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By Adding an 'A' for Arts to STEM, a New Acronym Is Born

A recent commentary in EdWeek is urging that the popular STEM acronym expand to STEAM, with a dose of attention to the arts.

Education in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics is gaining "alpha" status, writes Joseph Piro, an associate professor of curriculum and instruction at Long Island University. "Yet, in the midst of all the STEM frenzy, we may want to do something riskier, and more imaginative, to save the country: turn STEM funding into STEAM funding. Inserting the letter A, for the arts, into the acronym could afford us even greater global advantage."

He points to a 2008 study from the National Endowment for the Arts, which showed that individuals involved professionally in the arts represent a "sizable" branch of the labor force. Artists—such as musicians, architects, art directors, animators, and photographers—make up a larger occupational group than lawyers, medical doctors, or agricultural workers, with an aggregate annual income of $70 billion.

Piro says research also shows that involvement with the arts "leads to measurable cognitive gains." In fact, he's been conducting research on the role of music training in enhancing the development of literacy skills.

Piro closes with a nod to Albert Einstein, apparently a devotee of the music of Mozart and Bach and himself a musician, who once said: "The most joy in my life has come to me from my violin."

Incidentally, I should note that this commentary is not the first effort to amend the STEM acronym. Last month, I blogged about a study that added an extra "M" at the end for medicine.

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