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If We Keep Adding to STEM We’re Going to Create a Nonsensical Word

When I first heard about the movement in science education from regular science class to a STEM offering, I was curious. How does it work? It seems to make sense: Combining the things great science teachers already do. This would make it more meaningful and relevant. Love the idea behind it, but the name seemed a little hokey to me like that cheesy Valentine’s Day card you gave the girl you liked in third grade: “You must be a garden because I’m diggin’ you.” We don’t need fancy acronyms for classes or educational ideas; we just need the idea.

However, people clearly did not get my memo about unnecessary acronyms. I mean, I know we are a lazy society all about making things easier, but acronyms just make us sound uneducated or snobby. Like changing STEM to STEAM. Okay, I get it, art is important. I’m all for incorporating the arts into what I do in the classroom. I do that already, but did some person sitting in an office somewhere getting overpaid for doing unnecessary work have to make a hokey title seem even more ridiculous? In case you’re wondering, the answer is, “No!” I love the idea behind it. In fact, the new class I’m piloting this coming year will do just what the fancy-smanchy STEAM acronym says: Bring art into the science class in creative and innovative ways. It makes a lot of sense. The neuroscience research supports it. However, no researcher has yet to say, “Naming the revamped STEM Class STEAM is a brilliant idea that will change the way students think and learn,” because that’s ludicrous. A name is just a bunch of letters put together to make something sound better or different than what it really is. My name is Mark, but that doesn’t define me. I am a father, husband, teacher, thinker, reader, jokester, music enjoyer, and life lover. My name is just something I was given and is not what or who I am. I am me.

While I may have drifted off-track a bit from my original point, acronyms are stupid. I just read via Twitter the other day that some people or perhaps just one person wants to change STEAM to STREAM to remind people the importance of reading and writing. All effective teachers already know that. Good science teachers make use of reading and writing daily. Again, changing STEM to STREAM would be foolish. STREAM sounds like we’re going to have class outside by a meandering brook listening to Rafi and the Grateful Dead, which of course we’re not because the Grateful Dead made horrific music that inspired millions of people to make horrible choices.

It’s gone too far. We need to reign in our fascination with acronyms and bring things back to the basics. Let’s change STEM to something normal like Real Science or Science Alive. Both names tell people what it is. Engineering and Math are both a part of Science already while Technology is the way we live our lives. So, there’s no need to dress up words. KISS.

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Author:

I teach sixth grade at Cardigan Mountain School in Canaan, NH. I'm currently ensconced in my fourteenth year at this small, independent boys' school. I love engaging students in relevant and hands-on learning. I was nominated for the NH Teacher of the Year Award in 2016 by a parent. While I love education and guiding students, my first passion is my family. I have a wonderful son, Jeffrey, and a beautiful and intelligent wife, Kim. I couldn't be happier. Every day is the best day of my life.

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