STEM is incredibly valuable, but STEAM makes it better
I am sympathetic to this argument for the value of STEAM (STEM+Art), rather than just STEM. I strongly believe in the value of creative expression in learning STEM subjects. That’s core to our goals for Media Computation. I believe that the STEAM perspective is why MediaComp has measurably improved motivation, engagement, and retention.
As a researcher, it’s challenging to measure the value of including art in learning STEM. I’m particularly concerned about the argument below. Singapore and Japan are less creative because they have less art in school? If we include more art in our schools, our students will be more innovative? If we’re already more innovative, and we have too little art classes, why should we believe that adding more art will increase our innovation?
But STEM leaves out a big part of the picture. “It misses the fact that having multiple perspectives are an invaluable aspect of how we learn to become agile, curious human beings,” Maeda said. “The STEM ‘bundle’ is suitable for building a Vulcan civilization, but misses wonderful irrationalities inherent to living life as a human being and in relation to other human beings.” A foundation in STEM education is exceptional at making us more efficient or increasing speed all within set processes, but it’s not so good at growing our curiosity or imagination. Its focus is poor at sparking our creativity. It doesn’t teach us empathy or what it means to relate to others on a deep emotional level. Singapore and Japan are two great examples. “[They] are looked to as exemplar STEM nations, but as nations they suffer the ability to be perceived as creative on a global scale.” Maeda said. Is the United States completely misinformed and heading down the wrong track? Not entirely. Science, technology, engineering and math are great things to teach and focus on, but they can’t do the job alone. In order to prepare our students to lead the world in innovation, we need to focus on the creative thought that gives individuals that innovative edge.