In the world of education there has been a lot of conversation and controversy about the acronyms STEM versus STEAM. What’s the difference? And why does it matter? STEM is the classic acronym for education tailored toward science, technology, engineering, and math. Recently, there has been a strong push to change the acronym to STEAM to emphasize an importance of the arts in today’s technological world.

The controversy arises from supporters of STEM who believe that art is inherently included in each of the STEM subjects. It is argued that skills such as creativity, problem solving, and writing and communication are already integrated within the STEM system of learning. While this may be true, it is important to evaluate more deeply the true definition and value of art in the education system.

Art cannot be compromised into the simple definition of creativity and visual expression. We must expand our understanding and consider art in the humanities sense. Art encompasses so much more than creativity. Art embodies history, writing, literature, language, human thought, thoughtfulness and a greater sense of the world and its needs. Is there a place for these things in technology and science based careers? Absolutely.

Many STEM supporters fear that the inclusion of the letter “A” in the acronym may divert from the emphasis that is placed on the other letters. It is no question that our society is in need of skilled workers in the technology and manufacturing fields, but it is important to understand how education in the arts can benefit those fields. By placing an emphasis on the arts, students will learn to be better and more thoughtful thinkers. They will be encouraged to think about the world in a more sensitive way, allowing them to better provide what the world may need.

The debate isn’t about which letter is better or more beneficial, it is about integrating the subjects and systems of learning in order to produce well-rounded students for the next generation to come. The future is becoming increasingly technologically focused and that cannot be ignored, but in order to create a positive impact on the future of technology, students must have diverse educational backgrounds.

It is the hope of STEAM supporters that the inclusion of the arts will enhance students’ ability to comprehend and build on careers focused on science, technology, engineering, and manufacturing. If you know a student who is interested in the arts and humanities, encourage them to seek out opportunities and careers in which they can use those skills in the fields of science and technology, as there is a huge demand. The world needs more versatile thinkers in order to create a better and cleaner future.