Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Arts and STEM: Not Either-Or

Thanks to Josie from The Compass Point at Poughkeepsie Day School for pointing me to her post on Hetland and Winner's Studio Thinking. The quote she cited at the end of her post is an important statement:
“We don’t need the arts in our schools to raise mathematical and verbal skills,” conclude Winner and Hetland. “We already target these in math and language arts. We need the arts because in addition to introducing students to aesthetic appreciation, they teach other modes of thinking we value.”
The comments her post received included one arguing that the arts are a waste of time because the best universities prefer more math and science courses to four years of high school arts courses. If this was ever the case, I think we will see it change. Earlier this year, I interviewed several leaders in the development of Ohio's new STEM high schools for the Ohio Arts Council's Links & Threads newsletter (Vol. IV, Issue 2). Here are a couple quotes:

Gregory Bernhardt, dean of Wright State University’s College of Education and a leader in the Dayton Regional STEM School Consortium: “We think the arts absolutely go hand in hand
with being a good critical thinker. We believe art and music are languages for today’s young people.”

Shaun Yoder, executive director of the Ohio Business Alliance for Education and the Economy: "Creative, innovative, inventive thinking in the STEM disciplines and in the arts work in much
the same way."

Marcy Raymond, principal of Metro High School (Ohio's first STEM high school): “The arts and humanities require the higher order thinking skills of analysis, evaluation and synthesis . . . . Science doesn’t happen in isolation. Students must prepare to view their work within the culture and to see the connections.”

Ohio seems to be one of the states that have a broader, arts-inclusive view of innovation. Governor Ted Strickland and First Lady Frances often mention the arts as essential to innovation. The Ohio Department of Education has formed a group of arts leaders called Committee for the Arts and Innovative Thinking (CAIT) to look at greater integration between the arts and the state's STEM initiatives. Also, Ohio's STEM Learning Network has a section on its Web site called Inquiring Minds, which discusses how the arts and sciences go hand in hand in creative thinking.

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