In recent days we have heard a lot about Rep. Sarah Peake (D-Provincetown) and her plan to integrate arts instruction into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), essentially turning STEM into STEAM.
Rep. Peake and other STEAM advocates make a good case for arts integration with technically-oriented curricula, especially since the creative process in the arts compliments the skill set necessary for creativity in the technological disciplines.
Do we really need the legislature to dip its oar in this pond?
Local voters elect a school committee and the elected school committee hires a superintendent of schools. They pay education professionals to direct the curriculum of their district’s schools.
In some towns, the educators have chosen STEM as a priority. A quick look at embarrassing MCAS mathematics and science/tech/engineering scores explains this imperative in some districts. In STEM-inclined districts a dialog is held, the school board is consulted, necessary funding is established and the community as a whole decides to implement a STEM program.
Why does the legislature need to get involved? Lately, whenever we see legislative “initiative” in education we end up with either gigantic un-funded mandates or an abomination like MCAS. Once the legislature’s finger is in the arts instruction “pie”, will they start legislating the type of arts to be instructed – or perhaps censor art genres to which they don’t wish our children exposed?
Let the market do its job
For the past two years Cape Cod Today has provided extensive coverage of school competition on our peninsula. Part of the school competition game is to build compelling programs that make families choose one’s school district as their education destination. If a family wants STEM immersion for their child, they can send them to a STEM-intensive district. If not, they can seek out an arts-intensive district.
Here on the Cape both Sandwich and Dennis-Yarmouth have made visible moves towards a STEM academy at their high schools. Other schools have made a more integrated incursion into a STEM “environment” such as the “Math in Action” program at Cape Cod Lighthouse Charter School.
These schools have not thrown the arts out the window by any means. However, their communities have committed themselves to giving their children a solid base in science, technology, engineering and math that is necessary to compete in today’s global economy.
School choice and charter choice have created a “free market” in education. Trying to cram the arts into STEM by statute acts contrary to that free market.
Let’s allow our school professionals the academic freedom to do their own arts integration without legislative interference.
Let’s let STEM be STEM.
Read more about STEM here.
Vote in our Poll here.
How do you feel about the legislature trying to force arts into STEM (science, tech, engineering, math) academy programs?