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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Teach art — not STEAM

Integrating art into science and math teaching — turning STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) into STEAM — is “counterproductive” and “pedagogically unsound,” writes Jay Greene in Ed Week‘s arts education package.

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“By trying to put the arts almost everywhere, integration is likely to result in arts education almost nowhere,” Greene writes. Separate arts classes taught by specialists will be dropped.

Few teachers have “expert knowledge in multiple fields as well as command of effective techniques for integrating them,” he adds.

Furthermore, “students cannot gain new insights from the connections between geometry and the arts until they first have some mastery of those subjects.”

Most arts advocates are trying to turn STEM into STEAM not because they find interdisciplinary instruction so attractive, but because they recognize that the arts are being squeezed out of the curriculum and hope to protect them by joining other, more “popular” subjects. Like the plot of a teen movie, the bullied kid hopes to find protection by joining the cool group. . . . The only way for the arts to ensure their place in the curricula is for advocates of the arts to stand up for themselves and argue for why the arts are important on their own.

“There is little evidence that arts instruction improves outcomes in math or reading,” writes Greene. “Arts advocates need to make the positive case for what arts education teaches, not hide behind the skirts of math and science.”

The arts teach particular ways of thinking about and viewing the world. The arts teach some vocationally useful skills. And most importantly, the arts connect us to our cultural heritage and teach us how to be civilized human beings. Education is not entirely about the pragmatic, but should also convey the beautiful and profound—something the arts do well. That is why arts education should be preserved in its own right.

Susan Riley makes the case for integrating arts into STEM.

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