Education in America: An Expanded Argument

I keep thinking about my latest posts on education and the need I see for a three-legged balance between STEM, liberal arts, and vocational training. It occurs to me that this is incomplete. There needs to be a fourth leg:

Arts education.

Music, visual arts, performing arts—these are different from liberal arts (philosophy, history, literature study, rhetoric, etc.), just as liberal arts are different from STEM. But just like liberal arts and STEM, arts education also seeks to develop critical thinking skills, along its own lines and according to its own standards.

When I critiqued the STEAM concept, I did so in terms of liberal arts but that’s incorrect. The “A” in STEAM stands for “Arts”—as in arts education, not liberal.

I think my critique still stands: integrating arts education with STEM is a mistake. I believe that conflating them makes it virtually impossible to avoid subordinating the arts aspect to the STEM aspect. They’re both best served when they’re allowed to stand on their own.

A four-legged educational system: STEM—Liberal arts—Arts—Vocational training.

That should be our goal.

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