The U.S. has been increasing the integration of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) in the education system since the acronym was coined in 2001 by the U.S. National Science Foundation. Now, as the world moves into the fourth industrial revolution, there has been a growing call to prioritize arts education as well, expanding the term STEM to STEAM, “which brings the elements of STEM together with arts to guide students’ critical thinking, inquiry, and dialogue,” according to Forbes magazine.
Arts Education is Underfunded
Arts education has historically been underfunded in public schools across the U.S., which is correlated with public schools, as a whole, being widely underfunded. A National Assembly of State Arts Agencies report from 2019 revealed that “art funding throughout the years has decreased 43.4 percent.”
Arts education is critical for students to build collaboration, creativity and problem solving skills. The importance of the arts has been recently recognized by lawmakers. In 2021, the The Arts Education for All Act was introduced to expand funding for learning programs both in-school and out-of-school for arts and arts education research, providing students access to a well-rounded education.
Robert F. Smith is Investing in STEAM for Future Generations
In March 2022, entrepreneur Robert F. Smith tweeted, “I talk about STEM, but the arts are also a critical part of education. Arts inspire imagination & creative thinking crucial to science & exploration. Arts are often on budget chopping blocks – we must support these programs & recognize their impact on our youth.”
Smith is known for philanthropy that helps to increase opportunities for students of color towards building onramps for a future generation of leaders, especially in the STEAM field. In 2021, a public school in Denver, Colorado, the city in which Smith was raised, was named the Robert F. Smith STEAM Academy. It was created as “a safe space where students from marginalized communities could be equipped with the skills, knowledge and resources needed to thrive in the STEAM space.”
Additionally, Smith is founding director and President of Fund II Foundation, which provides grants to organizations that align with their values, including STEAM education, preserving the African American historical experience, and safeguarding human rights. Smith also partners with the Sphinx Organization, a “social justice organization dedicated to transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts.” In 2019, Fund II Foundation donated $3 million to Spinx Organization “in support of leadership and development programs for classical musicians, arts administrators and cultural entrepreneurs of color.”
Keep reading to find out more about the importance of preserving youth arts education in the U.S. and how communities of color too often lack exposure to arts in the classroom.