From STEAM to SHAME

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Not a day goes by without reading about assaults on the arts and humanities. A recent New York Times article promotes STEM education and cuts liberal arts funding. But what is STEM and what is STEAM? I'd like to get at the heart of what the letters mean and then suggest we may wish to invest in SHAME. Let's begin with the last letter of STEM: "M" for Mathematics. Mathematics is a liberal art, and one of the original historical components of a liberal arts education. Math is relevant to just about everything, but often math is incorrectly made synonymous with symbolic notation. Those funny hieroglyphics. Math has nothing intrinsically to do with this notation; however.  When we observe symmetry, color, or create abstract patterns of experience, we actively engage in mathematical thinking. Mathematics is the science of patterns, and through it we celebrate abstraction. Then we have "S"cience and "E"ngineering. Science is the study of nature and engineering is the study of manipulating nature to create products for human use.  "T" is the odd one because "T" is not an academic discipline. Rather, "T"echnology is an end effect of science and engineering, flourishing in the marketplace of invention and commerce. You don't learn T as an academic subject, but you use T. Everyone does.  Now, we have whittled the acronym down to create....SEM? But then here comes "A" for "A"rt (which is how folks get from STEM to STEAM).  Each of these letters reflects a different way of looking at the world, using different lenses. If you go and talk to real people, they are hybrid mixes of all of these letters. People are not disciplines. But to achieve a better balance of letters, let's not forget the humanities. This gives us SHAME, because we should be ashamed not to use all of the letters to see the world in its diversity.