These days I cannot travel too far without hearing or reading about the importance of S.T.E.M in education. Many argue that S.T.E.M (Science Technology Engineering and Math) provides students from low-income communities the training and experience needed to bridge the gap from poverty to affluence.
I too agree that S.T.E.M has the ability to change the trajectory of youths caught up in the cycle of poverty. However in low-income communities S.T.E.M is simply a band-aid. S.T.E.M is not a panacea, nor will it ever address all of the socio economic ills. If schools introduced art into S.T.E.M and advocated for a S.T.E.A.M based curriculum (Science Technology Engineering Art and Math) than we would begin to see more innovation and the narratives of these communities will change.
Nonetheless, many promoters of S.T.E.M feel that its programs are the best way to address the economic disparities. So it comes as no surprise when looking at the recipients of community grants that the majority of the opportunities are awarded to S.T.E.M based programs.In my view S.T.E.M programs do not address the root cause of economic disparities. The key to tackling these issues is architecture but many overlook its importance. Architecture when done right can serve as an artistic gesture that inspires each individual to reach their highest potential. In fact, when we look at stellar institutions like the Ron Clark Academy or the Avenues World School we are ultimately studying architecture and its ability to create irresistible learning environments. Essentially Architecture is the silent teacher. Through design the architectural details tells a story that educates its community on its position in life and ideals about life. Whether good or bad the environmental narrative being told has a profound effect. It enters the subconscious mind and becomes a part of the internal dialogue that shapes ones ideology. Whether the perception is good or bad that persons view may become a part of his or her self prophecy. This tug of waris known as “Man vs. Nature”.
In general, when a community responds positively to its surroundings it will only be a matter of time before others become a part of that local eco-system. That system must include strong business partnerships. When strategic partnerships are in place, businesses start to invest, then schools benefits from that tax base. Through the effects of commerce we will begin to see more innovative curriculum. On the contrary, some say that there’s inner city schools that have defied the odds and performing exceptionally well. However that scenario is an anomaly. More importantly, I have yet to hear of a case where a community known for its opulent architecture has a cluster of schools ranking in the bottom percentile.
In conclusion when it comes to tackling societal ills we have to look at the courtship between architecture and commerce. What it boils down to is that a great education is a by-product of the surrounding architecture and its ability to engage its community to take action. If we continue to make S.T.E.M the focus and ignore the financial resources needed to change the physical landscape of low- income communities then we are committing a form of self-genocide.