I’ve never been a fan of the acronym STEM. It is used a lot but I’m not sure it actually amounts to anything new. Science is a content-based and skill-based discipline. Technology is simply the tools humans use, nothing more, nothing less. Engineering is a problem-solving process used to make new products and math is the method of quantifying what was learned through the scientific process and the tool to then apply that to engineered solutions. So STEM is really just really good, applicable, hands-on, real-world science. But it is treated as an interdisciplinary revolution.
To develop better thinkers who can then use the knowledge and skills expressed by the acronym STEM we need students as equally versed in all of the humanities. Language arts, social studies, math, and the arts all contain content and skills necessary for the thinkers capable of the requisite skills needed by a society. By integrating these subjects together, giving each a valuable seat at the table of learning, students are provided a proper framework to place the science content and skills, and then effectively and appropriately engineer the world in which we really will want to live. One that is rich in culture and sustainable. Not just a world of ever-increasing, smaller widgets—as nice as better music players and cell phones are.
The atom bomb was developed by those who were masters at STEM before STEM was a thing. But it wasn’t the scientists who decided to use it—right or wrong as that decision may have been.
If we rely simply on STEM to train our future leaders, thinkers, and scientists at the same time we continue to de-emphasize the importance of the humanities we could be setting ourselves for a lot of “Oh crap!” moments in future’s history. Instead, we should be building an interdisciplinary exploration of content to explore what it means to be human and how it is we ought to be living in this world. Therefore, Science and the Humanities should be Integrated Together—or SHIT—so in the future, students will be learning about the world in a holistic manner, placing the STEM content we value as a society in a context of meaningful questions about what it means to be human and live in this world. Then we might hear them say “Shit, that finally makes sense!”
Okay, so maybe the new acronym should be SLAASSM—Science, Language Arts, Arts, Social Studies and Math.