“We’re sooo far behind other countries in math and science!” goes the current U.S. lament. “We’ve got to focus on STEM!” The ubiquitously discussed, left-brain quadrilateral of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math is all the rage these days amongst those concerned about our economic competitiveness—and rightly so.
But lest we forget, even as early humans were inventing the wheel and discovering how to kindle a fire, they were also creating some of the earliest known paintings on cave walls in places like Lascaux and Sulawesi. Artistic endeavor isn’t just a sideline activity in human history; it’s been an integral part of the human experience from the start. Shouldn’t academic curriculum reflect this?
What some Santa Barbara seniors discovered
Located on the coast in Goleta, California, Dos Pueblos High School has long been known for its specialized STEM education program, the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy (DPEA). From its inception, participation in the DPEA was predominantly male, with the focus being on a robotics competition. The school won many awards and lots of praise from the press and parents alike.
But the program’s founder, Mr. Amir Abo-Shaeer, wasn’t satisfied with merely winning competitions. He expanded the program to include the Arts—collaborating with the high school’s art teacher, parents, and community mentors—in order to achieve a well-rounded, balanced learning environment for all of his students. The results have been spectacular: In addition to broadening the DPEA’s appeal even further, Mr. Shaeer’s efforts have garnered a 50% female student enrollment in the DPEA. His now STEAM-focused class also produced a senior capstone project known as the Carousel of Physics—displayed proudly as an exhibit at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art:
The Arts help students truly blossom
As students graduate into the world of work, they need not only the solid “job skills” to be productive; they need the “soft” social skills to actually get along in the workplace and in society with other people. That is what the Arts and Humanities offer.
Lynda Weinman—author, education advocate, and founder of lynda.com—speaking at a luncheon for Girls, Inc., puts it very straightforwardly: “The arts are where people learn about different points of view, about empathy and compassion.” She further opines, “Regardless of what anyone decides to specialize in ultimately in his or her career, learning how to work on teams, share ideas, and perform innovative problem solving will never go wasted.” Indeed!
In the long run, today’s students will have many opportunities to acquire and hone the mechanical and analytical skills needed for future careers. But while they’re still in school—while their character and personalities are still being shaped—a healthy dose of the Arts can serve to truly humanize them. And that, we can all agree, is a thing of beauty!
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