The Dep’t of Terminology Strikes Back

By John Hertz: (from a letter to Roger Wells)  I have heard a lot about the acronym STEM for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.  Your mention of STEAM adding Art prompted a little research in which I found the campaign “STEM to STEAM” which would add Art & Design, sponsored by the Rhode Island School of Design, 2 College St., Providence, RI 02905.  The school’s name ought, I suppose, to recall my childhood sorrow, tinged with relief, when after reading Jack Williamson’s 1947 masterpiece “With Folded Hands” I learned that known science had no support for rhodomagnetics; the author, who knew much, may have known the coincidence of his name with the founder of Rhode Island – and you are another Roger.

Before I went to law school I was already an amateur terminologist; since, I have also been a professional terminologist.  Art has had a strange life.  Art & Design may be better than our habit of saying at science fiction conventions we have a Writer Guest of Honor and an Artist Guest of Honor; writing is, or had better be, art.  The division “science, technology, engineering” is strange: I’ve tried to learn from engineers why they don’t consider themselves scientists; but what about technology?  What about George Sarton’s superb observation – and he should know – “The advancement of knowledge has been made possible by increasing accuracy of measurement” (e.g. Six Wings p. 78, 1957)?  I’d not suggest separating art, or art and design, from science, technology, engineering, mathematics; nor opposing the promotion of all or any: but what can be meant by a name that purports to comprise the five of them – if they are five? A campaign to remind many that the real joys of life are crippled by continuing to live in schoolday disgusts?

You’ll have noticed that Scott Kelly’s valuable Endurance, though it has poetry, and names Barber, Beethoven, Mozart, Strauss, and Tchaikovsky – putting Mozart first! – does not explicitly explore art.  This is not the only reason, though you may consider it indicative, why I’m nominating instead for Best Related Work his aimed-at-children version My Journey to the Stars illustrated by both photographs (Endurance has some – another ill-acknowledged art) and André Ceolin’s drawings.

One thought on “The Dep’t of Terminology Strikes Back

  1. IME, the perception of STEM as lacking in appreciation for the A is misguided. I find that there are far more individuals that could be described as STEAM or perhaps STEaM than there are who could be described as steAm.

    But that is a sample of 1, so YMMV.

    * <- After the Hair Club for Tribbles . <- Before hair club

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