The STEM and the FLOWER

In case you didn’t know, this is Australian Engineering Week. School children around the country are receiving an extra dose of education’s latest hot acronym, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths).

Undoubtedly, these are essential skills for the future of humanity and have profoundly affected our physical lives. How we work, travel, communicate and even how long we’ll live has changed more in the last 30 years than the previous 3000 generations combined. That’s frankly incredible.

Technological and medical progress feels inevitable for Australians, and as if like it will only keep accelerating. So what is my point? 

Yet all this advancement in the physical sense are really all merely conduits for the real content: the culture, emotion and relationships of our lives – the people who surround us, how we define ourselves and what we aspire to be.  

As the saying goes, it’s the breadth of your life rather than the length of it, that really matters.

The subjects that teach us our emotional, intellectual and cultural foundations so that we may progress them, the arts and humanities, feel like they have been reduced to secondary status in our education system. 

Yet all are borne of our innate curiosity in both the outer and inner worlds we are subject to, the physical and the mental. They are literally two sides of the same coin and profoundly affect one another.

If the content of our lives is reduced to collecting new gadgets to watch cat videos on then we’re basically doomed.

While we can appreciate how important STEM is to our future, it is essential that we also place the arts and the humanities as central to a rounded education for the future generations of Australians. Let’s adopt an even better acronym - STEAM – I think you can guess what the extra letter stands for. That must be the basis of the forward-looking education system Australia needs.

The collaboration, innovation and disruption that we need to foster in future generations, to keep us producing the new ideas, approaches and products of tomorrow will only come from cross-discipline pollination, with engineers and artists and scientists and creatives of all persuasions, working together.

Then we’ll create real progress.

After all what value has the STEM without the FLOWER on top? Or the FLOWER without the STEM? Ultimately pointless in both scenarios, I think you’d agree. 

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