Is STEM the only thing?

2016-Sep-10_FiddleBanjo2016_1362Is STEM the only thing? I’m asking for a friend.

It occurs to me that in the rush to turn out worker bees for business sectors, the focus in education is more than a little skewed in favor of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Yes, these are all important studies and part of a well-rounded balanced education. However, I am questioning that the focus on STEM has over-shadowed other content and curricula that, in my biased opinion, should be equally important.

Because I see education in terms of an avenue toward a pursuit, observing the march of the bureaucrats toward the next great crisis in education is equally frustrating and alarming. Our educational goal should be to “hook” students into becoming life-long students, to foster curiosity and questioning and the drive to know more.

And maybe that pathway toward becoming lifetime learners is through a STEM discipline, and perhaps it is not.

As a student, my personal pathway into learning was through something quite different. I was a more-than-adequate reader, not a particularly skilled writer, and a horribly incompetent math student.  What fired me up to become more disciplined about learning and more successful as a student, was a love and pursuit of music. The irony of this statement is that, as an adult, music has taken a backseat to the very disciplines that catch all the attention today – technology and mathematics.

To me, it is more important to teach students to think critically, to process logically and, yes, even scientifically. Science, math, and technology are important and great ways to get to those problem-solving and thinking skills. But other disciplines can be a means to this end – and toward the goal of fostering and enduring desire to learn – too. And for the student whose interest in learning lies in arts and humanities, exclusion of such pursuits leave them flat.

So while our education policy makers direct a refocus on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, I hope there might also be a similar pursuit of arts and humanities. Because, in my opinion, there is a need to balance educational pursuits across all disciplines.

Traveling in my discomfort zone

I have long admired people who can see things artistically in this world. To be able to capture a mood or  a moment and relay that feeling to another is, well, magical.

A great-great uncle of mine was Alexander Wyant, a tonalist, whose work hangs in several museums. When I was in junior high school, it was the cool thing to learn to use oil paints in an after school program. I am afraid that one or two of those paintings may survive somewhere in an attic.

This week, I entered two photographs in the Westford Regional Art Event, mostly to live in my zone of discomfort. I do not have any illusions of becoming a photographer – one per family is plenty and we actually have two: Adrien and my son Matt.

Very few of my own photographs are ones that I would consider worthy of showing to anyone else. Maybe once a year I’ll shoot something that I’m actually not embarassed to show. Making a decision to show two photographs was a giant leap outside of the zone in which I am most comfortable. While I don’t harbor any illusions of giving up my day job, it was interesting, to say the least, to experience exposing the inner artist, to actually seek the opinion of another on a work so personal.

Here are the two photographs that I entered in this years art exhibit (raw files, hence the chomatic abberations on the rope photograph):

Rope Room, Mystic Seaport Connecticut

Living with a photographer has advantages: one is on-demand instruction and advice. Can you spot any of Adrien’s recommendations in the composition of these two photographs?