Friday, February 15, 2019

STEM with Arts #STEAM

Image source: Urban Gateways.
An interesting thought in the Guardian, 'Universities stamp out creativity': are graduates ready for work?, from Julie Ward, Labour MEP for north-west England. She stresses the importance of including arts in the emphasis on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) as key subjects, so that "Stem becomes Steam". She quite rightly (IMHO) points out that parents who advised their children that "taking arts subjects would harm their job prospects were making a mistake". So would it be a good idea to take Arts subjects in a technology degree?

Steve Jobs famously took up calligraphy before dropping out of Reed College in Portland, Oregon  - the story goes that became fascinated by school’s handmade signs, and carried this forward into designing fonts for the Mac. What Arts module(s) would enhance a technology degree? I would favour a plan where one (or more) modules in 1st or 2nd year could be any Elective Arts subject. For example - how about a module on "Text Analysis and Sight-Reading" in Trinity's Diploma in Acting and Theatre, or the "Nature of Morality" in the BA in Philosophy? If a College does not offer Arts programmes, why not let students attend such a module in another University/College/Online, and get the necessary credits, plus the "A" in "STEAM"? A whole new world could be opened up for students in technology degrees who even in first year are pigeon-holed into a path that involves programming, databases, web development, cloud computing, data analytics, etc. Why not add classic Greek as a language?

Creativity and curiosity will be important skills in the workplace of the future, and it must be cultivated more amongst students. Without it employers are increasingly finding themselves in a bind as they require qualifications, but also want graduates to be good at problem-solving - they will demand creativity. Perhaps putting the "A" into STEM will achieve this?

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