Chief Scientist backs poet’s STEM-arts alliance

Education and schooling are not the same thing, says writer, educator and Flinders donor Erica Jolly.
Writer, educator and Flinders donor Erica Jolly has written a new poetry collection called Making a Stand.

Australia’s Chief Scientist Professor Ian Chubb is attending a Flinders University book launch this week to support a growing campaign for closer connections between teaching the sciences and the arts.

Professor Chubb will officially launch a new collection of poems called Making a Stand, published by Wakefield Press, by respected South Australian teacher and poet Erica Jolly.

Ms Jolly, aged 82, is convinced that breaking down the barriers that make silos of sciences and humanities subjects will promote better education systems and improve job prospects for students.

“For too long, since the 1950s, we have witnessed serious losses across disciplines as science and mathematics have been deliberately separated from the arts and humanities,” Ms Jolly says.

“Australia can significantly add to its nation-building prospect by re-establishing those connections which have been lost and which continue to be discounted by the narrow focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

“We must move away from the approach in pre-tertiary education of teaching subjects as silos, by turning STEM into STEAM with the inclusion of the arts-humanities.”

She says this “more connected, dynamic approach to learning” is starting to happen in the United States of America.

A former Deputy Principal (Curriculum) at Mawson and Marion High Schools, Ms Jolly says Professor Chubb provided inspiration for a central poem in the new collection, which showcases increasing awareness of the need for more room for collaboration between the sciences, the arts and the humanities.

Both educators are on the same page when it comes to cross-over between disciplines.

The poem harks back to a question on elitism in mathematics from a 7.30 Report television interview in 2014, when Professor Chubb made clear he wants us “in the same tent,” Ms Jolly says.

“As guest speaker at the national conference of the Australian College of Educators in 2014, Professor Chubb also said that ‘the perpetuation of the past will not do if we are to face intelligently the uncertainties in the 21st century’.”

The closing stanza of the poem says:

How many years must it take

before we reach the zenith

be allowed to feel the

connections that will

let us grasp the value

in the language of


Another poem in the collection relates to the role of mathematics in measuring and striving for sustainability – a response to a comment by the federal Minister for Education Christopher Pyne on cross-disciplinary themes in the national curriculum.

Monash University academic and noted Australian poet, Associate Professor Jennifer Strauss AM, will also attend the book launch.

Dr Strauss has joined the call for the sciences and arts to align in her preface to Making a Stand, which speaks of the “intelligence of the heart” in the collection.

In Erica Jolly’s 2010 anthology, Challenging the Divide: Approaches to Science and Poetry, several writers, including Nobel Laureate professors Roald Hoffmann and Peter Doherty,  joined the call for change. Now the voice is all hers.

Professor Chubb will officially launch Making a Stand at 6pm on Thursday, May 28 at the Flinders University City Gallery at the State Library of South Australia. To purchase a copy go to the Wakefield Press website.

Professor Chubb was Vice-Chancellor of Flinders University between 1995 and 2000. In 1997, he appointed Ms Jolly to the Academic senate.

Erica Jolly has been connected with Flinders University since enrolling for postgraduate studies in 1970. She first joined the Flinders council as a student representative in 1990.

Further information:

To attend the free book launch contact or RSVP 8201 3707.


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