School started two weeks ago, and this past Thursday was the open house. We don’t usually make it because one of us is around to see the teachers after school and we’ve got plenty of opportunities to ask questions. That’s not going to happen this year due to our new schedules, so this time I went. Before I launch into my rant, I’d like to give a bit of context. The school our kids go to is a Spanish immersion program and it’s very small, many of the students, teachers, and parents all know each other. It’s generally a good school.
After the usual beginning of year housekeeping items and shooting candy from a pneumatic candy cannon, I went up to our daughter’s classroom. Her teachers gave a presentation about class expectations and what-not. I didn’t stay for the whole thing. Between the two of them, they’ve been teaching one of our children since our eldest was in Kindergarten. We know them and their expectations. I’ll have an opportunity to speak with them during the first parent-teacher conference.
Second, I went on to our youngest son’s classroom. Again, we know one of the teachers, the other is new. When question time came around, I asked about homework, listened for a moment about their plans for the class and moved on – I don’t see problems there. The last stop was our eldest son’s classroom and teacher. This one was important because he’s in 5th grade, it’s a teacher we don’t know, and last year was a challenging year for all of us with respect to homework and expectations.
This particular teacher wasn’t doing a presentation, he was meeting each parent individually and answering questions. By the time I had gotten over there, most of the parents had cleared off and I had his full attention. I asked the usual questions about homework, what sorts of things they’re going to cover and so on. He started telling me about his plan for the year a his plan to take a ‘steam’ approach. “steam?” I asked, as opposed to “stem?” – YES. Science Technology Engineering Art and Mathematics. He explained that he would integrate art into the routine.
I thought this was interesting. Recently I feel like all I’m hearing with education is how important STEM is. My question is where’s the art? I agree these topics are super important for college and jobs and what not, but what do these things mean without art? Is this something that we really don’t value any more? We should. Every single STEM field demands creativity and some measure of art, but it’s not taught that way. You learn the technical bits of all of these, like how the math fits in and how the testing and rigor of science applies. I have to concede that creativity is encouraged, but the science of art, the heart of creativity is dismissed as not particularly useful. It’s as if art is something else and shouldn’t mix with science and technology. Art is a science in its own right though. You try new things, you test them see if they work, others may try to mimic it in some fashion. Sometimes ideas must be discarded, other ideas work and are propagated.
To put it in more concrete terms: People don’t buy iPhones because of what they do. They buy them because of the artistry in their design, from the elegant look and feel right to how the applications work. Plenty of cars are sold based on their look in addition to their function. Homes that are built to look good are more highly valued because of that. People don’t like websites that look bad, and they don’t buy books that read like a technical manual.