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STEAM vs STEM: Why Change the Infamous Acronym?

The technology we use evolves as the world continuously changes. Our society is dependent on these innovations. As of 2012, the famous acronym STEM was changed to STEAM as a way to include arts and more hands-on activities in order to teach growing minds. But was it really necessary?

When taking a moment to consider the similarities between STEM and the arts, there are few. The overlapping information about engineering is the most solid similarity between art and technology.

Within the STEM community, many see engineering as covering the ideas of art. It is the creating and designing of something that sparks your interest. Art is a form of pursuing your ideas, but so is engineering. In order to co-exist, they must work together without overpowering the creative freedom of the other. There is widespread interest in counting engineering as art, which brings up the controversy of adding art to STEM. But either way, with or without the ‘A’ in STEM there is creativity and curiosity being used. The question that one cannot exist without the other causes the controversy.  What defines “art”? What defines “technology” or “engineering”?  What breaks the walls between art and technology? In answering these questions, we must first compare the two.

STEM is often stereotyped as just science, technology, engineering and mathematics. However, it is much more, as it focuses on the correct way of learning through problem solving, collaboration, the fostering of creativity and communication. These values are useful for most careers in the future, not just ones that fit the qualifications of an ever-growing field like science or engineering. From a young age these fundamentals are integrated into stimulating activities that capture the attention of younger ages. Whether it’s creating a volcano, playing with legos or making a cloud in a jar the activities will always stimulate the mind in fun and informational ways. STEM is easily integrated into schools and students take a great interest in being involved in these challenging programs. Bedford High School itself specializes in numerous technological programs. Whether it is partnering with Manchester Community College for students to pursue courses in engineering and wiring, or the school’s programming courses, these groups involve the rounded principles from STEM and are a great way to improve critical thinking. 

But when talking about the arts, they are not just drawing and painting; they also include dance, theater, music, and even sculpture. So why include such a large scale concept into another? The idea of art is so diverse, that it deserves its own acronym of expression within its own values. The arts allow students to express themselves and find passions just like STEM, except the arts lack the freedom to implement critical core values. If both programs had the same goal and foundation, then STEAM would make more sense.  STEM is a community, teaching students and providing benefits for their futures; through rich experiences. The arts aren’t taken seriously, seen as more of a pastime or a hobby. With such different purposes there is difficulty using them synchronously, as they give and take from each other. 

They give and take just like how the parts of our brains give and take in order to create successful minds. The human brain is composed of the left and right hemispheres. Our brains are both wired to be logical as well as creative. Some people are considered to be more left brained than right brained, and others are more right brained than left brained. The controversy between STEM and the arts comes from the idea that people are more analytical rather than creative. Left brain refers to everything having a purpose therefore there is no room for imagination. This stereotype follows true in some technical fields of STEM. The arts open up the door to imagination, creativity and personal expression, which is why they are so valued as a part of the right hemisphere in the brain. The arts foster individuality and without that our society would not be as evolved socially as it is now. The opposing concepts of STEAM and the hemispheres of the brain further the controversy. 

Society stereotypes the people who have passions for the fields of arts or sciences. Society as a whole forces people into the categories of either technical and analytical or creative and instinctive. The categories grow with popularity when the society further accepts that there is success within it, and therefore allowing people to follow along and find their passions. Passions are as much analytical as they are creative, which further builds the bridge between STEM and the arts, left brained and right brained.  No one can be entirely defined as artistic without being analytical, and another cannot be seen as scientific without having imagination. 

There are multiple sides to STEM vs STEAM. Whether it is psychology, preference or societal standard but overall the controversy can never truly be solved. Society will forever be unable to bridge a gap when there are people that always have different opinions, even when they have the chance to open their minds to new ideas there will always be controversy, as that is the human way.

So what do you think, should STEM really have been changed to STEAM?