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Almost every time I talk to STEAM folks, for example teachers, about METALS — that is, adding Logic (L) to STEAM — I’m asked a question that goes something like: “But we already have logic in our STEAM curriculum. Why do you need to put it in the acronym?” I have a very specific answer to this (not that it convinces anyone).

The words that are, so to speak, “first order” in STEAM, that is: Science, Tech, Engineering, Arts, and Math, are all cross-cutting. You wouldn’t put something like “Astronomy” in the acronym because, important and interesting as it may be, Astronomy isn’t cross-cutting; astronomical knowledge doesn’t infuse pretty much every part of our lives, whereas Science, Tech, Engineering, Arts, and Math do. So I think that, as far as it goes STEAM is a pretty good acronym. (You could argue about whether Engineering and Tech should both be there, but I guess that they needed an E … or a T … but that’s water under the bridge.)

When folks complain that “we already have logic in our STEAM curriculum”, they are almost always referring to having a few weeks of logic in their math curriculum. Okay, they’re right; they do technically have logic buried someplace in their STEAM curriculum. But Su and my point in pushing for making Logic first order in STEAM, by putting it into the acronym, is that Logic, at least as we conceive it which can be summarized as “justified reasoning”, cuts across pretty much everything one does in the world, and most especially in the case of STEAM-related topics; Indeed, the logic of experiment design and analysis, causal reasoning, and model-based reasoning infuse every aspect of STEAM (except perhaps Art). And this isn’t to mention that logic is, of course, also central to all computer programming, which is central to all of STEM!

Indeed, you might notice that I’ve been making an explicit distinction between small-l-logic, which i the thing with As and Bs and ampersands that you learn in math class, and Cap-L-Logic, which is the much broader application of small-l-logic to Cap-STEM-Science-etc. Cap-L-Logic really does infuse everything in STEM, and pretty much everything in every other part of our lives where there is any sort of thinking at all going on. Indeed, Logic, not logic, is what keeps academic philosophers in their jobs (for better or worse — Shout out, BTW, to by far and away the most interesting podcast on the planet: Philosophy Bites.)

Now, I will be the first to admit that the little experiments that we’ve done so far with METALS HopScotch programs are poor examples of the broader METALS concept; our games are, for far, mostly deserving of relegation to a tiny part of a math curriculum, just as my complainants have pointed out. But Su and Archer, this past summer, have started to go beyond that with some games that touch on more scientific reasoning such as experimental design, etc. We have yet to write these up, largely because once you start really looking at The Logic of Science and Engineering, it starts to get complicated very fast, and there are all sorts of complex issues that arise, many of which are keeping philosophers of science, and logicians up at night even as we speak.

I don’t want to get into a review of the philosophy of science in this blog, nor, I might add, do we have in mind getting into the nitty-gritty of philosophy of science in METALS. We do, however, want to point to it, and give STEAM-oriented students some tools to help them reason about their STEM reasoning…and, after all, reasoning about reasoning is what logic is all about!