takes a lot more smarts and a lot more drive than the vast majority of people have.

  26. SteveH says:

    I never said anything about a shortage of money. Of course it’s not the money, but it’s also not just that it’s difficult. There are clear problems with teaching math in K-8. Many students don’t even get the chance to find out if college math is too difficult or that they really just don’t like the material. It’s all over for many by seventh grade. Forget electrical engineering. Non-STEM college students struggle with math requirements, and many even select majors because of lower math requirements.

    I don’t even like STEM programs because they funnel money into programs that really don’t fix the underlying problem. They often rely on engagement and real-world topics rather than helping more kids on the AP caluclus track in high school. I tutor these kids, and some of them are close to success, but they never get to the point where they can choose not to go into a STEM department in college.

    • Daniel says:

      Apologies for getting what you said wrong.

      Another anecdote. I was a pretty good math student, but hit a wall in sixth grade when I had this flaky math teacher that tried to teach “alternative” math. It turned into an easy A, but then in seventh grade, what they called “pre-algebra”, I hit a brick wall with another teacher that was a year away from retirement and didn’t seem to care. I was fortunate that we had a family friend that did math tutoring, and I got back on track, and then had a very good algebra and “pre-calc” teacher. I made it to AP Math my senior year of high school, but a few months into it I realized that I reached the limits of where my smarts could take me in math.

      Guess the point is, is that I got individualized teaching when I needed it, good math teachers in high school, but eventually I couldn’t get past what would have been an introductory undergraduate math course. So I would say the underlying problem is that math and science are difficult. It’s a lot easier to take history or “political science” and get good marks that will help you get into law school.

  27. SteveH says:

    A current meme for some is that IQ dominates (rationalizes) all. The problem is that they never calibrate it, and it leads many to claim that algebra is an unreasonable goal. Even kids will believe that they are just not good in math even though they have had a horrible math education. My son spent years subjected to Everyday Math in K-6 so I’ve seen the results first hand. I also have to fix those problems with the kids I tutor.

    Many of the best students (with no IQ limits in math) need help at home or with tutors. This is where we are losing STEM students. They need specific and continuing rigorous help on mastery of skills. Just a few gaps (or poor teachers) can cause great problems in future years. However, this is not what STEM programs fix. Add art, and the problem gets worse. Educators think that it’s just an engagement and motivation problem. They want to do fun, in-class, hands-on, group projects, not ensure that all kids have properly mastered basic skills.

    The current CCSS standards define college readiness as the ability to pass a course in college algebra. The PARCC group defines this level as “distinguished”. This is their top level. The problem is that these expectations start in the lowest grades. STEM capable students do not get the curriculum and support they need to reach their potential. It requires parents who see and correct the problem. These kids have to handle a very non-linear learning curve when they go from K-6 fun-time math to a more rigorous pre-algebra course in 7th grade – right when social issues make life difficult. If these kids are not able to shift gears and make the transition to be successful in algebra in 8th grade, it’s all over. Everyone knows that not all kids can handle differential equations, but the goal is to find and help those who could. STEM and STEAM and CCSS don’t do that. They think it’s just a matter of engagement and motivation. In other words, educators don’t look in the mirror. They don’t take the simple step of asking parents of their best students what they had to do at home. Worse yet, I’ve had notes sent home telling us parents to work on “math facts” with our kids.

    • Daniel says:


      Do you see the goal from a policy standpoint to get more people to enter occupations that require STEM or just to learn it for its own sake?

      If it’s the former, just seems to me that, even if you could come up with better teaching methods and assuming no funding issues, you might get some marginal improvements, but that’s it. I still think that math and science takes a lot more discipline than most students have. (Or maybe it just seems that way to someone like me that never had the innate skills to get that far in it). That is, it takes a lot of self-motivation to succeed, which I feel has to be there almost at an instinctual level. It’s a lot easier to major in poli-sci, go to law school, and get a $100k year job. It’s probably also the case that it’s much more lucrative for even the best and the brightest STEM students to go work in finance, and make millions by their mid-30s. If you look at a lot of the titans of Wall Street, a lot of them majored in physics in undergrad.

  28. SteveH says:

    The goal is to allow students to reach their potentials by keeping as many doors open as possible. The goal is to push and let the students decide for themselves once they get to high school. K-6 schools should not pre-judge them based on statistics. This means that few urban kids will ever be able to get to a STEM or many other levels.

    It’s not just teaching methods. It’s low expectations. But improving these things in K-8 will help ALL students whether or not they are STEM material. And I’m talking about much more than “marginal improvements”. Schools need to ask the parents of their best students what they do at home. It’s really simple to do, but they are afraid of the correlation they will find with their best students. While teachers are having fun-time play learning in school, many of us parents are teaching fractions at home. As I said, I’ve received notes from schools telling us parents to work on math facts.

    This isn’t just a STEM issue. This is a problem with the educational thought-world in schools of education related to K-8. It’s amazing how the educational philosophy changes between the fairy-land world of K-8 and high school. Our state requires subject certification for all teachers starting in 7th grade, and you can really begin to see the difference. But by then, a lot of damage has been done.

    While IQ is important, it is used extensively to ignore many critical factors. You have to separate the variables and define exactly what the problem is. For STEM, the problem is that many students with the IQ to handle the material are damaged too much before they get to high school. It is NOT “marginal”. The PARCC tests specifically do not address STEM requirements. These are the standards being used to drive K-8 math curricula in many states. Kids are not taught the material they need to transition to a STEM path in high school. They are overwhelmed when they get to pre-algebra, and only those students who have help at home or with tutors will be successful. Keep in mind that students not having the IQ to handle calculus does not mean that they cannot handle a proper sixth grade discussion of fractions that would still keep them on a proper track.

    • Daniel says:

      Have the problems you speak of been there all along, or is it a relatively recent phenomenon? If it’s recent, how do you account for the change?

      • SteveH says:

        A fundamental problem in K-6 has always been that these teachers know very little about math. Many don’t like it or are afraid of it. This should change, but there are other influences that make K-8 eduation worse in all subjects than it was about 25 years ago.

        When I was growing up, the very low level kids were sent to other schools. For the rest, K-8 schools tried to keep everyone at the same level. They cared about facts and skills. If you didn’t meet grade-level expectations you had to attend summer school or worse, stay back a year. That kept everyone honest to some extent and got more effort out of kids. Parents paid attention and even teachers paid attention. Some schools may have had a sink or swim attitude, but they didn’t ignore the problems. You got real report card feedback each year.

        Nowadays, “full inclusion” is the main driving force. The lowest ability kids are NOT sent to other schools. All kids are taught in the same classroom. Our state offers no money for pull-out or talented/gifted programs. So, what schools do is to talk about “differentiated instruction”. This is some magic process whereby all kids can learn at there own level in one classroom. In mixed-ability class projects, teachers expect kids to learn to work together, even, as in one of my son’s cases, when one of the members kept cutting up their project. What full inclusion did was to almost eliminate specific grade level expectations in skills and content because that separates kids. Knowledge is now “superficial” and facts are “mere”. K-8 educators love to talk about critical thinking and problem solving, but it’s only a cover for low expectations.

        I made the mistake of telling my son’s first grade teacher that he loved geography and could find any country in the world. She said: “Yes, he has a lot of superficial knowledge.” Ouch. That was one of my early encounters of teachers trying to keep us parents in our place. Ironically, later that year, my son had to show the student teacher where Kuwait was when they were doing a thematic unit on “Sands from around the world.”

        To try to make full inclusion work, educators have to denigrate facts and skills and elevate fuzzy ideas of learning. This allows them to feel good about tracking kids by age and not abiity or results. It also eliminates having any criteria for holding kids back a year. It eliminates the year-by-year pushing of required skills in math. That’s why my son’s fifth grade teacher had to NOT trust the Everyday Math spiral and force many bright students to finally learn their times table. Some were still adding 7+8 on their fingers. This is what happens when you try increase the range of abilities in a classroom and pretend that there are other magic concepts and thinking skills that are more important. Bright kids don’t get what they need. Of course, this all changes in high school, but it’s too late for many of the problems to be fixed.

        Some issues in STEM preparation have always been around, like math-phobic K-8 teachers. However, in the last 25 years, it’s gone in the wrong direction. I got to calculus in high school without any help from my parents. Nowadays, that is very difficult to do. My high school son (probably in the top quarter of 1 percent in math) would never be there without my help over the years on basic skills, like the multiplication table, decimals, and fractions. What I find amazing is that high school math teachers see the problems all of the time. They complain about the lack of basic skills, and I mean basic. However, they rarely say a word to the K-8 teachers. Heaven forbid that they would question their colleague’s educational beliefs. They would rather think that the kids are just dumb or lazy.

        College and careers keep high schools honest. Parents pay attention and AP classes keep high school curricula proper. I saw some of this rigor driven back into my son’s 7th and 8th grades for math, but I see little that will penetrate down into the fuzzy pedagogical never-never land of K-6.

  29. Sophia says:

    I am an international student, and what I admire about many successful American businessmen is that they are good at dealing with people. I see a lot of students from my country who are geniuses at math, engineering and computer science, but these people are under the control of the confident, charismatic and eloquent American leaders.
    I am sad for those engineers from my country who are socially awkward and are viewed as mere engines of productivity but that is the reality. Many of them are very analytical, but very mechanical and inflexible.
    We are humans who are drawn to fluffy, sexy things. And as much as we want to think wealth goes to those with hard skills and who contribute “substantial” value to the society. Soft skills always win.
    A lot of the money in this world are attracted to and controlled by great leaders and communicators, and I think many of them had a great liberal arts education.

    • Max says:

      They’re good at bullshitting, that’s for sure.
      Only two of the CEO’s in your list were in high-tech companies. One of them was fired from HP, and the other started at IBM as a salesman.
      Many successful business people are engineers and computer scientists, like Mark Zuckerberg, Marissa Mayer, Larry Page and Sergey Brin.
      Majoring in English is a more likely path to “flipping burgers” or bartending than to becoming a CEO. You may as well point to famous actors to argue that a liberal arts education leads to fame and fortune (results may vary).

  30. Sophia says:

    The point is not what they majored in, the point is arts is just as important as science.
    And many times leaders are leaders because they are so good at the arts side(communication, people skills etc )

  31. Sophia says:

    Maybe its not. It doesn’t really matter if we call it STEAM or STEM or whatever.

    What matters is, the arts should not be so marginalized in the educational system as it currently is, it deserves attention and federal funding just as much as science. It is America’s competitive advantage and it fosters great and influential leaders.

    You will never make it to the top if all you know is specializing in technical things, you will make it to the top if you specialize in technical things and you can sell yourself and influence other people.
    even Bill Gates knew he needed a lot PR polishing before he could speak to the world.
    “If I was down to my last dollar I would spend it on PR” –Bill Gates

  32. SteveH says:

    Engineers who can draw or play the piano are still “mere engines of productivity”. This is a separate issue and one that I’ve complained about to the dean at my old college of engineering. However, the solution is NOT to teach them more art as if they are missing some sort of creativity training. Engineers are very creative. They just don’t know about the other half of the business world – sales, marketing, and risk. That is not art. The goal of the “A” people in the STEAM crowd is NOT to make engineers more creative. It’s to raise the importance (and value) of the “A” people in the business world. Their goal is to make them seem more imporant that just graphic designers. In some ways, they have the same problem as the engineers; they are not close to where the risk and money is. Their goal is to make art-driven creativity some sort of key attribute that can only be provided by the art people.

    “And as much as we want to think wealth goes to those with hard skills and who contribute “substantial” value to the society. Soft skills always win.”

    Wealth comes from taking risks and working very hard. It comes more from the product and sales end of thngs rather than the design and production end. In many cases it doesn’t work. We just focus on the successful cases. I see no correlation between adding more art to K-12 and engineers who are part of upper management or founders of new corporations. People in the US have a legacy of believing that anyone can be anything they want. They are not brought up thinking that they should be the best cog in someone else’s system. This really isn’t art or creativity. It’s culture. It’s the idea that even if someone drops out of high school (or Harvard), he/she can still be a success.

    I’ll take Wozniak over Jobs any day, but Jobs was not a potted plant sitting in the corner. Wozniak took a risk (and got a big reward), but top salesmen and management will always earn more money than top engineers. Selling oneself and influencing others is not art. It’s a skill that can be learned, but not from more art and music in K-12.

  33. Sophia says:

    Guess what we are really arguing is– what is “art”?
    I just have a broader definition that it encompasses all disciplines of liberal arts, which includes culture, humanities, communication, understanding people, which is essentially a large part of business.

    But it you are purely referring to design and visual arts, I can agree with most of what you said.

    • SteveH says:

      That’s what you may be arguing, but I’m specifically talking about STEM versus STEAM and what the ‘A’ people want to do. That is what this post is about.

  34. Max says:

    This reads almost like satire.

    Teaching artist Amanda Layten combines dance and math to enrich and engage learning for her preschool students in Falls Church, Va. In one of her lessons, students roll dice and balance on the number they rolled. If they roll a one, they have to balance on one leg.
    “It’s not only learning from root, it’s really understanding through their bodies, through their thinking, creativity and how they apply the knowledge,” said Kouyate, who believes that “math is inherent in dance.” “Children really know that they’re learning.”

    • Daniel says:

      Geez, this sounds like the “alternative” math teacher I found myself to have unfortunately drawn in 6th or 7th grade. It wasn’t quite this nutty, but unfortunately it set me back a year.

  35. SteveH says:

    I have been fighting this math crap since my son was in preschool and I found out our school was using MathLand (“Explain why 2+2=4″). You have to experience it with your kids to believe it. The ‘A’ people in STEAM will only make it worse. I have seen all of their different learning styles and they are just cover for low expecations. The above is an example of kinesthetic learning. Vacuous techniques are hidden by pseudo-scientific talk of how the brain works. Meanwhile, kids get to fifth grade without learning their times table and teachers send home notes to parents to practice “math facts” with their kids. Parents have to do their job.

    This lack of mastery of the basics in K-6 is what the STEM people should be focusing on. Instead, they focus on things like “Project Lead the Way” which assumes that the problems are only engagement and motivation. In other words, it the students’ faults. No. the problem is the vacuous world of K-6 education. As I said, the ‘A’ people will only make it worse.

  36. mfitz says:

    just curious as to why you would “want to nip (STEAM)in the bud”? whereas i am sorry for your being the non-musical person in your family, the “A” for Arts is not just pretty pictures and music recitals. Spatial Ability is a measurable skill, however, not in schools. if we want to find our next Einstein, then we need to find the spatially talented thinkers. those are usually found making something, rather than discussing it.

    here are a few articles about spatial ability for your consideration:

  37. mrsteam says:

    STEM to STEAM — Recognizing the Value of Creative Skills in the Competitiveness Debate
    When American education is in crisis, policy makers and thought leaders roll out the STEM argument, that the science, technology, engineering and math curriculum needs to be emphasized as the cornerstone of American competitiveness in a world where Chinese students do lightening drills on the periodic table of the elements at age 4 (lol).
    There is certainly no question that STEM education and STEM skills are a vital part of this country’s edge, but many educators would argue that STEM is missing a key set of creativity-related components that are equally critical to fostering a competitive and innovative workforce, and those skills are summarized under the letter “A” for Arts.
    Two years ago, the Conference Board and Americans for the Arts, in association with the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), conducted a survey of executives and school superintendents. The study, called Ready to Innovate, demonstrated that more and more companies are looking for skill sets in their new employees that are much more arts/creativity-related than science/math-related. Companies want workers who can brainstorm, problem-solve, collaborate creatively and contribute/communicate new ideas.
    And, interestingly, the study shows that managers are finding a dearth of creative workers trained in these “A” skills. So why is this not part of the overall national debate?
    STEM should be amended to STEAM, an idea that has been kicking around with many people in the creative industries for a few years now, and became a key discussion point of the Americans for the Arts 2007 National Policy Roundtable where the Ready to Innovate study was first unveiled.
    When we look at America’s exports, while technology is a key aspect of what we do, creative culture is the sizzle that sells the steak. Where would Apple be without the killer visual design of their products, their attention-grabbing ad campaigns, the seductive ease of their interface design? Without the “A,” there would be no outlet for all the S,T,E or M.
    “A” skills in the 21st century actually apply to a larger, broader segment of the workforce than STEM skills. America’s competitiveness is equally distinguished by its creative industry productivity and exports, from movies, TV and games (traditionally the highest-ratio export business in the nation) to architecture (Bilbao Guggenheim, anyone?) to the myriad of leading writers, designers, graphic artists and others who use their imagination to create new products and services — and the infrastructure of creative enterprise managers (producers, editors, financiers, marketers) that support and run their businesses. This cadre, that sociologist Richard Florida defined in 2002 as the Creative Class, represents approximately 30 percent of the United States workforce. In contrast, a quick look at NSF statistics indicates that science and engineering makes up approximately 10 to12 percent of the United States workforce.
    In my experience as an executive and entrepreneur sitting on both sides of the creative/technology fence, I need to hire technologists who know how to collaborate in teams, express themselves coherently, engagingly and persuasively, understand how to take and apply constructive criticism, and how to tell a good story. I don’t find these kids sitting alone at a lab table or buried in an algorithm. I find them taking art classes to understand how color and light really work, I find them in writing classes learning how to express themselves, I find them in cultural studies and critical theory classes learning about the world at large.
    We need both sides of this equation. If we can do this: marry the technical with the creative — we are golden: competitive, innovative, and ahead of the curve. So let’s not forget the “A.”

  38. Bill says:

    You STEM-only-advocates are oversimplifying “art” to mean “entertainment.” You could use a little art training yourselves in how to sell your opinions better.

    All the STEM training in the world won’t make scientist and engineers better innovators and communicators. The only advantage America has over other nations is better integration of arts with everything else.

    STEM alone is boring. STEM without the “A” will drive more people to reject STEM than accept it. If you want more STEM students, add the “A.”

  39. SteveH says:

    Nobody questions the need for creativity, but how it’s developed is quite another thing. Art is not music, and those are not the sort of skills necessary for developing what companies may be looking for. In many ways creativity is cheap. It’s easy to be a dreamer. Instead of ‘A’, perhaps we need to add another ‘S’ for Sales. How about ‘O’ for organization?

    What, exactly, is the problem?

    This question is poorly answered and many ‘A’ people can’t handle details. STEAM is a way for the arts people to tap into STEM (which I never liked in the first place) money to water down math and science improvement even more. We don’t need more art-as-math in school. Math, science, art, creativity is not one big problem or something that has to be solved using some sort of holistic learning process, but that is exactly where this money is headed – all because the creative, big thinkers can’t see the concrete details. All because educational pedagogues see only what they want to see.

    Art education in K-8 is crap. No skills. Low expectations, and there is no evidence that this improves creativity. Music is much better. Skills are important and you can’t get away with not mastering an instrument. Does it improve creativity? Who knows? This is all based on a vague definition of creativity and how it’s developed. That’s OK for many because it sounds good. Clearly, dreamers need a little bit more ability to dig into the STEM details of hypothesis and proof.

    We don’t need more Gehry’s who can think up badly curved shapes. We need more people who understand the properties of titanium sheets and how to define and convert complex curved shapes into two-dimensional shapes that can be CNC cut. We need people who can handle details and organize complex systems. We don’t need more dreamers.

    All of these skills don’t have to be in the same person, and education does not have to solve this problem from a holistic standpoint. STEM is bad enough because it only vaguely deals with the real problems. Adding ‘A’ only makes it worse. It tries to funnel the money away from those who want to solve the lack of skills problem to those who cause the STEM problem in the first place.

    Technology develops due to risk and reward. Success is not just a matter of creativity. It has to do with corporate culture and how it deals with risk and the marketplace. Too often, successful companies go down the tube because profit and stock price outweigh risk. Who remembers DEC? They had the “Rainbow” computer. DEC was in the best position to dominate the PC world. This is an MBA-level issue and it has little to do with any sort of creativity of individual employees.

    The problem is corporate culture. On one hand, executives might fill out surveys claiming they want more creative people who can work together, and on the other, they might squelch any and all creative direction from their workers. Creativity is fine as long as it comes from the top-down. The executive survey justification for any and and all problems and solutions is way too common.

    For STEAM, ‘A’ pedagogues are simply trying to tap into more money to feed their agenda, whatever it might be. The problem is not well defined, so their solution is guaranteed to work. STEM will be the loser. The solution cannot be holistic because that’s the problem.

    • markx says:

      SteveH says: June 1, 2013 at 9:50 am

      “…The solution cannot be holistic because that’s the problem….”

      The comment is a terrific summing up of the issue. All very well said.

    • Bill says:

      I might agree with you that STEM is an oversimplification of the problem. But don’t blame the art advocates for wanting to add “A” to the acronym. The original problem was the outdated model from the 1892 Harvard committee of ten. Whether or not STEM is an improvement over this model is debatable. STEM is obviously an attempt to simplify the fields of study. And even if it’s an oversimplification, it’s an oversimplification that has gained a lot of momentum. You may be preaching to the choir when you point out the inadequacy of STEM. If anything adding “A” is an attempt to undo any oversimplification of the new (more widely accepted than STEAM) model of STEM.

      You can’t blame people for wanting to improve things. Don’t make the goal of perfection the enemy of progress. Whatever model is used, arts-based training needs to be a part of it. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math are meaningless without Arts and Humanities.

      You say “In many ways creativity is cheap.” I think you might be mistaking creativity for imagination. You may want to read some of the more recent research findings about what nurtures creativity and how it’s being used outside of the “creative industries.”

      And BTW, Music is Art. At minimum, it’s performing art. Add creativity to music and it’s as artistic as art gets.

      • SteveH says:

        “The original problem was the outdated model from the 1892 Harvard committee of ten.”

        Not that old nugget.

        It’s been a couple of decades since our K-6 schools used anything that resembles “traditional” teaching practices. Our K-6 schools currently use Everyday Math, and before that, they used MathLand, a curriculum so bad that nobody takes ownership of it any more. Add this to a full inclusion environment that has been in use for more than 15 years, and the Harvard committee of ten is only something that is raised when educators want parents to ignore the fact that schools still don’t get it right. In fact it’s worse.

        My son’s fifth grade teacher had to NOT trust the Everyday Math spiral because bright kids did not know the times table. This has nothing to do with wanting perfection or whether art is good or bad. It has to do with basic competence in teaching math. There is no holistic, art-based, top-down analysis that will get anywhere near an understanding of why kids are NOT prepared for STEM careers.

        I tutor high school kids in math and they are so damaged by K-6 math. The solution is NOT adding in more art. The problem is not a lack of engagement or motivation. The problem is bad math curricula and poor teacher understanding of math in K-6. No amount of Project Lead The Way in high school will overcome bad K-6 math curricula.

        The PARCC initiative of the CCSS standards defines their top-level 5 PLD (“distinguished”) as the ability to pass a course in algebra in college. That’s their top level! They start kids on this path in the earliest grades. They specifically ignore the curriculum needs for any student with the ability or willingness to get to a STEM career. I had to help my son at home to get to that level. CCSS institutionalizes low expectations because educators treat students as statistics, not individuals.

        My son started playing the piano when he was 5. I still had to help him at home in math to keep him on track for a STEM career. This has nothing to with art and everything to do with the ability to clearly define the problem and separate the variables. This is not a problem of perfection. It’s a problem of basic educational competence. K-8 educational pedagogues try to redefine math in their own image. It’s amazing how the world changes in high school with traditional math classes taught using proper textbooks. Those headed for a STEM careers are looking towards AP Calculus, not four years of integrated art-based math.

      • Bill says:

        I guess I’m just not familiar with the art-based math problem you are referring to. Art has always been used in teaching math, and I doubt it will get much worse by adding “A” to STEM. I don’t think STEAM advocates are hoping for art-based math as much as their hoping for math-based art, which could only help the students who are disinterested in math.

        My only position is that STEM is an oversimplification, that could only be made more complete with STEAM. Art is as critical to education as math, and a lot more engaging.

      • SteveH says:

        Clearly you don’t understand the problem, but that doesn’t stop you from guessing at some sort of solution.

      • Bill says:

        My guess is as good as yours.

      • SteveH says:

        No it isn’t. I give specific details. You guess.

      • Bill says:

        Just because you use “details” in your guesses doesn’t make them any less of a guess than a guess that uses less detail. At least I know when my opinions are just that (opinions) based on a limited sample of information and a limited perspective. At least I know when my hypotheses are untested.

        Gee, my kids attend public school too. One is a GATE seminar kid. I talk to some of their teachers too. I attend PTA meetings about technology in schools. Oh, and BTW, my wife is a teacher with 2 decades experience. I “live near” institutions that are heavily involved in the STEAM movement too. I’ve attended a few ISTE conferences. I’ve even done a little bit of professional work for national educational book publishers, specifically on the subject of MATH. I just don’t delude myself in to thinking any of the above makes me an expert on the system. I know the difference between a guess and extensive PROFESSIONAL research. I know that my EDUCATED guesses are still guesses.

        Where’s your institutional level studies and statistics to support your “details?” Where’s your NUMBERS? Where’s your quotes from heads of institutions.

      • SteveH says:

        It’s not a guess or a hypothesis that PARCC does not do anything about preparing kids for STEM careers. Their highest PLD level only means passing a college algebra course. You need to go back and carefully reread my posts. Do a search on PARCC and PLD. I’m not going to do basic homework for you.

        Our state offers no money for TAG/GATE programs, so aren’t you lucky and blind to the problem. our state expects schools to teach all kids using holistic and differentiated instruction methods. It doesn’t work for those who might be capable of a STEM career. The teachers know it and the parents know it because they have to fix the problem at home or with tutors.

        It’s well-documented that many students do not properly master basic math skills in K-6, and no amount of art will fix that. Adding art into math in the lower grades will only weaken efforts to prepare more STEM-capable students. I have no objection to adding STEAM electives in high school, but students who are headed for STEM careers will probably be too busy mastering the skills and knowledge of Algebra, Geometry, Pre-Calculus, and Calculus, if they somehow manage to survive K-8 math.

      • Bill says:

        It may be well-documented that “many students do not properly master basic math skills in K-6.” But it’s not well documented that “no amount of art will fix that.” We are talking about STEAM, not STEM. Just because STEM is problematic, doesn’t mean it can’t be fixed by changing STEM to STEAM.

        Show me the documents! Show me the professional research! Show me the falsifiable theories and experiments!

        And keep in mind that not everyone draws the same conclusions from the same data. You are guessing at the conclusions of existing data and you are guessing (the weakest method of predicting) as to the results of experiments that have yet to be conducted.

      • SteveH says:

        “But it’s not well documented that “no amount of art will fix that.” ”

        The onus is on the ‘A’ people to show proof. STEM solutions are not fixing the problem of mastery of basic skills. How on earth would adding art fix that? Your position is classic; educators get to decide based on whatever makes them feel good, but they demand research-based proof from others. I’ve heard this so many times before. When I had to help my son at home to master basic math skills, I was not doing it with art. There is already too much art and other silliness in math.

      • Bill says:

        STEAM advocates need the OPPORTUNITY to prove it before they can prove it. The idea of integrating art into STEM is fairly new. STEM curriculum alone is too new to assess the long-term value, if it’s even been written yet. STEAM curriculum is even further away from being developed and adopted than STEM.

      • SteveH says:

        “Show me the professional research! Show me the falsifiable theories and experiments!”

        And you want to use students as guess and check guinea pigs? How does art fix the fact that K-6 schools don’t teach the mathematical skills specifically needed for STEM? Many thought that CCSS would fix this, but it failed. We parents will still have to ensure necessary STEM skills at home or with tutors, and we won’t use art. What about all of those students who get no help at home?

        At best, art can be used for engagement and motivation as a sideline, but not as a holistic driving force in math. Unfortunately, K-6 educators like to drive the development of math skills top-down using thematic and real world techniques. It doesn’t get the job done, and art is just another one of those things.

        I’ve given talks to students about the mathematics of game software. It doesn’t help much. It’s like eating mathematical Twinkies – they are excited one day, but that motivation is gone as soon as they hit the next homework set on fractions. STEM students are created by curricula that ensure mastery of skills on a day-to-day and year-to-year basis. The biggest help would be to use only math-certified teachers in K-6. Only after that will I care about adding in art. I could talk about perspective transformations and how they are used to create photo-realistic computer graphics. RISD pushes the connection of math and perspective with its STEM-to-STEAM project. That’s great, but it doesn’t solve the problem of STEM education.

        Too many educators think that all kids need is a little more engagement and motivation. No. There are too many other fundamental curricula and teaching flaws.

      • Bill says:

        All your arguments and criticisms seem to be weak or lacking in alternatives.

        Let’s start first with the most ridiculous one: Using students as guinea pigs? What are the alternatives? Using guinea pigs as guinea pigs? Let’s just try out the new STEAM curriculum on real guinea pigs and see how well it works. Yeah, that’s gonna generate some great data for evaluation (/end sarcasm). If a new theory regarding a new educational approach passes the thought experiment test of logic, the next logical step is for it to be tested with real students in order to generate real data for evaluating results.

        You seem to be implying that by making teachers and lessons more effective it will improve student performance despite any student’s lack of interest. I will assume that you aren’t saying “students don’t need to be interested” because anyone with kids should know that you can’t force feed kids knowledge. Assuming you agree that student interest is a factor, there are two real goals regarding art here. The first is to improve the interest level in math, and the second is to improve artistic skill levels. How to make math easier to learn aside from interest level is beside the issue. Nobody is arguing against the idea of making teachers and lessons more effective. The question is HOW to do that.

        On the subject of interest level, nobody is disputing that better math lessons and better math teachers wouldn’t improve math learning, thus improving students’ interest level. Neither the goals of STEM nor STEAM are conflicting with goals of better math teachers and better math lessons. Math is included in both STEM and STEAM. STEM and STEAM are broad and general goals about WHAT should be taught at the curriculum level. HOW the math is taught is a different subject altogether. Getting better math teachers is a matter of training budget and hiring budget. Getting better math lessons is not done at the curriculum level, but instead the materials level. Neither STEM nor STEAM have much to do with getting better materials and even less to do with hiring or training better teachers.

        If trying to get students interested didn’t work for you, then maybe you only succeeded at getting their attention, but not maintaining their attention. Steps to keep students interested must be taken throughout the course, not just in the beginning. Students get that they need some math to do what they are interested in, they just aren’t convinced that the math they are being taught is relevant, or that they personally will need to know the math at the level they are expected to learn it. And who can blame them. How often have we seen newer automation make manual calculating obsolete? With out a project to show the student that it isn’t as simple as owning a calculator, they often lose interest in the drill.

        What you are calling “art-based” and “holistic” is what’s known as project-based-learning. The opposite of project-based-learning is teaching to the test. Even if you get better math teachers and better math lessons, it would still be applied to one or the other of these approaches. By bashing art-based and holistic approaches, you seem to be implying that if we got better teachers and better materials, then the status quo of teaching to the test would work better. But since-project-based learning does not stand in the way of better teachers and better materials and nobody is opposed to the latter two, the only conflict in approach is between project-based-learning and teaching to the test.

        By omission or dismissal of project-based, you support the status quo idea that teaching to the test would work better than project-based-learning for maintaining student interest if only we had better teachers and lessons. Just ask the students what they would prefer, a project to learn from, or a test to cram for. Kids don’t play video games just to rack up points. They enjoy the project and process. Likewise, kids don’t want to spend their entire childhood or even their time in school passing tests.

        The falsifiable theory regarding interest level is simple. If you make learning more relevant to what the kids are interested in, they want to learn more. That can be easily falsified if art entertainment in education and project-based-learning fails to keep students engaged.

        On the subject of artistic skills, you seem to be avoiding this whole side of the equation. This isn’t just about math for the sake of making better mathematicians or art to teach math. It’s about math used in art and art used in real jobs that also use math. If that makes students more interested in math, that would be a bonus. I can’t see why making the connection between math and something that the students are actually interested in would make them less interested in math.

        If you think that STEAM means that the only way math will be taught is with the added sweetener of art, that’s your own false assumption. Math will be taught whether or not it pertains to art. And art will be taught whether or not it pertains to math simply because artistic skills are needed in the work place and far beyond the entertainment industries. Don’t assume that because the interest in art is saturated that the potential of art has been maximized. Artistic research is just beginning to scratch the surface of the potential of artistic skills like creativity, visualization, and communication to solve problems. This is not going away. Any jobs that don’t use artistic skills will probably give way to automation or cheap labor within a generation.

      • SteveH says:

        “If a new theory regarding a new educational approach passes the thought experiment test of logic, …”

        STEAM has not done that. It says nothing about how it will make up for missing curriculum and missing skills. PARCC’s highest level specifically does not provide for STEM preparation in K-6. Many parents have to teach these STEM skills to their kids. How, exactly, is art going to fix that? Link me to a project that explains how that is going to be done.

        “The opposite of project-based-learning is teaching to the test.”

        No it isn’t. This is the typical self-serving analysis by those driven by educational pedagogy, not math. This is not about one methodology or another. It has to do with top-down or bottom up. Those in favor of top-down, project-based learning presume that general concepts and happy-time fun-based learning will get the job done. It hasn’t, which is clearly seen in our town after twenty years of MathLand and Everyday Math. Those complaining about drill and kill conveniently forget the fact that it hasn’t been around for AGES. Adding art is just more of the same.

        It has never been, and will never be, an either/or choice, but those who complain about “teaching to the test” will never find another way to the required level of math skills necessary for STEM. They will be content with happy kids and “active learning” even if there is no chance for them to get the skills necessary for a STEM career. They can’t define those skills. Meanwhile, parents who know better will get the job done at home or at Kumon and provide enough successful examples to make the holistic fuzzies feel good. They won’t check to see if their students can pass any test because they just don’t like those pesky tests.

        I know that this is a fundamental area of philosophical disagreement, so I am all for increasing the number of charter schools and letting parents decide. Let’s see how many urban parents choose a STEAM charter school. That is a whole lot more fair than having educational pedagogues force kids to be guinea pigs against their wills.

        “Any jobs that don’t use artistic skills will probably give way to automation or cheap labor within a generation.”

        This is not even wrong. Do you know anything about STEM jobs? Wozniak is not Jobs and Jobs was not Wozniak. Wozniak is no robot, in spite of never getting STEAMed, and Jobs could never have been Wozniak. And Jobs was a jerk to work for.

      • Bill says:

        You say: “It says nothing about how it will make up for missing curriculum and missing skills. Many parents have to teach these STEM skills to their kids. How, exactly, is art going to fix that? Link me to a project that explains how that is going to be done.”

        The closest thing I’ve seen to developing a curriculum is a framework from Georgette Yakman.

        That framework is only being used by a few institutions. I don’t know what RISD is doing at the K-12 level if they are doing anything. There’s also been a few books published. ISBN: 1481165739 and 1452258333

        You could actually look at these models and direct your criticism at them, or you could just keep GUESSING about what you think STEAM isn’t doing or trying to do. But even if you find fault with them, you would only be finding fault with a few of the many possible directions for the STEAM movement. It’s too soon to say what would be widely adopted because the STEAM movement is in it’s infancy. There are many more ideas yet to come. The STEAM eggs have barely hatched and skeptics like you are trying to kill the movement before it even gets the opportunity to fail.

        Don’t blame STEAM for STEM’s problems. STEAM is the younger more holistic idea than STEM. Most of the STEAM advocates are just trying to get a seat at the discussion table right now. And most of the skeptics (like you) don’t even know what STEAM is planning because the skeptics are busy speculating (guessing) what the movement is about instead of actually listening.

        And yes, teaching to the test is the opposite of project-based. Project-based is newer in schools. Teaching to the test is the status quo in most of the country, and it’s only gotten worse with NCLB. RTTT hasn’t calmed the obsession with testing either. The real world is project-based learning. Teaching to the test is what separates learning in schools from real world learning. I don’t know what happened in your district. But whatever you are calling project-base top-down holism sounds more like a botched or sabotaged attempt at project-based. Most of the country hasn’t even experimented with it yet. My wife is a teacher in a cutting-edge district, of a cutting-edge city, in a cutting-edge state, and they are still figuring out the best way to do project-based. Heck, tools and technology for teaching and doing projects is changing so fast, nobody can predict what project-based will look like before the decade is out.

        As for your Wozniak vs Steve Jobs comment, look who got to run the company for decades. When was the last time Wozniak designed a computer? Who are the Wozniaks of today? There aren’t any because engineering tasks are much more minimized, divided, and automated now than they were in 1970. Your next Wozniak will be a combination of WATSON and ASIMO following the specs of a human, most likely an art and design school graduate.

      • SteveH says:

        “The closest thing I’ve seen to developing a curriculum is a framework from Georgette Yakman.

        This is not specific at all. This is one of the things they say:

        “S-T-E-M with the A includes;
        • sharing knowledge with communication and language arts, ‘voice’ – impact, power, legacy
        • a working knowledge of manual and physical arts, including how-to and fitness,
        • better understanding the past and present cultures and aesthetics through the fine arts,
        • rhythmic and emotional use of math with the musical arts,
        • understanding sociological developments, human nature and ethics with the liberal arts…”

        This is so silly and filled with classic ed school jargon, and it doesn’t address the largest STEM problem of lack of skills. It’s only vague happy talk.

        This is the giveaway, and it defines what they are really about:

        STEAM: A Framework for Teaching Across the Disciplines

        This is not about providing kids with more skills in art, music, and math. STEAM is being used to push their educational pedagogy – holistic, project-based learning. You cannot hijack STEM and the arts to push your own ideas of teaching and learning.

        Our K-6 schools teach a lot of art and they offer many music opportunities. Many parents also provide their kids with art and music opportunities on the side. Our high school offers many music and art opportunities. One can end up taking AP Music or AP Art. I’m all in favor of increasing our minimal high school fine arts requirements so that more kids are exposed to the arts (in separate classes). I always fight budget cuts to the arts. My son will be playing in our state honors recital next weekend. However, I will fight any proposal to teach all classes in an integrated, project-based fashion.

        So, what, exactly, is the problem? Do we need more students who are experts in all areas of STEM and arts? What is that level? What, specifically are the courses, material, and skills that are needed? Or, do we need more content experts who can better work together as a team on larger projects?

        It’s clear that many involved with STEM and STEAM are using them to drive their favorite process of teaching and learning, even though there are clear problems with rigor. Math becomes math appreciation, not a careful process of building skills that allow kids to get into a college of engineering or RISD.

        STEAM is turning out to be all about a holistic learning process, not a method for ensuring that more students are properly prepared in art, music, or math. It’s a romantic view of education that puts process clearly before rigor and high expectations.

        There is nothing on that web site link that gives any curriculum details. It just consists of one silly quote after another, like this:

        “STEM skills are critical for every student, but the creativity portion must also be adopted to produce an innovative workforce.”

        No. It’s not critical for every student to have STEM skills (getting to calculus). And of course, creativity is never translated into anything specific. It’s just a vague justification for project-based learning.

        Holistic is just a cover for low expectations, and THAT is the problem. I see nothing on that web site that shows how STEM skills are properly developed in K-8. They are using STEM and the arts to justify their own view of education.

        The closest thing I’ve see that can work is the Harkness Table approach. That’s a Socratic approach, but it isn’t holistic or necessarily project based. It also requires higher individual student expectations. It also requires well trained teachers who keep the process on track. That will never happen in K-6 where a major problem is that teachers either don’t know or don’t like math.

        I will have to redouble my efforts to make sure that these proposals only end up in charter schools and not forced down students’ throats. Let the parents and results decide.

      • SteveH says:

        “Teaching to the test is the status quo in most of the country, and it’s only gotten worse with NCLB. RTTT hasn’t calmed the obsession with testing either. The real world is project-based learning.”

        This philosophy is the reason why there are not more STEM-prepared students. This is classic ed school philosophy. Somehow, there is some other knowledge that makes it OK to do poorly on trivial standardized tests. In our state, the tests are created and calibrated by teachers. It will soon be replaced by the PARCC test, where their top level (“distinguished”) means being able to pass a course in college algebra. And you are complaining about this level of expectation?

        What is this other project-based understanding that will create students who will be prepared to do well in calculus? This is the key course for all STEM careers, unless you want to water-down STEM into something you see in the mirror. How can you talk about solving a problem you don’t understand?

      • SteveH says:

        “Who are the Wozniaks of today? There aren’t any because engineering tasks are much more minimized, divided, and automated now than they were in 1970.”

        You’re completely guessing here. “There aren’t any”? “Minimized, divided, and automated”? I don’t even know what that means, and I have been writing engineering software for 35 years. There are amazing things being done even if you don’t know about them.

        My wife is a senior Unix Admin and project lead. Engineering and computers are all about skills and keeping up with new innovations – on your own time. Businesses might send you out for training, but it’s NEVER project-based learning. Creativity is never a problem. Lack of skills, however, IS a big problem.

        Most in management do not delegate creativity. At best, they form teams, but the teams are made up of experts, not generalists. This does not imply that schools need to teach using team or project methods starting in the earliest grades. When companies build teams, it’s not for teaching or learning. Members are supposed to be prepared already. Working together on a team project is an important skill, but one that can be learned in separate classes or courses. You don’t have to drive all learning with that process. All it does is weaken the development of specfic content skills and knowledge. In college, we had senior year team projects to design large stuctures. Why on earth would anyone think that you have to drive all learning using that process?

        Randy Prausch at Carnegie Mellon was well known for development of the Entertainment Technology Center graduate program that brought together specialists from various fields. It is a wonderful program (option not forced on everyone) AND it’s a graduate program.

        Holistic, project-based learning in K-6 is all about fuzzy skills with no value given to specific content knowledge and skills. That’s obvious as soon as someone talks about teaching to the test. It also completely misunderstands the problem of preparing students for STEM careers.

      • Bill says:

        I think I understand your fears about holistic education. You seem to be afraid that holistic means every student must learn a little bit of everything, and no student gets to specialize or learn much about anything. If that is the case, I don’t see holistic education denying students the opportunity to specialize. I see holistic education as making it easier for students to choose a specialty by learning their individual aptitude and knowing better how their specialty relates to other specialties in the big scheme of things. It’s either and any combination of multidisciplinary, cross-disciplinary, and specialized education.

        No STEAM advocates are talking about watering down calculus. A student can gravitate towards the “M” in STEM, just as easily as they will be able to avoid the “A” in STEAM. The STEM to STEAM movement is about giving students more options in STEM and making more informed choices when choosing a specialty.

        I think I understand your fears about project-base learning. You seem to be afraid that it means you never get to learn anything in depth if it doesn’t tie into the project. If that is the case, I know for a fact project-based is not project based 100% of the time. There will be times when lessons will go into greater depth than what the project calls for because of required knowledge. Project-based and teaching to the test are extreme ends of the spectrum, and all lessons will fall at varying points in between. But when you take out the project, there is no spectrum and you are teaching to a test regardless of whether or not you intend to.

        You say “Businesses might send you out for training, but it’s NEVER project-based learning. Creativity is never a problem. Lack of skills, however, IS a big problem.” If they are paying you to do anything, it’s to be productive with PROJECTS. They aren’t just paying you to learn. And if you haven’t learned anything on the project (your actual job, not just your training) then you must not be looking to learn, because there’s always room for improvement and not every problem is anticipated. If they sent you out for creativity training, you would see how a lack of creativity SKILLS is a problem, just not at the engineering level. It’s at the design and marketing level, which is often upstream from engineering. Engineers without creativity are evolutionary innovators at best. Engineer/designers with creativity (like Wozniak) are revolutionary innovators, not just evolutionary.

        You say “creativity is never translated into anything specific.” Georgette Yakman may not be doing it enough. But it’s being done well by leaders like Sir Ken Robinson. It’s learning about what processes stimulate and nurture creativity, not about assessing the results of creativity. And one of the books I linked gets in to the neuroscience behind these creative processes. As I said to Max, Georgette Yakman is just trying to get the ball rolling.

        You say ““Minimized, divided, and automated”? I don’t even know what that means, and I have been writing engineering software for 35 years.” That’s because they aren’t engineering terms, and especially not software-engineering terms. They are economics and human resource terms that can be applied to the engineering business. Engineers don’t ask to have their work and jobs minimized, divided, or automated. It’s just another one of the cost-saving trends in business that look good on a quarterly earnings report even if product quality suffers. Feel free to dismiss this as just another one of those vague artistic social intelligence observations if you’d like.

        Overall, I think you and Max are arguing about something completely different. Max is arguing for STEM not STEAM. I’m arguing that STEAM completes STEM. You are arguing against both. You are changing the subject of the original post with your skepticism against project-based learning. I think you might be better off arguing against that as a separate subject, because neither STEM or STEAM are at that level of concern. You would probably get more of the specific feedback you seek that way. STEM and STEAM are at the curriculum level, not the course, lesson, or materials level. The problems you are concerned with are at the course and lesson level. The courses and lessons will meet the curriculum without compromising the details of what needs to be taught, such as advanced calculus. And the qualifications and potential bias of teachers is yet another unrelated subject altogether.

      • SteveH says:

        “The STEM to STEAM movement is about giving students more options in STEM and making more informed choices when choosing a specialty.”

        This isn’t or wasn’t ever a zero-sum game. An emphasis on STEM does not take away from art or music. Students have plenty of chances for finding what they might like to specialize in, as long as they are given appropriate skills and knowledge in each area. Adding ‘A’ to STEM does NOT give more options in STEM career paths. It just waters down curricula that already do not ensure required K-6 STEM math skills. STEM career chances are over by 7th grade for many kids.

        “I’m arguing that STEAM completes STEM.”

        It does not. Schools offer plenty of art and music. Music is done well at some schools, but art in K-8 is usually not. My son had to color (with crayons!) science terms on 3X5 cards in sixth grade even though he could memorize them faster than the time he would take to find his crayons. Crayon art in sixth grade, and rubrics that gave him a bad grade if the art was not done well. Did they ever teach skills for art or graphic design. No. Holistic, cross-discipline (e.g. writing across the curriculum) techniques have been around for ages and they don’t work. My son does not have to write about his favorite number or explain why 2+2=4. Because of ideas of learning styles, my son had to do all sorts of art in all of his classes. Apparently, everyone is supposed to have a visual learning style. My son had to do many dioramas in different subjects with no help in graphic design or layout. I had to teach him those things at home.

        “STEM and STEAM are at the curriculum level, not the course, lesson, or materials level. The problems you are concerned with are at the course and lesson level.”

        No. I’m talking about how CCSS allows schools to use math curricula that do not teach the skills necessary for a STEM career. These curricula use student-centered, mixed-ability, in-class group projects, many of which are real-world or holistic-based. These things have been going on for years.

        Math development is more critical than other subjects, and most K-6 schools treat all kids the same. Our schools use full inclusion and the ability range is very wide. There is no pull-out or TAG/GATE allowed in our state. To try to get this to work, our schools use differentiated instruction. It doesn’t work, and teachers know that it doesn’t work. They send home notes telling parents to work on “math facts”. Parents have to provide the missing material and skills at home or with tutors.

        Art across the curriculum is nothing new and it will not “complete” or fix STEM preparation. AP and IB curricula drive (non-holistic) courses in high school and sometimes those requirements get driven back into middle school, especially for math and languages. However, they seem to hit a philosophical wall in K-6, where all kids are treated equally and expectations are low. In math, this means that those kids who are willing or able to get to a STEM career have to make a big leap to recover from the low expectations of K-6, and this requires help from home or with tutors. The missing piece is not art.

        The current educational meme is to claim that engagement and motivation are all you need to fix these problems. Students are supposed to become life-long learners. In other words, the onus is on the student even when it comes to basic skills and knowledge. Teachers only want to do the fun, project stuff in class and be only the guide-on-th-side. Complaining about teaching to the test is just a cover for low expectations.

        STEAM is just the latest thing in this line of thnking. You can’t view STEAM as only an ideal concept. You have to see the implementations, and I see nothing new.

      • Bill says:

        I will agree with you that you see nothing new. It’s because you aren’t looking for what’s new. You oversimplify art to mean “entertainment” and you oversimplify most problems to math problems, which is why you think it’s as easy as more emphasis on math. You have no clue about what’s emerging in the way of artistic research and the demand for interdisciplinary skills in education. You are guessing even more than you’ve accused me of guessing.

        Because you keep talking about what failed decades ago, it makes me suspect that you are unaware of recent changes in educational technology that have changed the dynamics of project-based learning and self-paced learning. If you get a student motivated, they find the math lesson online in KHAN Academy anytime any where. The emphasis have shifted to constructivist learning and “flipping” the classroom. And projects are much more relevant to what needs to be taught for 21st century needs. Employers are demanding much more than math experts. Employers want abstract problem-solvers, communication skills, and creativity at all levels except for the absolute low-skilled cheap labor bottom.

        You have an engineering mind. And I understand that because I have more of an engineering mind than most of my fellow artists. I know how easy it is to get into programmer mode, oversimplify problems, and treat people like machines. I know how easy it is to dismiss emotions as unimportant.

        Engagement and motivation are the most important things in K-6. Once a kid gets hooked on learning, even the bad teachers won’t stop the kid from learning at his/her full potential. Most K-6 teachers have to teach while dealing with emotional problems and learning disabilities. You do a lot of guessing about what teachers want and how low their expectations are. I suspect you haven’t volunteered in a K-6 class room (recently if at all) or actually asked a K-6 teacher what they struggle with.

      • SteveH says:

        “You have no clue about what’s emerging in the way of artistic research and the demand for interdisciplinary skills in education.”

        Give me a link to “artistic research”, and what, if anything, it has to do with ensuring STEM skills.

        As for the demand in education for these things, what educators demand is what they like, not what will necessarily work.

        In terms of art – music specifically – all I need to do is look at El Sistema. It is NOT STEAM and it’s all about skills. There really is a world of difference between art and music. However, STEAM is mostly defined by the art people. Too bad.

        “Because you keep talking about what failed decades ago, …”

        You can’t just make up things. I’ve talked specifically about what has happened in the last two decades, and it’s all about project-based, thematic, real-world, mixed-ability in-class learning techniques. I’ve seen it first hand with my son, and it includes a lot of art. It doesn’t work, but it makes educators feel all warm and fuzzy. Our K-6 schools have used Everyday Math for the last 10 years, and MathLand before that. MathLand was so bad that nobody takes responsibility for it anymore, and Everyday Math tells teachers to “trust the spiral” – a huge cop-out.

        “If you get a student motivated, they find the math lesson online in KHAN Academy anytime any where.”

        Yes, this is the mantra of educational pedagogy of the last two decades – all educators have to do is to provide some sort of vague motivation and the student will magically get the hard work done. Khan allows them to push all of the things they don’t want to do on someone else. Forget the ability of teachers to look in their eyes and give students immediate feedback. I know all about Khan and flipping the classroom. The onus is on the student. Educators have no responsibility other than to have fun, happy-time learning in class. This is a huge cop-out.

        “And projects are much more relevant to what needs to be taught for 21st century needs.”

        Yes, pull out the old 21st century skills nugget. This justifies anything. It ususlly has nothing to do with STEM.

        “Employers are demanding much more than math experts. Employers want abstract problem-solvers, communication skills, and creativity at all levels except for the absolute low-skilled cheap labor bottom.”

        This is also old and trite – and meaningless because when educators pull this out, there are no specifics.

        “You have an engineering mind.”

        And I know specifically what has to be learned in K-6 to have any chance of getting to a STEM career. You don’t. Art completes STEM is so meaningless when educators pushing STEM aren’t even close. As I said before, PARCC does not require any development of STEM skills. Art won’t fix that.

        “I know how easy it is to get into programmer mode, oversimplify problems, and treat people like machines. I know how easy it is to dismiss emotions as unimportant.”

        You have this backwards. Artists seriously need a good dose of logic and reality, especially when it comes to what is required for STEM careers. It’s quite noticeable the correlation between STEM and music, but not STEM and art. Musicians know all about hard work and skills. Engineers as one-dimensional nerds is so wrong.

        “Engagement and motivation are the most important things in K-6. Once a kid gets hooked on learning, even the bad teachers won’t stop the kid from learning at his/her full potential.”

        This is so incredibly (romantically) wrong. This philosophy is the cause of so many problems in K-6. It just doesn’t work. A bottom-up approach to ensuring basic skills does work and does not preclude engagement and motivation. However, every attempt at a thematic top-down approach using engagement and motivation ALWAYS leaves the mastery of skills up to the student because teachers don’t like “drill and kill” and “teaching to the test”. They send home notes telling parents to do this. I’ve gotten those notes. This guarantees that only those kids who get help at home or will tutors will ever have a chance to get to a STEM career. It will be all over by seventh grade – SPECIFICALLY because of this educational belief.

        “Most K-6 teachers have to teach while dealing with emotional problems and learning disabilities. You do a lot of guessing about what teachers want and how low their expectations are. I suspect you haven’t volunteered in a K-6 class room (recently if at all) or actually asked a K-6 teacher what they struggle with.”

        I know exactly what K-6 teachers have to deal with, and many of them see the problems of education as what walks into their classroom. This is really their own problem, not the problem of education. It’s too easy to hide behind full inclusion. It’s too easy to complain about testing when the ability of their students cover many grade levels. That’s a tough problem, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Schools can separate students by willingness or ability. Tracking by age is a huge cop-out. It’s a romantic view of how all kids are the same. One charter school in our area uses what it calls a full-inclusion environment, but the core courses separate students by results. If a school does not deal with these problems, then no amount of dreamland engagement and motivation and STEAM will fix it. It does NOT get the job done.

  40. Max says:

    Despite the record number of people unemployed and looking for work, many of them “often simply do not possess the key skills employers are looking for, indicating a clear mismatch between educators and employers in preparing young people for the workplace,” Manpower’s survey said.
    The roles most difficult to fill around were skilled trades workers, engineers and sales representatives. Employers also reported that accounting, finance, management and executive positions were increasingly hard to find.

    If only they studied more arts…

    • Bill says:

      Perhaps the arts would help generate interest in engineering, sales, accounting, finance, and management if only people didn’t oversimplify the meaning of art to “entertainment.” Perhaps they would see how artistic creativity and communication skills could be applied to engineering, sales, accounting, finance, and management.

      • Max says:

        I doubt that a larger emphasis on the arts would encourage more people to major in engineering, accounting, and management. Maybe if they have a really bad experience in the arts.

      • Bill says:

        They are less likely to have a bad experience in art than they would in any other subject. And that says nothing about how important the other subjects might be compared to art.

        I wouldn’t call adding an “A” to STEM a larger emphasis on art. Instead, it’s inclusion of art where it would have been completely excluded.

        Young students already put more emphasis in entertainment (the narrower definition of art) because our American culture values entertainers more than engineers, sales reps, accountants, etc. A more formalized art education could redirect their interest in art for entertainment towards a less saturated more obtainable career where art is applied to engineering, sales, accounting, finance, and management. But I guess not being able to imagine how artistic skills like creativity and communication can be applied to engineering, sales, accounting, finance, and management would make that a difficult task. Maybe they should ask an artist instead of an engineer, sales rep, or accountant how to do it.

        Or we could just keep guessing why young people might be disinterested in learning about engineering, sales, accounting, finance, and management. Heck, let’s just blame the teachers. They’re easy scapegoats.

      • Max says:

        I got it! Give students a terrible experience in art class, and do something fun like building a robot in engineering class.

      • Bill says:

        No need to build robots. The students will be the robots.

        If you leave art out, it will be the school system that is making robots out of students. And then we can all act surprised when they hit the workforce in a decade or two only to find out there’s no paying jobs because real robots are better at building robots than people who act like robots.

      • Bill says:

        Back in the days when “computer” was a job title and not a machine, I’m sure the future looked bright for people being trained as “computers.”

      • Max says:

        Obviously I mean design and build a robot, not just assemble an existing design. That’s what engineers do, invent, design, and build things. See the FIRST Robotics Competition.

      • Bill says:

        Design is an art-based skill just as much as it’s an engineering-based skill, if not more. As much as it helps to know what is practical, it also helps to think beyond what one knows how to execute. Engineers don’t think outside the box as well as artists. It often take someone who doesn’t know engineering to push engineers beyond what engineers think is possible. Not knowing that it’s impossible is what makes the impossible possible.

        I know engineers hate working with artists for this reason, but the best innovations comes from that combination. Engineering and art are counter-balancing disciplines, that are synergistic in collaboration.

      • Bill says:

        How to Make ‘Nerdy’ Subjects Even Better: Just Add Art

        Quote from Kirk Roskam: “Steve Jobs wasn’t just looking for engineers. He was actually looking for engineers that were artistic.”

      • Max says:

        When Steve Jobs complained that Apple had to move production overseas because the company couldn’t find 30,000 skilled manufacturing engineers in America, he wasn’t talking about artistic skills.

      • Bill says:

        The part about “he wasn’t talking about artistic skills” was an assumption on your part. There is no mention of that in the article. Nothing Steve said dismissed the need for Art skills. The article I linked mentioned Art skills in addition to Engineering skills. And they aren’t mutually exclusive.

        Nice try Max. Good sleight of hand.

      • Max says:

        Go to, and look up their engineering job descriptions.

        Typical example: Sr. IC Packaging Designer

        Job Summary: In this hands-on role, you will own and drive the process by utilizing your experience in SoC packaging, physical design, as well as layout.

        Key Qualifications: Typically requires at least 5-10+ years of hands-on experience with Cadence APD/SIP for package design and layout.
        -Basic knowledge using SI/PI tools for package model extraction, S-parameters and RLGC model.
        -Familiar with flip chip and wire bond package technology w.r.t. bumping, ABF/prepreg substrate design rules, thermal mechanical requirements.
        -Working knowledge of high speed interfaces, including LPDDR, PCIE, etc.

        Education: BS or MS in Electrical or Mechanical Engineering.

        It lists the key skills they’re looking for right there. See anything about art?

      • Bill says:

        1. The word “design” and “layout” are art related terms. It’s about creativity and artistic technique. There is much overlap between the skill of optimizing space for circuitry and optimizing space for eye-flow or aesthetics. As these engineers move up through the ranks, they may go beyond the guts of the machines and get into the parts that have to do with appeal to humans like the interphase or the aesthetics of the chassis. That’s part of user-experience design and industrial design. Look up all these terms on wikipedia.

        2. We were talking about Steve Jobs. If you are talking about current job descriptions, you are talking something that may have been changed since the passing of Steve Jobs. And even if it hadn’t changed since Steve Jobs’ passing, it doesn’t mean that Steve Jobs was involved at that level.

        3. What’s called for in an online job description is going to be much more brief and general than what will be specifically looked for in screening thousands of applications. And even if the artistic skills are not looked for in the initial resume screening, it doesn’t mean they won’t be looked for in the first interview or one of the follow up interviews.

  41. Holly says:

    What I find interesting and you may not know, is that NASA supports STEAM. I went to a conference last summer in Baltimore and they sent a representative to contribute to their feelings that design and visuals are important to the things that are happening in STEM. Also, don’t forget, the use of Art and visuals can make STEM stuff more interesting and understandable to students.

  42. An Educator says:

    I hear a lot of arguments, but I’m wondering how many comments are from people who have actually work in education or have experience in education other than being a student or a parent. Considering the evidence presented and the extremely anecdotal reasoning, it appears that these evaluations are based on an outsider’s perspective of how the brain aquires information. STEAM academies are not purposed to produce the next Shakespeare or Da Vinci. They use the arts experience to aide in creating schemas in the mind so that the students can have an experience to associate with what they are actually learning, versus simply being receptors of information. The Arts actually helps to create dendrites which better cements learning. The arts has been used in a variety of therapeutic approaches and has even been used to aid in the recovery patients with brain injuries. Scientists surmised that if the arts can help brain development in unhealthy brains, then it would probably also help in the development of a healthy brain.

    Although the Arts standards are utilized and students are assessed on both content and fine arts standards to encourage students to hone in on their unique style of learning. It’s the process that is highlighted, not the product.

    It’s a good thing policy makers in education look at the data, instead of highlighting their personal experience with education and applying it to the rest of the world.

    And to the person who only got BS out of their AP English class, it’s a pity you were left with this impression. Literary arts has a definite methodology and skill that can be taught and applied accross the disciplines and includes more than just looking at metaphors. In fact, many of the founders of this very country were great writers of prose and poetry and were able to use this skill of communicating in more than just the “fluff” areas of artistic expression.

    • SteveH says:

      “It’s a good thing policy makers in education look at the data, instead of highlighting their personal experience with education and applying it to the rest of the world.”

      Yes, let’s look at all of those educators who have taken a proper course in statistics in college. “Research shows” is a classic comment by educators, but most of the research is designed to show what they want to see. What Works Clearinghouse is filled with rejected research. What’s left is statistically meaningless. Then there is all of this pseudo-scientific/STEM talk, as if they have the educational background to evaluate it effectively:

      “how the brain aquires information”

      “creating schemas in the mind”

      “helps to create dendrites which better cements learning.”

      “Scientists surmised”

      Surmise, apparently, is good enough “data” if it reinforces what you believe. They throw out all of this fancy talk, but never show that it works. They don’t have the STEM skill of digging down into the details. What are details when you have a really neat philosophy?

      I call all of this “brain research misdirection”. Quick, what is 6*7? Did it work? What is 2/3 divided by 7/16? Let’s use Professor Hill’s “Think System” to figure it out. That’s STEAM, right? This view is simply cover for low expectations. Engagement and motivation places the entire onus of mastery of basic skills onto the student, and if they don’t get the job done, well, it must be an IQ thing. That’s exactly what happens when Everyday Math tells teachers to “trust the spiral”. It doesn’t work. When kids are sorted into the low level math path to nowhere in 7th grade, even the kids will believe that they are just not good in math. No. The system failed them. I tutor high school kids and I see this every day. They struggle because they are missing basic skills. Even after 20+ years of fuzzy, trust-the-spiral math, it doesn’t get the job done. Adding in art, which is nothing new, is a new, exciting cover for past failures.

      “It’s the process that is highlighted, not the product.”

      This is a huge cop-out. “Trust the spiral”. When it doesn’t work, educators just complain about teaching to the test and point to successes like my son, but never ask what many parents have to do at home. This is not just modeling a love of learning and turning off the TV. Educators think that somehow less can be more by just talking about the wonders of engagement and motivation and how the brain works. As I said before, this is like eating mathematical Twinkies. Yummy, but it has no substance whatsoever. Heaven forbid that you have to pull out the flash cards. Just send notes home to parents telling them to work on “math facts”. Let them buy the flash cards or pay for tutors. Educators just want to do the fun stuff. And, if a K-6 school uses full inclusion, there is no possible way that educators can ensure mastery of anythng because kids’ abilities span multiple grades. How conveeeeenient! All you have to do is to come up with a justification that the process is all that matters. It works automatically, and if it doesn’t, don’t look at them. It must be IQ, peers, family, society, or whatever else. If you keep pumping kids along in K-6, then it’s a whole lot easier to put the blame on the kids once they get to high school. They will even believe it themselves.

      Success in STEM is driven downwards from college via the AP calculus course. It keeps all high schools honest. Even those with fuzzy integrated math curricula are forced to deal with reality of preparing students for this test. This is what colleges use to judge students for STEM departments. This annoys many K-8 educational pedagogues who think that only the process matters and not those stinky tests.

      The AP calculus course forces high schools to provide a proper sequence of math in high school; algebra, geometry, algebra II, pre-calc, and calculus. Most middle schools offer algebra to those who are ready in 8th grade. Success in this course in 8th grade is the biggest indicator of whether a student has a chance for a STEM career. It shouldn’t be this way, but it is. Too many students are damaged by K-6 math such that they will never recover. Schools could survey the parents of their successful 8th grade algebra students about how much help they got at home with basic skills. This is a very easy thing to do, but nobody does it. The need to prepare kids for geometry as a freshman forced our middle school to get rid of the fuzzy (and low expectation) CMP math program, but this effort at more rigor hit a pedagogical brick wall at sixth grade. The fuzzy dreamland world of K-6 has to make way for the rigors pushed down from the realities of the real world. Most kids can handle these things, but they are completely unprepared after K-6. There is clearly a nonlinear jump in expectations for many kids when they enter 7th grade, and teachers love to stick it to kids to toughen them up for high school. They have to learn to take control over their own education to become life-long learners. In some bad cases, it’s used for class control. What a horrible thing to do to kids after 6 years of fuzzy “they will learn when they are ready” philosophy. I taught a SSAT prep class for 7th and 8th graders and even many of the bright kids were saying that they were just stupid. They actually said that. No. They just crossed the big pedagogical divide from dreamland to reality.

      Most of this talk of “process is king” goes away starting in 7th grade. Knowledge and skills and GPA are king in high school. AP classes drive preparation for college. One might prefer a more “natural” process of education, but that’s not what drives the STEM world or the admission to most colleges. Just don’t expect to change reality to fit your philosophy. That’s what educators are trying to do with STEM and STEAM. They ignore reality and expect their philosophy and their (pick and choose) “data” is all they need.

      It just does NOT work. It’s been going on for at least 20 years. Where are the results after you eliminate all of the students who got specific help at home or with tutors?

      • Bill says:

        “Just don’t expect to change reality to fit your philosophy.”

        Try taking your own advice.

        Your hole argument is based on your individual premise that math is king and that you think reductionism works better than holism in education. That’s your individual philosophy from your individual perspective. And you assume that people who are citing statistics that conveniently fit their philosophy are some how ignoring reality more than you in the process, as if it’s somehow impossible to do both. If you love numbers so much, where’s your numbers to support your point of views about education or reality?

        Reality is not a static concept. Reality is dynamic. Reality is collective and social, not individualized. Reality is affected (changed) by everyone who comes in contact with it. Reality is not something that can be completely understood from one engineer’s perspective. Reality and philosophy aren’t mutually exclusive. Philosophy is a big part of what makes reality. Every active person’s philosophy changes reality ever so slightly every day. Reality is not made entirely of crisp discrete numbers and absolute values that can be calculated. Statistical and financial math matters more to most people in reality than engineering math. Less predictable emotions are a bigger factor in what changes reality than mathematical knowledge. Nobody can calculate their way through life. The greater part of reality is dynamic and fuzzy.

        I’ll bet the average active holistic philosophical creative artists knows more about what works in a dynamic collective social and fuzzy reality than the average passive reductionist calculative engineer, because while the engineer is busy measuring reality, the artist is busy changing the social dynamics of reality.

      • SteveH says:

        “Your hole argument is based on your individual premise that math is king and that you think reductionism works better than holism in education.”

        Wow. You clearly don’t have a grasp of what I have been talking about. Your reality is to ignore all of my specific details and arguments.

        Thanks for showing why parents need school choice.

      • Bill says:

        You’re not being specific either when you accuse me of ignoring any of the details of your argument, let alone “all” the details.

  43. Max says:

    I think STEM as a category mainly makes sense for college degrees, because they’re in demand for engineering and technology jobs.
    It makes less sense as a category of jobs, because frankly there aren’t that many math and science jobs. Most physicists I know are working as engineers or quants.
    It also makes less sense for education in general, because everyone could benefit from learning subjects like critical thinking, ethics, and management, even if those aren’t specifically STEM subjects.

  44. JD Stone says:

    I think you’re all missing the point.

    If you can push aside your religious fervor, you can see that it really just comes down to supply and demand. This has nothing to do with which fields of study are better or more useful. They all are to some degree, or they wouldn’t exist.

    But if you *want* to argue about which fields are more important or useful, go ahead, but that has nothing to do with the debate between STEM and STEAM.

    It’s STEM without an A, not because Arts aren’t *important*. It’s because there are a glut of grads with BA’s sliding out of colleges every year and not nearly enough STEM grads with BS/BEng. This is why we sponsor 1000’s of TN and H-1B visas every year to young technically educated foreign nationals while Art History, Poli Sci, and Sociology majors go wait tables and sell used cars.

    If there were far too many STEM grads and not enough of those educated in Arts, then and only then should we as a society and our government find ways to encourage the opposite.

    • Bill says:

      If Arts and Humanities majors go wait tables and sell used cars, it’s because those subjects aren’t being taught well enough and the graduates are being underutilized. It’s not because arts and humanities aren’t needed as much as engineering. The amount of social and diplomatic failures in society that lead to wars and suffering, coupled with the amount of people choosing to pursue arts and humanities careers are enough evidence that better quality education for Arts and Humanities and better utilization of the graduates are all in demand by citizens.

      Inversely, if amoral careers like engineering and number-crunching are in high demand by employers, it’s probably because enough people recognize how amoral and unfulfilling those careers are aside from a means of making-money and choose not to pursue them despite the promise of job security and higher pay.

      • Max says:

        Man that’s convoluted, but hey, whatever makes you feel better. When high tech companies import engineers because Americans don’t have the necessary skills, while Arts majors wait tables because they can’t find work, that couldn’t be because better quality STEM education is in demand, while Arts is not. That would be too obvious. It must mean that Arts is too in demand but nobody realizes it, and engineering lacks supply because it’s “amoral” unlike waiting tables or designing corporate logos and commercial jingles.

      • Bill says:

        You obviously missed the part about who is demanding what is considered to be in demand. Wealthy stake holders and employers aren’t demanding the same things that citizens and students are demanding. It’s the disconnect between supply and demand that’s the problem. It’s why you have people willing to wait tables instead of spend their lives building machines and crunching numbers for the establishment.

      • Max says:

        To employers and the public, a glut of humanities majors is high supply, not high demand. For humanities departments in colleges, it’s high demand.

      • Bill says:

        Education is not just about teaching people how to make money. That’s why we got into this mess with the best Ivy league graduates going to work for financial firms that gamble with other people’s money and wreck the economy at the risk of taxpayer money for bailouts.

        Education is not just about teaching people to do what people are willing to pay to have done. It’s about teaching people how to do what needs to be done for the survival and thriving of humanity, whether or not someone knows how to make money from doing it. It’s also about students doing what they think needs to be done and would like to do, whether or not someone is willing to pay them to do it. That’s why there are graduates who volunteer for political activism and humanitarian causes.

      • Daniel says:

        “The amount of social and diplomatic failures in society that lead to wars and suffering, coupled with the amount of people choosing to pursue arts and humanities careers are enough evidence that better quality education for Arts and Humanities and better utilization of the graduates are all in demand by citizens.”

        Well, Hitler was an artist. Not to mention that in the age and locations of some of the greatest artistic triumphs, you had plenty of war, suffering and general misery. Renaissance Italy ought to be all the evidence you need.

        My snideness and violation of Godwin’s law aside, and with all due respect, you’re really going into the area of pure nonsense. For the last time, arts and humanities are good for society in general. More funding for it, however, will not give us better engineers and will certainly not make society more peaceful. Humanity has proven to be a giant ball of violence since the ancient Mesopotamians. Giving more instruction to Western Civilization’s youth in dance and music composition will not change that.

        The citizenry also demands the Kardashians. I’d imagine in exponentially greater numbers than the finest works of arts that humanity can devise. More funding for the arts will not change that.

      • Bill says:

        If you think that adding Art to STEM is only about funding, then I can see why you would think that STEAM advocates are missing the point. You are projecting your own oversimplification and misunderstanding onto other people.

      • Bill says:

        Aside from your oversimplification of the STEAM movement as a plea for funding, you are also oversimplifying the meaning of “art.” It comes in many forms, serving many purposes. And quantity doesn’t equate to quality.

        You say: “Well, Hitler was an artist. Not to mention that in the age and locations of some of the greatest artistic triumphs, you had plenty of war, suffering and general misery. Renaissance Italy ought to be all the evidence you need.”

        The fact that Hitler was an artist is beside the point. Everyone is an artist to a degree. What varies is the purpose of the art.

        The quantity of what you call art (obviously too specific) in times of war and suffering is only evidence that art was being unsuccessfully used to push back. I would say that it’s evidence of a lack of quality in the art to effectively push back, but that only assumes that it’s purpose was to push back. Some art (Hitler’s in particular) successfully served to perpetuate the divisiveness of those times, and some art only served to temporarily take peoples minds off of all the ugliness of the times not to inspire any political change.

        Obviously, you are talking about a more specific form of art than what potentially could be considered art. The art of warfare is more utilized when the art of peacekeeping and diplomacy has failed or is underutilized and perhaps lacking in quality. Communication arts and language arts can be used for any of the purposes mentioned above.

      • Daniel says:

        Perhaps my confusion comes from not understanding your take on the STEAM movement. The discourse I’ve heard about the STEM (and by extension, STEAM) focuses almost entirely on funding and encouraging more students to purse a STEM curriculum. (How society gets the most out of it from a nuts and bolts standpoint is a more esoteric, but interesting discussion per comments from SteveH). If you have something different in mind, I’m happy to hear it, but I probably won’t follow what you’re getting at.

        Otherwise, it seems to me anyway that society as a whole hasn’t gotten arts education “right”, but that if we did, we somehow would have a more peaceful and productive civilization. Highly questionable, at best. Particular art is not right, wrong, scientific, or inherently more useful than any other art. Sort of the same way that no one is every going to get economics “right”.

      • Bill says:

        You’re talking about power in general, regardless of whether it comes from science, technology, or art. If more people are educated as to how any power works, then less people are vulnerable to being manipulated by that power. Art is usually a softer power than some of the power that comes from science and technology alone, like weapons and sanctions.

        There is probably a funding element in the STEAM movement which isn’t asking for more, but instead trying to keep what’s been allowed. It’s trying to stop the defunding. It’s not trying to divert funds from STEM as much as it’s trying to include Art in STEM. But I think it goes beyond the funding issue when you talk about time and effort. I’m sure there is lots of volunteers who want to help for free, but would like to see their time and effort dedicated to Art, something they consider to be as important as STEM.

  45. Porter says:

    From what I’ve witnessed in STEM schools, a lot of Art and Design (creativity) already exists in the curriculum but seems to be unconscious in the pedagogy. Frankly, there almost seems to be an underlying aversion to even talking about it. My argument is to raise the awareness of the STEM stalwarts–you’re already teaching creative thinking/learning, why not embrace it?

  46. Jonathan Rappaport says:

    This is perhaps one of the most misguided conversations I have read because it is based on a lack of concrete knowledge and experience in the integration of the arts across STEM subjects. I urge you to read this article: to get a handle on why arts integration with STEM is so important. Perhaps one of the most telling comments is this: “Nobel laureates in the sciences are seventeen times likelier than the average scientist to be a painter, twelve times as likely to be a poet, and four times as likely to be a musician.” The arts aid in building capacity to learn STEM subjects and connect them with every day life and practical applications. In Boston there is an entire symphony orchestra made up of medical practitioners and scientists (Longwood Symphony Orchestra). The connection between the arts and how they aid in brain and cognitive development is well documented and known. Truth is that the arts are being squeezed out of many K-12 schools and it is causing a great disservice to the education of well-rounded education children.

  47. Stephen H says:

    I wasn’t aware there was even a discussion about putting arts next to sciences. While they may have been considered equal four hundred years ago, their theory and practice (and considered value to society) have become wildly divergent. While, as an opera singer, I set great store by the arts, there is not the same necessity in educating your child in them. Science is necessary.

    Then of course comes the question “what is science”. In my own (un) humble opinion, economics (along with a few other “social” sciences) fails the general tests. The ability to reproduce an experiment is crucial to science, and economists have enough trouble agreeing on what day it is let alone to which theory they should subscribe. The Nobel committee did the world a great disservice by unleashing scores of Nobel-winning economists, along with the prestige associated with the prize, upon us.

    • Bill says:

      Arts are not being put next to sciences in terms of function. Yes, the functions of both art and science are different. They aren’t mutually exclusive. They are complimentary to each other and critical to each other. There would be no reason to do science without art; and science can only improve the quality of art.

      “What is science” is based on falsifiability of theories. If it were only based on accuracy, alchemy would have never evolved into chemistry. Lack of accuracy is all the more reason to improve the accuracy of the protosciences through academic institutions. If private companies discover more accurate ways before academia, you’ll get less sharing of what may be critical knowledge to the general public. You’ll get more patent trolls and monopolization. You’ll get more private ownership of what should be considered commons, public resources, and nature. We were lucky that a private institution didn’t develop TCP/IP and that Tim Berners-Lee gave the WWW to the public freely.

      • Max says:

        “There would be no reason to do science without art; and science can only improve the quality of art.”

        Yeah right, no reason to treat the sick, feed the hungry, and generally learn about the world without art.

        Reminds me of Mitt Romney saying, “Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom.” Sounds profound until you think about it for one second.

      • Bill says:

        Again, it appears you are oversimplifying “art” to mean “entertainment.”

        Treating the sick and feeding the hungry is the art of surviving and the humanities. Generally learning about the world includes more than the natural world. It includes the world as it’s reshaped by art. And you learn it to reshape the natural world.

  48. Inger Gregory says:

    Arts at MIT White Paper


    Office of the Associate Provost in collaboration with the
    Creative Arts Council, presented to Faculty February 16, 2011

    Read the full report in the White Paper (PDF).

    I. The arts have been a core component of the educational mission of MIT and will play an even more significant role in the future.

    Leaders of MIT, beginning with its founder William Barton Rogers, have understood the
    profound significance of embedding the arts in a scientific and technical institution.

    Artistic endeavors nurture creativity, innovation and leadership. They encourage students to work at the edge and make intuitive leaps into the unknown that lead to crucial discoveries.
    An unprecedented number of incoming students — 79% — actively participated in the arts in high school. These students possess an unusual combination of artistic aptitude and technical proficiency. MIT must support a curriculum that encourages cross-disciplinary creativity as well as the new HASS distribution requirement in the arts with state-of-the-art equipment, labs, and practice rooms.
    More than ever, MIT students want to create useful things that make a difference in the world, but many of them want to make things that are beautiful, provocative and arresting, too; such things also make a difference in the world.
    II. Research at the intersections of art, science and engineering — where MIT has
    a competitive advantage — will determine the artistic and performative languages
    of the 21st century.

    At MIT, artists have embraced the challenge of inventing new methods, media, and
    technologies for artistic production alongside the goal of creating the most expressive
    artifacts, performances, and buildings.

    Graduate students in art, media, and design choose MIT because it encourages creative experimentation among the arts, engineering and sciences, which typical art and design schools cannot offer. MIT should increase support for these students, who will animate the creative industries of the future.
    MIT must create exhibition, performance and research facilities that do justice to the media-rich art forms of the future.
    The arts today are embedded in new media and innovative technologies. As the nation’s leading research university focused on science and technology, MIT should be at the forefront of developing ambitious, technically advanced and socially significant art, design, and performance.
    III. MIT faces a strategic decision about investment in the arts and should seize the
    opportunity to support the creative energy that sustains the Institute’s leadership
    in innovation.

  49. Ivy says:

    The truth is the arts is taught just as poorly in the United States as any other topic. The United States is failing not only in math and science but all other fields as well. For example, how many people can truly draw something on a piece of paper that accurately reflects an object in nature? Art has now just been boiled down to throwing paint on canvas and as such the field of art has become a farce.

    Most people can’t draw because no one has taught them the mechanics of drawing (even something as basic as a water bottle). Whenever someone succeeds at something, the belief is there is somehow some mysterious talent lurking within the child. Talent is sometimes overrated when compared to just basic hard work.

    True classical drawing techniques involve just as much scientific observation (understanding optics, geometry, pespective etc) as any other scientific field. Science is about observation and engineering is about practical applications of that observation. Art is about observation and design is about practical applications of that observation.

    For example, to draw or sculpt the human body, it helps to understand mechanics of the different muscle groups and the underlying skeletal structure. Without this understanding, it becomes difficult for the artist to render a proper image of the human body.

    Now imagine this from the practical perspective. Let say you lost an arm and were looking to purchase one and you want the best product. Would you want only an engineer to build you that arm or only an artist to do it? What a silly question? Wouldn’t you want both a good engineer as well a good designer to do this. After all, the artist who draws and studies the anatomy with both integrity and intensity might actually be able to build a very good arm. Yet without the help of an engineer, the mechanics of that arm might fail.

    My point is the separation of art from science is artificial. We’re going to need to be better at all disciplines in the U.S., not just math and science. Moreover, we actually might be failing at math and science because we might not be able to communicate those concepts visually as a society.

  50. Mike Kogan says:

    Very good article. Art electives are already prevalent in Middle and High school but robotics or real engineering and programming use of technology is virtually absent. Sure techies can be creative but this is just a money grab from the liberal arts folks trying to ride the shoulders of engineering curriculum development and funding.