…of science fiction (You thought I was going to say creationist textbooks, didn’t you? Admit it…):
A bill calling for science fiction to be made compulsory reading in schools has been proposed by a politician in West Virginia in order to “stimulate interest in the fields of math and science”.
Ray Canterbury, a Republican delegate, is appealing to the West Virginia board of education to include science fiction novels on the middle school and high school curriculums. “The Legislature finds that promoting interest in and appreciation for the study of math and science among students is critical to preparing students to compete in the workforce and to assure the economic well being of the state and the nation,” he writes in the pending bill.
On a personal note, I can’t say that my own interest in the sciences had anything to do with science fiction. I much preferred reading popular science books to science fiction.
“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.”
How much science fiction even deals directly with math and the various sciences, except for using a popular (and often wrong) understanding of scientific discoveries as a structure for a plot? But maybe I should avoid starting a debate about hard-vs-soft scifi. Instead, I’ll incite one about scifi-vs-fantasy:
“I’m not interested in fantasy novels about dragons,” Canterbury told Blastr in a recent interview. “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.”
Nobody tell this guy about Dragonflight.
This seems like a very neat idea, but there are certainly some valid concerns about potential indoctrination, here. Science fiction authors almost always have a political or philosophical axe to grind, and public schools aren’t known for teaching students how to read a book–especially a compulsory book–with a critical eye. Who decides which scifi books children should be compelled to read? The news article quotes David Brin expressing his approval of the plan, but his disapproval of reading “either gloomy dystopias or else fantasy tales wallowing in dreamy yearnings for a beastly way of life called feudalism.”
What do you think? Is this a great way to force children to expand their mental horizons, or just another opportunity for indoctrination by lobbyists?