STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — has been a buzzword in education for several years. Education leaders and politicians tout STEM as the key to our children’s academic future and to remaining competitive in the global marketplace. But what about the arts? Don’t they have a place in our children’s education? Of course they do.
Perhaps you think of arts as “specials” or “extras,” as many school districts do. Perhaps you see them as time that should be filled with more book (STEM) learning — or you wish your child had more of these “specials.” How does your child feel about arts in school? Does your son look forward to music Friday beginning on Saturday? How would your child feel about going to school at all if these “extras” were completely eliminated?
The importance of art in every day
Think of your favorite piece of technology. Is it, perhaps, a smartphone by a certain iconic company named after a fruit? Yes, developments in science and math and technology are responsible for the capabilities of the smartphone, but it’s design — art — that delivers the beauty of the device.
The arts are what bring humanity to STEM — and STEM to the masses. The arts are what make connections between the technical experience and the human experience. As such, the arts are more than “extras” and “specials” in a child’s school day that can be red-lined in tight budget years. Unfortunately, creativity can’t be measured on bubble-filling assessments — nor can it be outsourced. If we marginalize creativity, how will the next generation of technological advances be humanized and made accessible and practical… for all of us? And how will we retain the innovative edge for our globally competitive future?
Budget cuts and standardized tests
In tight economic times, school budgets are particularly vulnerable. Hard choices must be made, including cuts to every subject area in every school — but it seems arts has taken harder hits than others. It’s hard to argue with cutting arts when standardized tests that measure reading skills and math and science knowledge have less than perfect results. Cut the arts and focus on the basics, right? But arts can help those standardized test scores rise.
A well-rounded education
It turns out the arts isn’t just about nice and pretty. Reinvesting in Arts Education, a 2011 study by the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, found that integrating arts with other academic subjects raised achievement levels. When arts were incorporated in all parts of the curriculum, students demonstrated a greater understanding of the academic topics and enjoyed the learning process more. When the arts are integrated into every academic subject, standardized test scores tend to be higher.
When it comes to educating our children for the future, we can’t discount any path to success. STEM is important, yes, but so are the arts. When it comes to your child’s education, add an A to turn STEM to STEAM.