By Charlotte Bertsch ‘21
In the current educational climate are the arts really seen as mattering as much as science, technology, engineering, and math, more commonly known as STEM? Is STEM seen as more important, or is it simply a lack of interest in the arts? And are the arts at St. Mark’s truly just as important as the STEM classes?
With new advancements being made every single day within the topics that encompass STEM, there is an endless stream of new ideas, techniques, and technology to learn about and expand upon. Students have the ability to learn: “‘21st century skills,’ or tools students need to have if they wish to succeed in the workplace of the ‘future’” (WeAreTeachers). However this so-called “workplace of the future” does not allow for the expansion of one’s own personal being. The arts allow for someone to explore themselves and how they feel without technology and the internet. Yes, art can encompass those things, but without them the premise of creating art remains the same: self-expression.
People need a way to express themselves. Whether that be through poetry, prose, drawing, painting, photography, printmaking, or some other form of art, having a way to convey what you are feeling without having to speak it is proved to be beneficial, especially in developing minds as, “...simple creative activities are the building blocks of child development” (Lynch). They lead to improvements in one’s motor skills, language development, decision making, visual learning, inventiveness, cultural awareness, and academic performance. College students, high schoolers, elementary level students, and even preschoolers should all have some way to be expressive and experimentative in a creative sense. As explained by Americans for the Arts, “Numerous reports discuss the ways that increased access and involvement in arts education encourage students to stay in school, succeed in school, succeed in life, and succeed in work”. The true essence of creating art is expressing oneself. So why shouldn’t this be included with science, technology, engineering, and math when it is just as important in developing a young person’s mind?
The answer is that it should be, but it isn’t always. Compared to thousands of schools across the United States we have an outstanding arts program here at St. Mark’s. In many schools across the country, budget cuts lead to arts programs being given limited resources and funding. Although this is against many of the states’ laws, due to a lack of enforcement, these cuts are pushed aside as unimportant, especially under the Trump administration as the President has made budget cuts in art education departments across the country. Recognition is deserved for how lucky St. Markers are to have such opportunities to explore creative outlets. Ms. Putnam even acknowledges students’ interest in STEM by “ … [incorporating] the sciences within the arts so that students can address the issues that they will be facing in their own lives ― say climate change specifically ― it will let students know about the issues, how to communicate them, and some of the background and sciences.” Her inclusion of STEM topics within her courses, specifically the Studio 1 course, allows students to explore outside interests they might have while completing their art requirement.
Taking art courses is just as important as taking those in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Regardless of whether the two should be combined to form STEAM, or if they should remain separate, their importance to the development of young people’s minds needs to be acknowledged and acted upon.
“Arts Education.” Americans for the Arts, 29 Oct. 2018, www.americansforthearts.org/by-topic/arts-education.
Lynch, Grace Hwang. “The Importance of Art in Child Development.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, 25 May 2012, www.pbs.org/parents/education/music-arts/the-importance-of-art-in-child-development/.
Miller, Hayley. “U.S. Students Are Struggling In The Arts. Donald Trump's Budget Would Make The Problem Worse.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 30 Apr. 2017, www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/us-students-struggling-arts-and-donald-trump_us_58ff678be4b0c46f0782711b.
Torres, Zahira. “Arts Education in All Schools Needs to Be a Priority and Better Funded, Advocates Say.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 6 Nov. 2015, www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-hearing-on-arts-education-20151106-story.html.
WeAreTeachers Staff on March 16, 2018 “What Do We Mean When We Talk About STEM?” WeAreTeachers, 7 June 2018, www.weareteachers.com/what-is-stem/.