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Stem or Steam?

There’s a lot of discussion in education today regarding the term STEM, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.

Why? Well, quite simply, the world is changing rapidly and American education has lagged behind. Students educated in India and China have been filling the American job market for many years due to the fact that India and China have recognized these changes and have adjusted their school’s curriculum to address the changes – especially in science and technology.

In its attempt to make up for lost ground American schools have started to have a STEM focus with STEM initiatives and STEM curriculum. This is necessary to ensure our children are prepared for the 21st Century.

However, there is a concern. With a singular focus on STEM subjects alone, we face the temptation to dilute or even remove the arts and humanities from education. The problem with this is that students need the arts and humanities to place STEM in its proper context.

Without the arts and humanities students do not understand the real reason for learning STEM; which should be improving the lives of others.

To learn about science, technology, math or engineering without connecting those subjects to how it has impacted man throughout history creates a disconnect between theory and reality.

This is why at Temecula Preparatory School we appreciate an educational initiative coming out of Rhode Island referred to as “STEAM” or Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math.

The STEAM initiative recognizes the need for arts or humanities in the study of all subjects. As philosopher George Santayana famously said, “Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it.”

This underscores the importance of remembering the human factor in all of education. As you hear about STEM initiatives in the future, I would encourage you to remember that while they are very important to the success of our children’s future they mean little unless that future is about making our world a better place to live.

Scott Phillips, J.D. is the CEO and Headmaster for Heritage Classical Charter Schools/Temecula Preparatory School. Twitter: @