STEM OR STEAM?

Jul 17, 2019 by

School systems across our country are scrambling to play “catch up” with the stress on science, technology, engineering and math education applied by mostly Asian nations.

Advocates and many curriculum writers insist this can only be accomplished at the expense of other areas. 

They urge de-emphasis on the arts and humanities, as though these disciplines were antithetical to science and were sucking out all the intellectual oxygen out of our classrooms.

On the contrary.

The arts and sciences are complementary, mutually dependent and symbiotic.  The unconscious creative process is identical and therefore undistinguishable when contrasted.

Science is embedded in art and art is in science. The divisions between them are artificial and arbitrary.  Genius knows no bounds or boundaries.  

Bach solved musical challenges mathematically and Albert Einstein felt that his development of the General Theory of Relativity was an artistic triumph. John Coltrane, the jazz great, saw the connection too, between what C.P. Snow called “the two cultures.”

So why must curriculum favor one hemisphere  of genius over the other?  Why science over art or vice-versa?

That’s a question raised by the greatest of practioniers in the mingled domains of humanities and “hard science”, including the author and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.

In a National Geographic Magazine article titled “The Science of Jazz”, published around two years ago, the director of the Planetarium interviewed two former members of the Miles Davis Quintet.  It was illuminating  how naturally they were of one mind about the “connections they drew between music and science, education and inspiration.”

On the highest levels,  art and science are fused.

Is Chancellor Carranza aware of their ultimate unity ?  Is that deeply -felt cognition universally reflected in a syllabus?

No sooner is a great idea voiced than an acronym is launched to capture it. Neil deGrasse Tyson suggests that “STEM” be modified to “STEAM”. The “A”, of course, stands for the Arts. 

What a difference a letter can make!

Ron Isaac

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