One of the first assumptions I hear from parents who are just beginning the discovery of classical education is, "Well, what about STEM programs? Isn't classical education weak in math and science?" In a digital age, where less and less emphasis is placed on reading, books, beautiful artwork, and the eloquent and persuasive nature of the written and spoken word, it's natural that the thing that appears to stick out about classical education most is its emphasis on language arts and history. While it is true that classical education has deep roots in history, literature, languages, and the arts, it absolutely has competitive math and science programs.
Our assumptions about what compartmentalized programs (such as STEM) really mean or accomplish is actually the issue, not the false assumption that classical education is weak in math and science.
The world is full of complex problems- cures for cancer, disease research, solar inventions, and the endless complex problems in software and technological advancements. The answer to solving these problems is not emphasizing math and science. Yes, math and science are important, but compartmentalized math and science programs will not lead the way for innovation and advancement.
Innovation experts and consultants stress repeatedly that innovation isn't a matter of subject knowledge. It's about thinking in flexible, integrative, and multidisciplinary ways, across many fields and types of knowledge. It's about being able to synthesize and integrate different perspectives and models; of understanding and taking into account different human, cultural and economic needs, desires, values, and factors and, from all that, glimpsing a new way forward that nobody else managed to see.
And that, leads us to why classical education is the best way to educate students in the fields of math and science, ultimately leading to math/science innovation and advancement.
Classical education teaches students how to learn. Traditional education teaches students what to learn. Traditional schooling stresses passing tests, retaining compartmentalized information in the form of disjointed classes, and simply putting the information back out in testing formats.
Classical education teaches students to integrate fields of knowledge, to think in flexible, integrative, and creative ways, within all subject matters. Therefore, what is being taught in one subject area absolutely matters to what is being taught in another, and students must learn to see those connections. Classical education purposefully and consistently connects academic disciplines and forces students to make bridges in their knowledge. This is the greatest difference between classical education and traditional education.
Producing students who are innovators is not simply about providing "better" quality and quantity in our math and science programs. Instead, it's about re-thinking how we educate students overall.
It's a matter of restructuring how we approach and teach all our subjects, from the liberal arts to math, science and engineering. It means focusing as much on teaching how to combine those fields of knowledge and how to think in flexible, integrative, and creative ways, as we do on the subject matter itself.
STEM is a marketing tool more than anything. Jobs in the "STEM" field actually require resilient, problem solving thinkers, which is what classical education seeks to produce. STEM programs are simply compartmentalizing math and science. True entrepreneurs and science/math advancement happens when connections are made. Traditional, disjointed approaches to math and science don’t make connections. If you can’t make connections, think, and apply, you can't make math and science advancements.
Out of all the job fields, the science and math fields are quickly changing with every single year. Attempting to teach to this in compartmentalized programs like STEM is counterproductive, just like teaching to a test is counterproductive. If we are seeking to produce students who are learning and memorizing math and science in STEM programs that will become quickly obsolete by the time they are going to get a job or attend college, it is useless. Students need the flexibility to think differently, to make connections across all academic disciplines, and they need the resiliency to know they can tackle any tough thing that comes their way. This is how true advancement in the math and science fields happen, and this is the backbone of classical education.
How do you know your child is getting the best education for math and science advancement? Give them a classical education that teaches them to think, and to deeply and effectively collaborate and make connections. So while we absolutely believe our math and science courses are important, we believe our ability to produce thinkers who can apply, make multi-disciplinary connections, and therefore become innovators, is the most important type of education we can give students.
Here at the Academy, our school uses one of the top gifted math programs in preparations for our higher-level high school mathematics courses. Our teachers go through extensive math training and are committed to fostering math language and math thinkers in our students. Our math curriculum doesn't let students get away with memorizing algorithms and using tips and tricks to solve problems. Students have to think the problems through, use multi-disciplinary knowledge, and think through what is really going on in order to solve problems. This is mathematical thinking and this provides a solid foundation on which to grow and prepare the way for math and science advancement.