All things Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics
Labels are Limiting: Become Yourself
“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”
STEAM means choice. STEAM means being able to adapt to any situation. A few years ago I read that it was wiser to do what you love to than follow hot industries. It may be a cliche, but on a practical level, the area you will be most adept at professionally is the same domain in which you are intrinsically motivated to learn(i.e. follow your INTERESTS). The umbrella of STEAM extends to cover any conceivable interest or goal.
If you tell a gamer that they learn and preform better if the content and task is engaging to them on a personal level, they might look at you like you just declared the geocentric model of the universe as flawed. It may be blatantly obvious to a people who routinely have their preferences tailored to by game developers, but customization is the most effective, and fun, way to do things. Why shouldn’t your learning revolve around your whims the same way?
In a CRPG (Computer Role Playing Game), especially games by Bethesda Game Studios, you aren’t usually told what blend of skills will best suit your character’s, or avatar’s, future career as an
adventurer. You are presented with an open world and several hints, but there is no reason that you can’t decide that you want to play as an Orc (typically seen as blood thirsty, Tolkien-esquemonsters), who has decided to become a Monk. Or you can craft a new archetype altogether if you prefer! A good RPG will not stand in the way of your expression, and indeed makes itself as open to such unforeseen play styles. Why should the acquisition of skills, knowledge, and tools in the ‘real’ world be any different?
STEAM encapsulates the spectrum of human ability. I have yet to think of a worthwhile human endeavor that does not fall within this framework. If I were in the business of making RPGs, I’d use STEAM in lieu of the classic attribute format of: Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence,….etc. STEAM a much more of an appropriate paradigm for representing aptitude. Even if you favor one element over the rest, being literate in all five domains will translate to the pedagogical equivalent of a well balanced character sheet. And naturally, it is important to be balanced. You may be a master alchemist, but if your Charisma is so low that you are unable to buy potion ingredients from the shopkeep for lack of people skills, you won’t be doing much alchemy.
The same goes for the science teacher who lacks a poetic bone in their body and thusly mutates the wonders of the cosmos into a dry exercise in rote memorization. Or the artist that dismisses the findings of science as dead and without romance. What the world needs now is a way to overcome all the problems that stand before us. STEAM provides the means to a solution, but perhaps more importantly it provides a means of the unification of our shared human heritage. The polymaths of the last Renaissance did not define themselves as ‘just’ a Mathematician, ‘just’ a Scientist, ‘just’ an Artist, or ‘just’ an Engineer. Why should the people of the this renaissance adhere to distinctions crafted relatively recently and rather arbitrarily? Let us cast off the broken notions of these modern ‘specializations’. Experts range from limited in use, to downright dangerous in tunnel-vison induced blindness to monsters lurking in the peripheral. Look to the economic downturn that the ‘top economic experts’ neither predicted nor prevented for evidence as to what can happen when the concept of static mastery is tested by a dynamic reality.
Renaissance, revolution, revival, whatever you call it, the STEAM movement seems new, but it has old precedents.
In classical antiquity, young aristocrats were given an education that did not trade breadth for depth.They studied 7 arts: grammar, logic, and rhetoric as well as arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy/cosmology. Ancient Greek intellectuals just called them ‘liberal arts’. Liberal as in ‘worthy of a free person’, I’d say you could easily trade ‘worthy’ for ‘essential’. Because to be truly free, we must have truth, and to find truth we need a myriad of tools.
During the renaissance, ancient Greek thinking on multidisciplinary came back in vogue. The wellspring of innovation that came from the polymaths like Leonardo has left an enduring legacy. The concept of tearing down arbitrary borders during a time of rebirth is apt in the new millennium, an age of information, strife, and complexity. We all deserve to be well equipped for the tasks ahead. I expect STEAM is a step towards that goal.