The trouble with borrowing ideas from outside your field of expertise

This morning I was part of a team at my school discussing STEM versus STEAM, an interesting concept including arts in the paradigm of STEM.

I checked STEAM online, and found this (quite horrible) infographic from the University of Florida:

What you get is an interesting idea, STEAM, from a field of research Arts Education that borrows something from neurology to become more trustworthy, to be taken more serious. The sad thing is: by doing this they spread further a neuromyth and people will believe it because it comes from a university. An university mentioning sources in their infographic which actually explain why what they are depicting is complete nonsense and linking in their explanation to a website with an overview of views from Randstad that, besides some research mentioned in HBR, isn’t scientific at all, even linking to another neuromyth Whole Brain thinking.

So, my personal advice and plea: stick to your own strong points and don’t go looking for explanations in fields of research you don’t know enough about because of 2 different possible dangerous consequences:

  • People who do know something about this will think you’re inadequate and won’t believe the stuff you actually now about, or
  • People who don’t know anything about it will believe wrong information.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to blame the University of Florida, I’ve taken it as an example, but it happens quite a lot.

And discussing Arts Education, I think the OECD, maybe surprising to some, had it wright when they chose this as a title for their report on arts education: Art for Art’s Sake?

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1 Comment

Filed under Education, Myths, Review

One response to “The trouble with borrowing ideas from outside your field of expertise

  1. Reblogged this on Evolution, Culture and Meaning and commented:
    The reason I reblog this, is because it addresses one of the most difficult aspects of the science and religion field. As a theologian, it takes a lot of effort to make sure you understand what science is doing, before you can even start contemplating the theological implications of scientific theories. And, as mentioned in this blogpost: there is always the risk of getting it wrong. The strange part, however, is that this should also be a concern for scientists studying religion, but it actually often does not. On the contrary, theology is often depicted as irrelevant to evolutionary studies of religion or cognitive science of religion, because of its reflective nature, which is seen as merely a particular icing on the universal cake of human features. Although I can partly understand the reasoning behind this, I don’t agree with the conclusion. It seems to me that scientific studies of religion not only run the risk of propagating ‘evo-myths’ , as in the neuromyths in the original blogpost above, when they use concepts from cognitive science or evolutionary theory, but, moreover, they run the risk of propagating ‘reli-myths’, when they use religious concepts without really knowing what they mean. Or, put in other words, I question the implicit claim, made by scientific studies of religion, that science knows better than religious believers what religion is about.

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