West Virginia Lawmaker Proposes Requiring Science Fiction In High School

solarisThe goal is to spur interest in math and science, and encourage kids to ponder the benefits and drawbacks of emerging technologies in their own lives. Via Blastr, a fantastic antidote to the efforts of politicians to mandate religious content in classrooms:

A Republican legislator in West Virginia is proposing a bill that would require the State Board of Education to integrate science fiction literature into middle-school and high-school reading curricula. Delegate Ray Canterbury hopes that even if the bill doesn’t pass it will pressure the Board of Education to adopt science fiction on its own.

“I’m primarily interested in things where advanced technology is a key component of the storyline, both in terms of the problems that it presents and the solutions that it offers,” Canterbury said. Canterbury cites Isaac Asimov and Jules Verne as early influences in his own youth that lead him to earn a degree in mathematics.

“In Southern West Virginia, there’s a bit of a Calvinistic attitude toward life—this is how things are and they’ll never be any different,” Canterbury says. “One of the things about science fiction is that it gives you this perspective that as long as you have an imagination and it’s grounded in some sort of practical knowledge, you can do anything you wanted to. So it serves as a kind of antidote to that fatalistic kind of thinking.”

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  • Raz

    And REAL Science?

  • http://artasith-m-nasdsnre.tumblr.com/ Simon Valentine

    we’ve begun teaching magic in schools too

  • http://twitter.com/TedHeistman Ted Heistman

    Well this is a pleasant surprise! A Politician coming up with a good idea!

    • Jin The Ninja

      a republican politico at that. he even reads, and has surprisingly good taste.

  • Anarchy Pony

    But don’t present any sci-fi that explores social issues. Just techno ones.

    • Jin The Ninja

      too true- i noticed that too. although jules verne was an individualist anarchist- and there are anarchistic themes present in his works, but a teach would have to really contextualise the history of it and be savvy in how they taught it.

    • mannyfurious

      Yeah, my initial thought was, “Of course. Every kid should read at least 7 or 8 Kurt Vonnegut books,” and then I realized that’s not really the type of sci-fi they were talking about.

      • ParanoidCoast

        So it goes.

      • Jin The Ninja

        we read slaughterhouse 5 in 7th or 8th grade, but private not public.

    • ParanoidCoast

      Don’t they teach “1984” in high school anymore? I remember having to read and analyze it in grade 12 matriculation English.

      • I_abide

        We can’t have that, people might start to catch on to what’s going on.

      • Jin The Ninja

        nah, they just show the animal farm cartoon to middle schoolers and denounce communism. they don’t even bother discussing how orwell wrote an entire book on catalonian anarchism- it’s far too radical.

      • Anarchy Pony

        They do, but they don’t really seem to do any kind of real analysis of it anymore. And the only real comparison they make is between it and the status quo.
        And Jin’s right about the Animal Farm thing too. They don’t really bother to explain that it’s a critique of Stalinism, they treat it basically as a denunciation of communism.

    • The Well Dressed Man

      Not sure how things are now, but when I was growing up in the 80s, “Social Studies” were far more emphasized in my public school curricula than science, math or technology.

  • ParanoidCoast

    Good job placing a Stanislaw Lem novel cover on the page. He’s one of my favourite Sci-Fi authors.

  • wcarver

    I taught classes in SF to high school students. Although I was a science teacher and the class was in the English department’s curriculum, I was the only one willing and able to teach the class. That may be a problem in many schools – that the English departments may not have teachers knowledgeable in the genre.
    It’s a good idea and a republican one – (who woulda thunk it). Many scientists (me included) were inspired to pursue a science career by reading SF – and more students in math and science is sorely needed.

  • M Wayne

    Been saying this my whole life.
    Arthur C. Clarke – required reading.

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