UKEdMag: Starving Artists & Sensible Scientists by @LearntSchool

Why would a capable individual choose the precarious artists path over a solid STEM career?

We all know STEM careers are a good choice for students. Our economy requires STEM professionals, so our students are assured support on STEM career paths. Some may say that artists, musicians, actors and poets, on the other hand, are on seemingly shaky ground. Given the options, surely it is more difficult to endorse artistic interests in the way we do with STEM. So, why would a capable individual choose the precarious artists path over a solid STEM career? This question needs attention if we are ever to bring about the potential of what’s possible from the international STEM movement.

This article was originally published in the November 2015 Edition of our UKEdMagazine

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What about where STEM meets Art? Like when my high school science teacher, seemingly on a whim, shared a research paper with my class. He became a showman! His voice had an edge; there was a real urgency in his message and an ownership of his place at the front of the room that I’d never seen before. Perhaps we witnessed in this performance something of the spark that brought 19th century crowds to watch Faraday’s Royal Institution lectures on science?

As well as captivating wonder, STEM has dangerous potential. What tempers our natural interest in advancing STEM, for the sake of advancement? There are many ways in which art touches the sciences and can provide STEM professionals with insight. Students learn what art is when they see teachers’ reactions, such as when my teacher arrived late for class after hearing the song ‘Wires’ on the radio; it had moved her to tears. [Listen at uked15nov16]. Art speaks. It’s the voice that captivates the one who’s captivated by the flame, on the verge of over-feeding the fire.

Are schools blind to this essential dance between STEM and the arts? Those moments of awe aren’t encouraged; my Science teacher should have started revision, my English teacher should not have cried. Often students learn to believe there’s a choice: STEM or the Arts? Pick one.

During the renaissance and enlightenment, those at the forefront of the sciences would be in constant communication with our great writers and poets; William Wordsworth, John Keats and Percy Shelley, to name a few of the scientific enthusiasts who preferred to create reflections rather than advancement. Indeed, there were and are many examples of great thinkers who revelled in both. Robert Hooke’s Micrographia is an exquisite work of art, as well as being a cornerstone of 17th century science.

Our greatest movements in history evolved when the sciences and the arts transformed together and, for our own protection, we require them to be on the best of terms. The arts need not be precarious, not if we’re smart. If STEM is our ship, art is our counterbalance and direction. If we’re stepping up STEM, we need the Arts more than ever.

Leah K Stewart @LearntSchool is founder of Beyond the Box Education ( for young introverted big-thinkers who want to make a real positive difference in our world. UKed Teachers are invited to follow her work as self-elected peer reviewers.

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The Editorial Account of UKEdChat, managed by editor-in-chief Colin Hill, with support from Martin Burrett from the UKEd Magazine. Pedagogy, Resources, Community.

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