Over the past several years, there has been a focus on promoting Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education in schools. Many jobs are in those fields, and it is important that schools prepare students to problem-solve and think critically so they are prepared for the rigor these roles demand. At St. Michael’s School, we have embraced STEM education by incorporating project-based learning and implementing STEM thinking across the grades.
To that end, there are some people who believe that colleges and universities should offer degrees only in fields where graduates will be guaranteed to secure a job with a decent wage. I read an article recently in which the author suggested institutions of higher learning eliminate all Liberal Arts degrees. Graduates who major in Music, Art, Theater, Communications, History, and Philosophy, for example, are likely to make a significantly lower salary than their STEM-field counterparts. If they are even able to find a job, their wages are likely not high enough to sustain an adequate standard of living, especially if student loan debt is significant.
While STEM education is certainly important, I believe that the Liberal Arts provide students with a balanced and well-rounded education. How dull would our life be if we could not enjoy paintings and sculptures by talented artists, or be moved by the beautiful melodies and lyrics of gifted musicians? Research provides us with significant data which demonstrates a strong correlation between the Fine Arts and increased brain development. There is substantial evidence that the Arts enhance brain function by impacting brain wave patterns, emotions, and the nervous system; Fine Arts can also raise serotonin levels.
Even Charlemagne, who was known as Charles the Great and ruled from AD 768 – 814, recognized this. As one of the most historically significant people in all of European history, he was known as the “Father of Europe” because he united Western and Central Europe for the first time since the fall of the Roman Empire. He ushered in the Carolingian Renaissance, in which a major component was an emphasis on education. Charlemagne established universities where students studied seven core subjects: Grammar, Rhetoric, Logic, Geometry, Arithmetic, Music, and Astronomy.
This past weekend, St. Michael’s School presented its fall musical theater production, Music Man Jr. Thirty-five of our students rehearsed songs, practiced dance steps, and memorized lines before performing to four sold-out audiences. The students, as well as their directors: Lynne Broyles, Rachel Alessio, and Michael Cazares, and assisted by Beth Entwistle and a host of parent volunteers, put on an amazing show. We are so proud of them for their effort, determination, and resilience. Performing in front of a live audience can be very intimidating and nerve-wracking, but they did it with ease and poise. They learned a great deal through this experience, and we were gifted by their efforts.
Next week, all of our students will perform at our annual Christmas Program. This has been a tradition since our school’s inception in 1964. It is a way for us to thank God for all of the gifts He has given us, and to honor and glorify Him as we prepare for the coming of Christ at Christmas.
STEM education is a vital component of an SMS education, and so too are Music, Art, Theater, and the other Liberal Studies, all of which are important in developing the whole child.