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Sci-Fi Education Government

Politician Wants Sci-fi To Be Mandatory In School 295

Posted by Soulskill
from the when-i-think-scifi,-i-think-rural-west-virginia dept.
Avantare writes "The first sci-fi novel I read was A Wrinkle in Time; the next was Dune. Why don't more people read these extraordinarily imaginative books? Delegate Ray Canterbury, who represents Greenbrier County in southern WV, wants to help with that. Canterbury introduced House Bill 2983, which reads, 'To stimulate interest in math and science among students in the public schools of this state, the State Board of Education shall prescribe minimum standards by which samples of grade-appropriate science fiction literature are integrated into the curriculum of existing reading, literature or other required courses for middle school and high school students.' For decades, walking around with a paperback sci-fi novel in your back pocket at school was the quickest way to find yourself permanently excluded from the cool-kid clique. But what if it wasn't just the geeks who read Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke? What if science fiction was mandatory reading for all students?"
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Politician Wants Sci-fi To Be Mandatory In School

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 27, 2013 @10:40AM (#43567173)

    Creationism?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 27, 2013 @11:00AM (#43567325)

      And though Science Fiction is usually combined with Fantasy, there is a rather BIG difference...

      Science Fiction (at least GOOD science fiction) tries to stick with only one violation of physics (frequently the speed of light, other times just that something is easy to do - such as neural implants). Each additional violation weakens the "science" into fantasy. Good Science Fiction focuses on the characters, and the physics violations are only a transport to get to a situation.

      Fantasy, on the other hand, allows all kinds of physics violations - at the whim of the author when they can't figure out how to resolve a situation - POOF, a miracle (some god or other magical being/device) fixes/saves the character. Good fantasy doesn't even focus on the magical issues - they focus on the characters. Unfortunately, many fantasy authors cannot keep their "magic" coherent (and I include JK Rowling in this group - fortunately, the focus on characters greatly exceeds the magic.. most of the time).

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by maxwell demon (590494)

        Good Science Fiction focuses on the characters

        Good fantasy doesn't even focus on the magical issues - they focus on the characters.

        You could have saved yourself some typing by just stating that good fiction focuses on the characters, no matter what the genre.

      • stick with only one violation of physics (frequently the speed of light, other times just that something is easy to do - such as neural implants).

        What's so physics-defying about neural implants?

      • by mikael (484)

        The early Asimov story "It's such a beautiful day" is a good example. The one physics violation is the use of teleporters, which have become as commonplace as household cookers. They've replaced school buses, driving down to the supermarket and commuting to work. Homes still have frontyards and backyards, but these are maintained by automatic machines. Then they have one kid who decides he prefers to go outdoors and walk to and from school rather than use the school teleporter. This causes chaos because his

    • by erroneus (253617)

      Nice try but no. Actually, that was my first thought as well -- "is this how they will get Christianity into schools?"

      Science fiction, as opposed to regular fiction, [and religion] has an element of believability and/or possibility. Androids, warp drives, time travel, body switching and lots more show us how to imagine a future -- most of the time a better future. And we need more of that. Some of the biggest problems come from our present state of stagnation and "incremental advances" which are simply

      • A prezidential sex scandal?

      • by ultranova (717540)

        Science fiction, as opposed to regular fiction, [and religion] has an element of believability and/or possibility.

        Hard science fiction does. Most science fiction is not hard, and no more possible than your average fantasy novel. And the summary specifically mentions Dune, which is sci-fi in name only.

        • I was going to trigger a hard/soft debate, but I'll just go get some popcorn.

    • by kilodelta (843627)
      Well, Creationism isn't scifi - but I could see reading Asimov, Heinlein, Hebert, et al.
      • by Rockoon (1252108)
        Fuck SciFi... Asimov should be in schools for his thousands upon thousands of science essays...
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      No, he means that stupid big explosion thingy that the scientific community drummed in order to keep pseudo-religious scientists content so they can all go back to work.

  • Wrinkle (Score:5, Informative)

    by CohibaVancouver (864662) on Saturday April 27, 2013 @10:44AM (#43567211)
    When I went to school (I'm 46), "Wrinkle in Time" was on the curriculum.
    • by Br00se (211727)

      I'm am also 46, and it was required reading for my 6th grade daughter this year.

      • Good choice. Really good choice...

        • Madeleine L'Engle's "A Wrinkle in Time" was a paperback I found in my school's library when I was 8, what a great book for a kid. Good witches explaining the concept of "tessering" was like nothing I'd ever been exposed to, and was my 'gateway drug' for my later sci-fi interests. From wikipedia:

          Tesseract concept

          In mathematics, a tesseract is a four-dimensional shape (hypercube) that, when represented in three dimensions, looks, e.g., like a cube inside of a cube with spokes connecting the corners of the

          • by colfer (619105)

            It looks more like a cube in 3-dimensions, not a cube within a cube. That diagram is not what it would look like projected onto 3-space, it is rather some scheme for conveying information about the shape. See the pictures and animations at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tesseract [wikipedia.org]

            I'm thinking of that other classic book, Flatland. Picture a cube if you lived in 2-dimensional space. You might see it as a square, or as an oblique slice through a cube. But not as a matrix conveying the facts about a cube.

            Or maybe

      • by Jaysyn (203771)

        My oldest is going into 7th grade, Ender's Game is on the list of books that he is supposed to read over the summer.

    • I'm a good bit younger than 46 and Fahrenheit 451 and 1984 was required reading when I was in school.
      • Re: Wrinkle (Score:5, Funny)

        by Nerdfest (867930) on Saturday April 27, 2013 @11:13AM (#43567405)

        Look where that got us. The current crop of politicians thought 1984 was an instruction manual.

      • Re: Wrinkle (Score:5, Informative)

        by kilodelta (843627) on Saturday April 27, 2013 @11:55AM (#43567707) Homepage
        Hell, I did Catholic schools - the reading list for freshman year of high school had books like Brave New World, Black Like Me, 1984, Animal Farm, and a whole bunch more that I've temporarily forgotten but my memory will jog to it eventually.

        Kind of happy I did Catholic as opposed to Public schools for the first 12 years. If there's two things they pushed in those schools it was heavy amounts of reading, and critical thinking. Made me a better atheist.
    • When I went to school (I'm 46), "Wrinkle in Time" was on the curriculum.

      Me too, in fact I can say that without a doubt, Wrinkle in Time stimulated by lifelong love of science-fiction, and made me at least marginally more interested in school subjects like math and science. At least enough to understand that while I enjoyed science fiction, actual science probably wasn't my bailiwick because of all the quiet time and sitting still required.

    • by jythie (914043)
      Many schools do have a certain amount of both sci-fi and fantasy as part of the curriculum, but it is inconstant. Many of the people who set the educational standards still consider both genres to be 'lesser' and 'frivolous' so they tend to not include them in english classes.

      When I was in school (35) we had a few sci-fi pieces, but they were mostly short stories, and were probably at a ratio of 1:10 to the rest of the reading. Such works were just not considered 'real' littiture by the people who set th
    • For advanced students of literature or writing, Jack Vance and Barry Longyear should be requirements.

      Though some people have found Vance hard to read, his English prose is impeccable.

      Longyear never uses the "he said," "she retorted," "he quipped" kind of lazy and awkward sentence construction that has come to be almost universal today. Studying how he gets around it while making it seem natural is very educational. (He did publish one short story in which he did that, but it was intended as satire of
  • by MickyTheIdiot (1032226) on Saturday April 27, 2013 @10:46AM (#43567225) Homepage Journal

    While I think this is actually a good idea, I don't think that mandating curriclum from the statehouse is a good thing.

    It's all moot though... anything that promotes imagination is never going to make it out of a committee anyway.

  • Sorry, this is a ridiculous idea - quality literature should indeed be mandatory for educational curriculum, but specifically highlighting a particular genre is arrogant.

    • Re:No (Score:5, Insightful)

      by The Rizz (1319) on Saturday April 27, 2013 @11:11AM (#43567389)

      Sorry, this is a ridiculous idea - quality literature should indeed be mandatory for educational curriculum, but specifically highlighting a particular genre is arrogant.

      I don't know ... sci-fi is a valid literary genre that is traditionally under-represented in K-12 English courses. It is also a genre that supposedly leads more of its readers into science/math fields (which according to TFA the state is lacking in). This legislation makes a small change in legislative mandate to the school curriculum (that the legislature already makes mandates about) in order to balance things better and advance areas they're currently lacking in.

  • by PPH (736903) on Saturday April 27, 2013 @10:50AM (#43567251)

    I'm not in favor of legislative mandates for any kinds of curriculum. That said, I do agree with Canterbury's position that science fiction needs to be included in the types of literature covered in school. That the various education boards have overlooked the mainstream SiFi authors like Clarke and Asimov is a symptom of a deeper failure in their processes.

    Personally, I'd throw in a little Lovecraft. Just so more people will get my Cthulhu references.

  • There was a post here recently from a teacher who was looking for inspiring SF books to give his students as a summer project.

    As a result, I discovered "The Martian", (it's on Amazon for a buck), which, with expletives removed, would be perfect for young kids.
    This old kid enjoyed it "as is".

    So, how hard would it be to encourage publishers to adapt SciFi classics for the younger audience?

    • There was a post here recently from a teacher who was looking for inspiring SF books to give his students as a summer project.

      As a result, I discovered "The Martian", (it's on Amazon for a buck), which, with expletives removed, would be perfect for young kids.

      When I was in grade school I went to my local library and ventured into the adult sci-fi section. I checked out a bunch of books with sex and swear words in them. The librarian didn't raise an eyebrow, but I did later. I felt so grown up and mature that I could read such things, and not make a big deal about it. Some of the more colourful sexual metaphors were lost on me, which I only discovered after reading the books again later as a teen.

      I'm not sure what folks have against exposing kids to "adult"

  • My eldest son is reading it (he's 12) and it's a good start!

  • by pesho (843750) on Saturday April 27, 2013 @10:57AM (#43567311)

    The first sci-fi novel I read was A Wrinkle in Time; the next was Dune. Why don't more people read these extraordinarily imaginative books?

    They are waiting for the movie to come out

    • In 2003, a television adaptation of the novel (A Wrinkle In Time) was made by a collaboration of Canadian production companies to be distributed in America by Disney. The movie was directed by John Kent Harrison, with a teleplay by Susan Shilliday. It cast Katie Stuart as Meg Murry, and Alfre Woodard, Alison Elliott, and Kate Nelligan as Mrs Whatsit, Who, and Which.

      Among the many differences between the book and the movie are different first names for Meg's parents (established in books after Wrinkle) and

  • Drop teach the test / College prep for all as well That is eating up a lot of time.

    schools also need more recess time (kids are getting to fat no days) also poor fatty school food can be part of that.

    Sci-fi is nice but an trades track in HS is needed as well.

  • I think what you read in school only matters if you also read at home. (I mean besides your homework).

    Pupils should imho read a book per month or week even. Ofc a brought range of genres would be prefered. But some people simply can't stand Sci-Fi (likewise I can not stand that SF is mixed up with fantasy in the book stores shelfs).

    Perhaps pointing out some SF stories that are not to 'wiered' to such students would help (Not everyone is into Phillip K. Dick e.g.)

    I for my part e.g. would perhaps let

  • wrinkle and dune, very little sci in that fi. they're mostly philosophy expressed with fantasy

  • How about politicians focus on the bottom layers of Maslow's Hierarchy (e.g. safety, security, etc.) and let educators worry about the mid- and upper tiers. Why do politicians think they can meddle with any part of our society?
  • Every student entering 6th grade should read "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card and "A Wrinkle In Time."

  • by yesterdaystomorrow (1766850) on Saturday April 27, 2013 @11:28AM (#43567519)
    ... make it part of the English lit. curriculum. All of the "classics" were popular literature in their time. Shakespeare was extremely popular in the USA in the 19th century. Now, though, few read the classics for pleasure. I think that's partly because in high school most are taught to hate them.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I opened this /. article to make a similar kind of argument. If you want people to like Sci Fi, this is not the way. Schools will find a way to make you hate it.

      They can make ANYTHING totally dreadful. Even things I studied in my spare time while at school, I hated the classroom version of the same issue. A good example is Quantum Mechanics, with its weird and interesting phenomena. In QM at school I was told to memorize some stupid patterns that I never saw again (my profession is not even close to physics

    • by SvnLyrBrto (62138)

      As with the other reply to you, I'd intended to add the exact point you just made.

      I think high school english teachers, as a group, harbor a secret hatred of the literature they "teach" and want to kill it with fire; and harbor a not-so-secret hatred of children and do everything in their power to suck as much joy and happiness as possible out of their teenage years.

      When I was forced, for example, to read 1984 and Brace New World for AP English in my sophomore year of HS, I thought they were a couple of ted

  • In my experience, requiring certain books to be read is the quickest way to make people hate them. Or was it just that all of (Dutch) "literature" I was forced to read actually is bloody awful?

    • No, it is just that all literature that English teacher force their students to read is objectively awful. It is the tradition to only assign mind numbingly horrible books in high school.

    • by russotto (537200)

      In my experience, requiring certain books to be read is the quickest way to make people hate them. Or was it just that all of (Dutch) "literature" I was forced to read actually is bloody awful?

      I don't know about Dutch, but I think in American literature it's a bit of both. First problem in English is the canon tends to consist of books which are old -- for example, Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter" was popular fiction in its day, but its day was 1850. Shakespeare is even worse, being 16th century

      • by CRCulver (715279)

        First problem in English is the canon tends to consist of books which are old -- for example, Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter" was popular fiction in its day, but its day was 1850. Shakespeare is even worse, being 16th century.

        Shakespeare was hugely popular in the US in the 19th century. Actors would go from one backwater town to another putting on productions that drew large crowds (Mark Twain depicted some of this in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn), and debates on "who really wrote Shakespe

  • Please no (Score:5, Interesting)

    by russotto (537200) on Saturday April 27, 2013 @11:40AM (#43567597) Journal

    If you want to kill a kid's joy in something, make it a school assignment. If you want to make absolutely sure, make them write a paper on it. For extra credit, give them a reading assignment they absolutely do not have the background to understand (e.g. Slaughterhouse 5 before they've even heard about WWII).

    Let's let the schools continue to ruin horrid bits of literature, like Willa Cather and Herman Melville. Leave the SF to people who like reading.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Most people that like reading see science fiction as garbage. It's the geek equivalent of romance novels that are sold at the supermarket for a dollar.
      • by russotto (537200)

        Most people that like reading see science fiction as garbage. It's the geek equivalent of romance novels that are sold at the supermarket for a dollar.

        Kurt Vonnegut, aren't you supposed to be dead?

        The literary classic "The Scarlet Letter" was a romance novel that sold for $0.75, though I'll admit a dollar then was worth a bit more than a dollar now.

    • If you want to kill a kid's joy in something, make it a school assignment.

      Can certainly be true. It certainly ended my dream of programming video games for a career.... Not everything I had to read was miserable, though. Cold Mountain and All Quiet on the Western Front were a couple forced titles I actually enjoyed.

  • But is their not some requirement that all books that teachers can make you read in English class have to be incredibly boring? That is the only way that any of the assigned reading I got would make any sense.

  • Oh yeah, many already make fantasy mandatory. Sorry.

  • I spent my youth reading everything sci-fi I could find (and there wasn't nearly as much as there is now). I wanted to be an astronaut so I took flying lessons (all astronauts were pilots back then) but my eyes were not good enough (late nights reading sci-fi?) but I ended up working at NASA and still love reading sci-fi. I tried to get my daughter interested in sci-fi but she is more into adventure. Oh well, each to their own. She did go to a very good school and Farentheit 451, 1984, and Flowers for A
  • by supercrisp (936036) on Saturday April 27, 2013 @11:55AM (#43567709)
    First, I think we've had enough of legislators getting into curricula. Students already spend at least a third of their time prepping for standardized tests. Common Core curricular guidelines are demanding that 70% of English class readings be devoted to nonfiction, specifying things like menus and instruction manuals. Teachers already teach a lot of science fiction. And I'm going to say this as a fan of SF who knows about the "wide range" people are already trotting out: many teachers teach SF/Fantasy for two reasons: one, their own educations did not prepare them to understand, say, Shakespeare or stuff like poetry, and, two, they can't or don't want to take the effort to make that stuff interesting to students. I have actual data I've collected on poetry instruction; almost all teachers I consulted said these three things: they don't teach poetry, they don't read poetry, they don't understand poetry. I'm not saying that poetry is what we need but that this indicative of a problem of effort and education, as well as a system that is based on credentialing teachers based on education courses and not causes in the subject they will teach. It's "worse" at the college level; students can often get thru college lit reqs without ever touching anything more than SF or Fantasy, and often it's not even "high brow" SF/Fantasy but stuff on the order of Orson Scott Card or Harry Potter. I think we would be better served to place some actual intellectual demands on all our future citizens and do our best to give everyone the intellectual tools necessary to enjoy some more difficult reading. No one will like everything, but that's no reason to race toward an "ow my balls!" curriculum designed by President Camacho.
  • by teaserX (252970) on Saturday April 27, 2013 @12:07PM (#43567779) Homepage Journal
    The first Sci-Fi novel I read was A Wrinkle In Time in the 6th grade. The very next book I read was Heinlien's "A Stranger In a Strange Land" [wikipedia.org]. I spent the next 30 years trying to build my very own cult/commune. My lack of any magical abilities whatsoever has made this endeavor less than successful. Perhaps we shouldn't make it mandatory that our children go down the same road. Just sayin'.
  • Isn't there a way to promote them without mandating them?

    My school had a lot of mandatory Shakespeare in 8-12th grades, 2+ plays a year and guess what? I always loved reading and yet absolutely detest and despise anything by him or any of the authors that was mandated as I associate it with a tedious chore and avoided anything by them ever since.

    Idk if it's the case for everyone, but I always sought out what was interesting to me, it didn't have to be mandated. The trick isn't to ram it down the throat so

  • 1984 was required reading for us. I think it was up to the individual teacher or schools.

    I also read Ender's Game in school. It was picked by me, but approved by the teacher.

  • by Art3x (973401)

    While I like science fiction, I don't like this law:

    1. Onerous, cluttersome. The United States has too many laws. Do politicians feel insignificant if they don't make them? Maybe they need to adopt the mindset of good programmers and take pleasure in refactoring the legal code down to a smaller, more elegant set.

    2. Counterproductive. As said by others, making people read something has no guarantee of making them like it. In fact, they'll like it less. If he were really clever, he would outlaw science fictio

  • My younger sister was assigned to read Fahrenheit 451 for one of her classes. I read through it because I had never been assigned it and was curious about the storyline. Personally, I thought it sucked compared to many of the more advanced Sci-Fi stories exploring the human condition that I was reading at the time.

    She had to write a report on the meaning of the book. I pointed out to her that the writer's forward actually said that he wrote the book because he was tired of his editors screwing with his b

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