STEM or STEAM?

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STEM or STEAM?

Postby Sonic# » Tue Feb 28, 14:22 2017

One way to think of STEM is a brand for a broad coalition of fields that build, invent, and otherwise innovate. Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics. I think there's value in using that brand to highlight how we should be creating more educational opportunities in STEM, asking why more women aren't in STEM, and so on.

Yet I have a reservation. What about the arts and design? They can help us understand the broader history and situation of current proposals and innovations. Arts express. Also, what about the ways that artists or designers build, invent, or otherwise innovate?

Recently, I've seen STEAM circulate as a potential term for this reconfigured version of STEM, adding "Arts + Design." This version of "Arts" feels like it allows exploration but should ultimately result in pertinent artifacts or applications. I see it giving greater room for the kinds of creative projects that build up the active-learning, I-can-make-it ethos STEM already does. Still, I have some reservations, mainly around how we talk about the "Arts and Sciences" (to use a common liberal arts term) in ways that put down both the arts (which, according to stereotype, are insufficiently rigorous or practical) and the sciences (which, according to stereotype, are insufficiently creative) - does STEAM give anything to either of those stereotypes, or does it manage to be pretty even-handed?

What do you think of it?

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Re: STEM or STEAM?

Postby rowan » Tue Feb 28, 15:31 2017

I can't really speak to the class / curriculum side of STEM vs STEAM but we seriously need to stop devaluing arts and humanties &c, especially within sciences. It's pissing me off, frankly, that people don't have a good understanding of how important those aspects are to science.

*side-eyes science march hard*

/rant

In other news, I think it's great some engineering departments are starting to require art classes so students can actually draw stuff. Drawing is so important for visualization.
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Re: STEM or STEAM?

Postby spacefem » Tue Feb 28, 17:01 2017

I like STEM.

Look, lots of things are important. Music, poetry, history... we need to be well-rounded.

50% of fine art degrees are awarded to women. 20% of engineering degrees are awarded to women. There's a recruiting problem that we need to talk about and it's got to focus on what's going on with STEM.

teaching is an arts degree, so teachers are bound to have a unique set of struggles in trying to educate students in STEM fields, that's another reason why I want to talk about science technology engineering math all in one.

I think people were afraid that arts funding would be cut if we over-emphasized STEM, so they wanted to make it STEAM. I'll just make a deal with you that I will keep supporting the arts and art education if you keep asking the big questions around what's making STEM fields unique.
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Re: STEM or STEAM?

Postby MFS » Tue Feb 28, 17:21 2017

I'm cool with both... which I suppose means I would like to see more STEAM because of how science/math/etc can apply and/or relate to music, art, etc. They are not silos, they interconnect.
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Re: STEM or STEAM?

Postby DarkOne » Wed Mar 1, 7:55 2017

I don't need the A. I find it a bit redundant, and mostly distracting. There are a number of variations of the STEM acronym, each of which caters to someone who feels their particular interests are not adequately highlighted. Then again, I'm plenty covered under the existing acronym so I may be biased.

Redundant: If including utilitarian art requires that the artistic exercise "result in pertinent artifacts or applications", in other words, that "application" be the master and "art/aesthetics" the subjugate, I'd argue that's aesthetically-conscious design, and it's already an element of Engineering. Innovation is not limited to STEM, and STEM proficiency is now sought beyond traditional STEM fields. The lines are already blurry.

Distracting: I agree with Spacefem that including arts would immediately skew the gender distribution statistics and misrepresent the gender-gap in scientific and technical fields, and that's the opposite effect of what I'd like to see happen.

Sonic# wrote:One way to think of STEM is a brand for a broad coalition of fields that build, invent, and otherwise innovate. Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics. I think there's value in using that brand to highlight how we should be creating more educational opportunities in STEM, asking why more women aren't in STEM, and so on.


A different way to think of it: "STEM" is a politico-economic artifact, not a philosophical point of origin. The acronym wasn't generated to drive values of what should or should not be important in society; rather, it reflects a set of skills and knowledge that are valued in the workforce because they are perceived as increasing the global competitiveness of a business. Higher demand for technical proficiency and STEM skills drive higher compensation. A number of people, women included, are not getting a slice of the pie when there's no reasonable explanation of why they shouldn't. That's the conversation I'm interested in having, and adding "Arts" to the conversation detracts from this discussion.

"What about the arts...?" The social and economic value of art and its under-appreciation are conversations worth having. Maybe art should be as valued as traditional STEM fields, maybe not, but I think that's a different topic to settle.
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Re: STEM or STEAM?

Postby Sonic# » Sat Mar 4, 14:55 2017

To provide a bit of further context: most of the resources I've seen have pointed at STEAM as a form of curricular planning, basically what rowan was saying about adding the skills of art and design to STEM education in college and at earlier stages.

rowan wrote:
In other news, I think it's great some engineering departments are starting to require art classes so students can actually draw stuff. Drawing is so important for visualization.


Here's a site: http://stemtosteam.org/ I also stumbled across a book titled STEM to STEAM in the place I work while reorganizing a departmental bookshelf. Anecdotally, I can say that my engineering students benefit a lot from learning to think about communication and design in addition to whatever awesome projects they have going on in robotics, aeronautics, civil engineering, and so on. First, they need it. Second, once they get outside the anxiety of doing something without immediate parameters, they do a great job of exploring a medium and selecting their own parameters.

Thank you for raising the concerns with women in STEM. That represents some of my reservations - if STEAM replaces STEM, rather than supplementing it, we suddenly lose focus on some real problems. One question I have, that I'd have to research to answer, is whether "STEM" (which is about 20 years old) has had a significant effect on addressing the problem of keeping women in STEM fields.

A couple of specific responses to DarkOne:

If including utilitarian art requires that the artistic exercise "result in pertinent artifacts or applications", in other words, that "application" be the master and "art/aesthetics" the subjugate, I'd argue that's aesthetically-conscious design, and it's already an element of Engineering

To my phrasing: "pertinent" can mean more than "utilitarian" or applied design. I meant, for instance, the work being done by someone I know (trained as an architect) to add features to building sites that recognize their former use as slaveholding plantation land. In other words, "pertinent artifacts or applications" can be politically or socially pertinent art. I agree that it overlaps with engineering, in the same way that engineering uses math and science, but that in itself doesn't mean that it doesn't deserve a letter.

A different way to think of it: "STEM" is a politico-economic artifact, not a philosophical point of origin. The acronym wasn't generated to drive values of what should or should not be important in society; rather, it reflects a set of skills and knowledge that are valued in the workforce because they are perceived as increasing the global competitiveness of a business. Higher demand for technical proficiency and STEM skills drive higher compensation. A number of people, women included, are not getting a slice of the pie when there's no reasonable explanation of why they shouldn't. That's the conversation I'm interested in having, and adding "Arts" to the conversation detracts from this discussion.


I can agree that the value of the arts is a separate discussion worth having, and that women aren't getting a sufficient slice of the pie in STEM. I think that STEM is used to "drive values of what should or should not be important in society," but not in any particularly new way; absent STEM, people would still muster the will and the words to attack liberal arts degrees and the less-immediately-pragmatic sciences.

Still, I continue to be naggled because, outside of the argument for women in STEM, it feels to me like STEM is transforming into something more STEAM-like anyway. If STEM is a politico-economic artifact, then we're seeing a greater acknowledgement of the importance of Arts and Design in STEM education partly because employers are recognizing that great design "increases the global competitiveness of a business." Whether the argument is that engineers need to get better at drafting or working in Auto-CAD, or whether it appeals to some other aspect of arts and design, if this transformation continues to happen, does this only pose a problem for addressing inequities with women in STEM?

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Re: STEM or STEAM?

Postby rowan » Mon Mar 6, 11:12 2017

Hm. I'm not sure STEM vs STEAM does a lot to address the structural inequities of women (and more pointblank under-represented racial groups) within STEM. However I do think that if STEM can start to fucking acknowledge that it is not apolitical, that it's always been political and allow people to be political and activist and more than just focused on STEM ALL TEH TIME 365/27/7 and actually value (and encourage, provide time for, and pay for) that other work, THAT will (start to) address the inequities. I don't think just adding arts to the curriculum is going to help.

ETA: and maybe fire people who use their spare time to harass WoC doing that work.
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