When reading about Integrating the Arts this week I was reminded of the “Three R’s” the old school (pun intended) foundation of basic skills-oriented education programs, you know the one. Anyway, the general basis behind the “Three R’s” was essentially what we are seeing today with the energy behind STEM/STEAM curricula. Bothe are basically putting a spin on an initiative that does not really reflect the interests of students, but rather the fear of not falling behind others countries in terms of education. Some would say we are a little too late for that, but I’m getting of track a little bit. All is not lost, and I feel that the existence of programs like STEM give hope that there is a desire for change.
Martinez and Stager make the argument that adding extra letters to an acronym does not equal change (p.54). This is what made me think of the “Three R’s” as it was a similar type of spin on an initiative meant to boost education in this country in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. It may have started the whole movement of making acronyms for thing to make them sound appealing when the actual content (that of learning and education) should be appealing enough. Martinez and Stager state that children “deserve rich experience across the widest range of disciplines available (p. 55).” Adding arts to this program will add more engaging and participatory experiences to an already rich curriculum. This is what STEM/STEAM should be about. The debate should not be about adding letters to a flashy name to make it more palatable, it should to be about our education system allowing kids to express themselves in the fullest ways possible. Rebranding education historically offers very few results as Martinez and Stager state (p. 55), and I can only speculate that by including the “A”rts in STEAM there will be more funding for the arts while not marginalizing them, or marginalizing science and math based studies either.
So, the STEM/STEAM program has its heart in the right place. I want it to be successful, I really do. I would love from my kids, if I were ever fortunate enough to have any, to get the fullest education they can. I don’t want them to not be allowed to express themselves in creative ways and share or collaborate with other children. STEM/STEAM offers hope, but it needs to be taking seriously and not be hidden behind an acronym. Arts need to be included and encouraged in the education of our children, not an afterthought behind what is essentially a rebranding of the “Three R’s.”
Martinez, S. L. & Stager, G. (2013). Invent to learn: Making, tinkering, and engineering in the classroom. Torrance, CA: Constructing Modern Knowledge Press.