Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) seem to be at the forefront of education discussions these days. Whether you are speaking with new parents, current high school students, or those looking to enter post-secondary education, many believe there is success in the field of STEM, and have prescribed their studies in accordance. But are science and technology enough?
Several are convinced that pursuing careers in STEM will result in guaranteed jobs and ample opportunities. Governments provide financial support for innovation and technology, institutions push for computer science and programming opportunities, and students follow suit.
While it is important to encourage students toward these careers, there are implications. By encouraging STEM programming, liberal arts and humanities are devalued, and students are the ones who suffer.
The study of science and technology has been considered a noble pursuit since before there was a sweet little acronym for it. Mothers and fathers whose children had traditional upbringings have long-dreamed of their children becoming doctors and engineers.
The same isn’t true of those studying the arts. The all too-familiar dialogue about art students who are told, “You will never make a career of that,” or, “stop wasting time,” might come to mind.
By encouraging STEM programming, liberal arts and humanities are devalued, and students are the ones who suffer
Studies have shown that students involved in the arts consistently score higher on math and reading tests than students of the same socio-economic class, who have noexposure to the arts. Arts education also bolsters one’s drive and motivation through exercises in self-critiquing and in providing students with new ways to express and communicate ideas from a broad range of perspectives. Without supporting arts education, we turn our backs on creativity and critical thinking, which are equally important in STEM.
Arts education also bolsters one’s drive and motivation through exercises in self-critiquing and in providing students with new ways to express and communicate ideas
With a promise of careers in innovation and advancement, it is clear that we cannot cut out the creativity fostered through music and drama classes and the critical thinking inspired by courses in literature and philosophy; we need both.
Today’s hiring professionals can attest to the fact that companies, regardless of position, are looking for individuals with well-rounded skills and qualifications. In looking for inspiration within the STEM field, one may review the successes of Steve Jobs and Apple. Jobs was a strong proponent in the field of technology and yet, cited the importance the arts played in the innovative success of his company. When introducing the iPad 2 in 2011, Jobs emphasised this collaboration: “It is in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough; it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the results that make our heart[s] sing.” Without the intersection of arts and technology, Apple may not have reached its level of success.
It is in this spirit, much like that echoed by Steve Jobs, that we advocate for arts and humanities to have an enduring place in education. We should not impede, but rather, empower students to pursue creative fields and, also, push for a collaboration between the arts and sciences.