In 2006 there was a term that started to grow in the United States-- STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). The basis of the STEM movement was the growing concern that our students were not prepared for the high-tech jobs of the future. Just a year later a well-know researcher, Georgette Yakman, announced the need to include the arts in STEM programs; thus STEM became STEAM. Georgette took the inclusion of the arts and expanded on how it relates to the other STEM subjects. Her well-know quote is "Science and technology, interpreted through engineering and the arts, all based in elements of mathematics." This is a rich beginning to our dive into the 21st century job market... but!
We have lost sight of one very important aspect of our education and all jobs, be they high-tech, low-tech, or no-tech. What about the importance of reading? Without the ability to read and write, there is not a job to be found for which STEM or STEAM education is going to be enough preparation.
ELA, or English Language Arts, is a critical component of the core standards. There are also standards that help reference reading and writing for science and the technical subjects. The notion seems to be that reading is still a critical element in any student's success. Why not give it its proper place... STEM to STEAM to STREAM, standing for Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Arts and Math.
To be prepared for the 21st century high-tech jobs, you will need to read, and read a lot. There can even be an argument made that due to the Internet, texting, emails, etc., all people are reading more today than ever before. How do we expect our future employees to be able to compete in science, technology, engineering, the arts or math without putting a major emphasis on the critical need to be able to read, comprehend and write? Students of today, who are being prepared for the unknown jobs of tomorrow, need to be fluent in all of the core subjects.
Reading must be in the forefront of every educator's mind. No matter what subject you teach, you are a teacher of reading. No matter what emphasis your school or the country puts on STEM or STEAM, you, as an educator, must see the critical importance of putting the skills of reading and writing first. It is our fundamental means of communication.
I would like to add to Georgette Yakman's quote, a critical missing element. The new quote should read:
"STREAM : Science and Technology, interpreted through Engineering and the Arts, conveyed through reading and writing, all based in elements of Mathematics."
There are times, when we look at the educational conversations in the United States, that reading seems to be either an expected outcome without the need to bring it to the attention of others, or it is simply overlooked as a mundane expectation. But why? There was a time when reading was the most important educational topic in the United States next to "Just Say No." Have we achieved our reading and writing goals, and so we now assume that all is well in these subjects? No! I don't think so.