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Rising STEAM

The arts community has believed in and asserted the essential nature of the arts for many years, without making much of a dent in thinking, practice, policy or funding among the corporations, schools and school districts, legislative bodies, funders, and policy makers who control the money, and therefore the agendas of those sectors. That’s changing. While STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering, Math — is on the lips of many CEO’s, K-12 educators, college presidents, funders, and policymakers, STEAM asserts that Art and Design should also be at the STEM table, shaping education, workforce development and STEM practice.

A recent article from the Miami Herald described four new STEAM magnet schools, noting, “Teaching creativity, at its root, is about teaching the ability to think divergently: to not only know your facts but to find new approaches and solutions to existing situations.” And a growing number of power and funding brokers in the public and private sectors are newly interested in and talking about this. There’s even a STEAM Caucus in Congress, chaired by a Republican from Illinois. Unlikely allies now see the growing mismatch in workforce resources and industry/public sector needs; the failure of the NCLB’s standardized test model of education, which stifles creativity and does little to truly prepare students for the world of post-secondary study and technical careers; and the potential of art to turn the ship around.

The STEAM movement heralds a fundamental change in the perception of art and its role in society. STEAM advocates, educators, and practitioners — and increasingly, thought leaders and policy makers — are recognizing that art is, in fact, a “public good” available and beneficial to all. We cannot compete globally, and we cannot advance society without it.

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