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Sep
2
2014
STEAM not STEM
Author: Aruna

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Trinavarta & Baby Krishna

It’s the dominant message South Asian parents give their kids: focus on math, science, and reading – and reserve the “fluffy” stuff (art, music, dance….) for the weekends (if even that).  Growing up, the only subjects I was “allowed” to get less than an “A” was in music or art.  Which suited me fine – I hated those subjects anyway. I still can’t read sheet music and I can barely draw a decent human.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that both my kids are strongly artistic.  My son is amazingly gifted with music – he can’t remember math facts to save his life, but is able to reproduce entire musical compositions he’s heard only once.  My daughter is a ferocious drawer – she finishes her worksheets lightening-fast so she can flip the page over and create her drawings on the back.  They spend an inordinate amount of their free time creating, drawing, and weaving stories into their art.  When they are sad or agitated, my son gets on his santoor and my daughter withdraws to her art kit.

When I see how important the arts are to my kids, it makes me sad when I hear that art or music programs are being marginalized or even cut in schools.  Or when kids are coming home with so much homework that they have no time to pursue creative outlets on their own.  It’s part of the reason why our family homeschools part-time.

Yo-Yo Ma, the famous cellist, wrote an excellent article (available here) a few months back on the importance of integrating the arts into eduction (adding the “A” to “STEM” (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).  As he states, “The values behind arts integration — collaboration, flexible thinking and disciplined imagination — lead to the capacity to innovate.”

And he warns of the danger of ignoring the arts: “We all get into trouble if we think the universe only exists of the matter that we can see and measure, and not the anti-matter that is the counterpart that holds it all together.”

The drawing above is my daughter’s – one of her many pieces dedicated to Lord Krishna.  In between all the math and reading, art is her personal, spiritual anti-matter where she connects herself to her world.  As I see how important the arts are to my kids, I’m comforted that they won’t be automatons – and that they’ll be able to find and create their happiness.

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