Everyone wants students to be able to perform at their maximum potentials. However, knowing the right answer isn't enough anymore. In the new, knowledge-based economy, creative thinking and problem solving are as important as traditional knowledge, if not more so. Today's students will have to know how to use their knowledge creatively to get ahead in the increasingly competitive global market.
What is STEM?
STEM education focuses on improving students' skills and knowledge of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Many STEM-field businesses have pointed out that they have a hard time filling specialized jobs because of a lack of qualified applicants. In response, many education systems have sought to reformat their learning to prepare students for these particularly challenging career choices. For several years, this has been seen as the cornerstone in reviving the American education system and making our students competitive on the world stage once more. Many education reformers point to this rigorous educational format as a panacea for many of the ills that currently plague schools.
How exactly does STEM education work?
STEM education refocuses learning by removing emphasis from more "typical" school subjects such as English, history, social studies, and the arts. While these subjects are not entirely removed, the focus is on preparing students for industries where these knowledge areas are not as important.
STEM to STEAM
Art and Science Reunite
Whether today's students go on to be artists, doctors or politicians, we know that the challenges their generation faces will demand creative solutions. We should fully expect that, in the coming decades, many of our best leaders will come from art and design backgrounds.
STEAM is gaining traction as a movement in government and research circles as well. House Resolution 319, introduced by Representative Jim Langevin (D-RI), and still in play, "expresses the sense of the House of Representatives that adding art and design into federal programs that target Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields, encourages innovation and economic growth in the United States."
Government agencies are also acknowledging that art and science -- once inextricably linked, both dedicated to finding truth and beauty -- are better together than apart. The National Science Foundation has funded a series of three workshops, one of which took place here at RISD, to explore themes around STEM to STEAM. From the other side of the spectrum, the National Endowment for the Arts has made a major push around what they call Artscience initiatives, including hosting an event this June about the intersection of art, science and technology.
With global competition rising, America is at a critical juncture in defining its economic future. I believe that art and design are poised to transform our economy in the 21st century in the same way that science and technology did in the last century, and the STEAM movement is an opportunity for America to sustain its role as innovator of the world.