I’ve been seeing a lot of “STEAM” instead of stem and I thought it might have been architecture or anthropology or archaeology but it’s art? I initially was resistant to that, but I’m willing to hear other perspectives that aren’t full of twitter woke jargon.

I’ve been seeing a lot of “STEAM” instead of stem and I thought it might have been architecture or anthropology or archaeology but it’s art? I initially was resistant to that, but I’m willing to hear other perspectives that aren’t full of twitter woke jargon.


When I was a young science major, it was a revelation to me to meet physicists who could play the piano and sing in a choir and paint. In my working class family, I was the first girl to go to college, and had no support for my creative impulses. Anything to do with art was extra, a distraction, and waste of time. So when I learned that teachers were planning STEAM curricula instead of STEM, I applauded.

[–] boudica 5 points Edited

I agree with this, and I also think that a big part of this push for "STEAM" is the undeniable link between students who do well in math/science and their arts background (especially music). This isn't to say that we should push tons of students towards art degrees, necessarily, but an arts education in general is something that helps create more empathy and creativity. Arts education teaches you how to think creatively and problem solve, and apparently quite a few companies are starting to value this kind of creative thinking and realize its importance in the modern world of technology.

Blog time: I was always really good in math, and I never really tried - it used to baffle me. But now I honestly think it's because I had been playing piano since the age of 5 and building things with my father that helped me a lot in the spatial maths. I also think my childhood music education and my own personal interests in drawing and such helped to build excellent hand-eye coordination - I have a vivid memory of a pre-school class where we were cutting out circles and I was literally the only one who could do it properly lmao. I mean, thinking back we were all little kids still learning coordination, but I can't help but wonder if all of my practice drawing shapes and cutting out shapes to create my own personal art projects as a kid helped me to develop these skills earlier than others?

Let's also not forget the importance of scientific illustration and the need for artistic skills in illustrating and demonstrating scientific principles. We (as a society) have lost a lot of respect for that field since the invention of photography, and I can't help but to think how sad that is since the arts and sciences used to co-mingle in a big way, such as during the Renaissance or the Golden Age of Islam. Hell, almost every big, important ancient civilization that had impressive advancements had the arts and sciences intermingling (Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Ancient China, Ancient India, Ancient Mesoamerica, etc. etc.).

This feels like another us vs. them type of debate that needs nuance. Yes, we should definitely push for more students to become interested in "STEM," especially because of the rapid evolution of technology and scientific advancements in our contemporary world. But we shouldn't forget the other subjects and how they can help "STEM" students to become more well-rounded, more creative "out of the box" thinkers, and even help them perform better in "STEM" subjects.

[–] lucrecia 7 points Edited

Lol, hadn't seen it around, just searched and seems like an odd way to say 'every subject'. :P Personally I've always disliked grouping stuff as 'STEM', not least since 'technology' is vague as anything, and the grouping encourages people to devalue the arts and to see them as disconnected from science. Imo it's designed around a desire to make metrics for league tables and to break things into courses people can assign a discrete monetary value to; it doesn't say anything deep about the world. So 'STEAM' sounds like someone heard complaints along these lines, and decided to squish in an 'A' to fix things, thereby rendering the whole acronym a bit pointless.

I agree with now it means "everything." When I first heard of it I thought, "You mean like...Arts & Sciences?"--literally the most traditional description of education!

I've mostly seen STEAM in a children's program context. In some places, arts programs in schools are so spectacularly defunded and STEM is so myopically pushed that I guess they had to create STEAM to reintegrate the importance of a well-rounded education back into public consciousness. Not only that but it appears that these kind of parents only consider arts exploration if their kid really, really pushes for it/shows talent, and if their kid is more into STEM they disregard it entirely. I do think some people need to be reminded that it's not Art OR Science.

I think it also brings new opportunities to light for children. I talked to a woman who loved to draw and was also studying science. For most of her life she was thinking along the lines of "artist" or "doctor", and it never occurred to her that "artist-doctor" jobs could exist until graduate school (she now designs medical devices).

[–] Mikkal 3 points Edited

I thought the idea behind "STEM" was that middle-class jobs that don't require degrees are being outsourced, and the "new" middle class jobs are going to be in STEM and require education - so the promotion of STEM is about the promotion of the workforce to enable people to work jobs that pay well.

Around the year 2000, the estimates were that there were 100 people with an art degree for every 1 art-related job. In addition, a lot of people who design things do not have design or art degrees. For example, someone in Marketing might create images, take photos, do layouts, etc - and they might not even have a degree in Marketing.

I think art and music are important, especially in public schools, but I know so many people who have been suckered into expensive "web design" programs and have huge student debt, thinking there is some kind of demand for web design - when the salary for a web designer is about the same as a customer service representative in my area, and there are more customer service jobs available. I know one person with a web design program debt working as a security guard, another working at a warehouse.


"Right out of PAFA, a graduate with a master’s in fine arts owed $93,008 in federal student loans and earned just $20,900 a year."


What does come as a surprise, however, is the fact that many art schools are among the most expensive colleges in the country. The U.S. Department of Education found that after financial aid is subtracted, 7 out of 10 of the most expensive schools are art institutions (updated to 9 out of 10 as of 2015).

In his article “Don’t Go To Art School,” artist Noah Bradley found that a four-year education from RISD, for example, is a staggering $245,816. A degree from Harvard Law School, in comparison, is $236,100. The salary of an artist is clearly far different to that of a lawyer, proving the irony of the loaded costs of art school.

Don't Go To Art School:


To be fair, as someone who has experience with arts education advisement, many, many, many students are warned about this. Some just don't listen because they truly think they will be the Next Big Thing and won't have to worry about the debt, but I think many others are unfortunately being given terrible advisement. With proper advisement, even the liberal arts students who are truly passionate about their subjects are typically advised to attend a state university where they can receive more financial aid, and to only really consider private schools like RISD or Cranbrook or Juilliard for graduate studies... and only if they can get every single scholarship/assistantship/fellowship that is available. It's just not worth it otherwise, especially since state schools often will literally pay graduate students to attend. There are ways to get an arts education and end up with zero debt, but I will admit that it does take a decent amount of effort, legwork, and knowledge on the student's part.

All of that is true, but is also US-specific. The higher-education system in the US is an elitist joke, and the costs of it are laughably astronomical. In my country, higher education isn't free (yet), and one of my students thought about going to the US to enrol in a Masters-level programme at Brown in 2021. She was accepted and got a partial scholarship, but still didn't take it up. Why? Because the cost of a subsidised year in that programme — just one year, not the entire programme — was so expensive that you could do an entire degree over here, from just-exited-high-school all the way up to a doctorate degree, for that amount of money. And there is no way that a degree from Brown is somehow worth more than a degree from one of the top-tier institutions on our continent.

The idea of STEAM is much more broadly applicable to education, and I hope that it takes off in that context. The fact that it isn't viable for Americans is yet another sad indictment of the absurdist comedy that is the United States' higher education system.

[–] antandro 1 points Edited

YES! Very much in favour of this. There is a pointless divide between sciences and humanities which really doesn't make sense. Douglas Hofstadter, Donald Knuth, Leonardo da Vinci, Isaac Newton, Galileo Galilei, Pierre de Fermat, G H Hardy, ... none of them have seen their identities as "scientist so I must hate/avoid the arts". There is a very long history of scientists being excellent artists, and of artists being excellent scientists. Some of the most interesting observations about the human body and musculature came from artists who drew it and were intimately interested in motion and muscles and form, for example!

And I say this, by the way, as both a scientist and an academic. My own field, Computer Science, is obviously (...to anyone who's immersed themselves in it) an art. Art doesn't mean postmodern-this and queer-that and intersectional-everything. That's just political rubbish thrown on top of the creative impulses of the human species. Art is about beauty, aesthetics, discussion, perspectives, upliftment, ... and I personally think that in my field, we could use a bit more of that sort of foundation before students grow up to be faceless tech oligarchs or work for them. So full STEAM ahead, as far as I'm concerned...

(edit: this is written from my perspective, and I'm more interested in how the arts would affect science. But perhaps it wouldn't hurt for students of the arts to have a bit of a scientific background, either. It'd certainly reduce the shameless stereotyping of scientists and science, and maybe even help with the postmodernist nonsense and identitarian foolishness that has taken root in some parts of the academy)

Is it a serious thing, and where ? Part of the queering of everything, no objective truth stuff ?