STEM vs. Art?

This has been the December from Tartarus. Too many medicalist appointments – and some yet to come. Too much not-December weather – as in, too d**n colding. And then a couple of days ago while cooling my heels waiting on FD SCP’s medicalist appointment – and trying to ignore the abuses of the staff wrecked on the consumers – which is another subject – I ran across an article [Link] entitled “The focus on maths and science doesn’t add up. The arts must be in the equation.” 

My initial thought was “Stercus! Another irrelevant arts teacher moaning again.” I wasn’t quite wrong.

The article was out of the Guardian, and like so many British newspaper articles and so few Amerikan, it was worth reading. The thesis was a bit mixed: a melange of too much STEM for too little gain; too little arts; and too much oppression of the teaching staff.

Which seems to indicate that the situation in England is similar to that in the Yankee republic.

Before continuing, I reflected on my own experiences. All of the STEM teachers I had, save one, were at best mediocre and the mean was abysmal. My chemistry teacher was one of those people who had a real chemistry degree and no certification and shortly after I graduated left for a real chemistry career since he got booted for no certification. This was a common situation when I was in public schule. The good teachers weren’t certified teachers and the bad ones were. Probably why I identify so strongly with Chicken Man’s statement that “good student learn in spite of bad teachers.”

So I have a bit of a disinterest in the bleatings of certified teachers; if they can’t teach worth a hoot what does it matter if they are put upon? Other than basic human decency, of course. Oh, there may be an occasional good teacher in the bunch but when the place is a toxic waste dump what can you do?

I also noted while I was in undergraduate college that the teachers most likely to flock to summer schule for advanced education were the bad ones who were only in it for the money.

I recall I had to take some arts courses in schule. I started out with lots of wannabe and little canbe. And I ended up pretty well hating the whole thing. Got very painful. The only good thing was it taught me lessons about disappointment and inability. Hard lessons, in several meanings of the word.

I need to qualify some of that. I have met some good students and a few good teachers in recent years, largely courtesy of American Physical Society outreach programs. But they are rare. And many are parochial – RC – the protestant schules don’t even try at least inferring from their absence. Which is a mixed bag of expectation affirmed and reversed. 

I stop short of thinking that humans who can do STEM are born that way and don’t need anything other than some access to information and opportunity. The ability of the schule system to deter and destroy even the best student is undeniable. But one keeps hoping they have some positive quality. 

And I have to ask the question: if you can’t teach STEM passably, what makes you think you can teach arts successfully? That’s not rhetorical or associative. Since I am soiled goods with respect to arts education I would like some meaningful – not low hanging irrelevant fruit – data. 

Nor do I expect any improvement in the public education (or private for that matter) system. Those who are living in fear of their lives are seldom open to anything other than Hobbesian survival. 

On a more positive note, real education in Amerika has always been rare to vanishing. We are the triumph (??????????) of capitalism and the self-made human. Education, on the other hand, is all about being happy and competent in one’s life. And the two are diametrically opposed and always have been. 

So why should it change now?

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