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Old June 18 2013, 12:12 AM   #1
Miss Chicken
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Mandatory sci-fi

This story is several weeks old but I couldn't find a thread about when I did a search. Apologies in advance if it has been covered previously.

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.

"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."

"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."

A fan of Isaac Asimov and Jules Verne, Canterbury believes that "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".
rest of story here (I know it is the Guardian but I found it reported at multiple sources)

So people, yes or no to this idea? If sci-fi was compulsory what books do you think schools should include?
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Old June 18 2013, 12:18 AM   #2
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Re: Mandatory sci-fi

Ender's Game is already being taught in schools.

I think it's important to have exposure to a variety of genres of literature. Kids might not like a lot of it, but they'll never know that until they experience it.

I know that I read a few sci fi novels in school. The Martian Chronicles was one we studied in junior high, I believe. I also remember a book called Invitation to the Game, which my 6th grade class covered. It was a story about a group of kids forced to survive on an alien world.
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Old June 18 2013, 12:26 AM   #3
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Re: Mandatory sci-fi

I read plenty of sci-fi as a child but I don't remember ever having to read it for a class.

However I did study The Double Helix by James Watson in my grade 11 English Studies class (I think it was the only non-fiction book we read for that class). I disliked the book but I think that was because of the way Rosalind Franklin was protrayed in the book.
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Old June 18 2013, 12:47 AM   #4
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Re: Mandatory sci-fi

I never read any sci-fi until college. Not sure I even knew it existed until then! I think teaching some in middle and/or high school literature is a good idea.
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Old June 18 2013, 01:42 AM   #5
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Re: Mandatory sci-fi

I don't think I ever read a sf novel for class until I got to college, although I read a number of them in my free time. We did read a few sf short stories, though.

Anything to upend the ossified literature selection being taught in high school is a good thing, in my view.
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Old June 18 2013, 01:45 AM   #6
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Re: Mandatory sci-fi

Having read (a lot of) science fiction, I tell people that nothing that happens in the real world surprises me anymore. Virtually every change that happens was foretold, in one form or another, in a science fiction book or story.

Although I did do a double take the first time the doors at a store opened by themselves in front of me.
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Old June 18 2013, 01:53 AM   #7
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Re: Mandatory sci-fi

I saw Ender's Game and The Hunger Games at the local B&N on a summer reading table. I thought that was kind of cool. Much more exciting than A Separate Peace!
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Old June 18 2013, 02:46 AM   #8
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Re: Mandatory sci-fi

The closest thing we had to reading Sci Fi was Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 in freshman year of high school. My Science teacher in 7th grade was a Star Trek nut, and made references, but we didn't have to read a novel of Trek fiction (although I read little else at that time on my own).
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Old June 18 2013, 03:23 AM   #9
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Re: Mandatory sci-fi

RoJoHen wrote: View Post
Ender's Game is already being taught in schools.
Ugh. Let's hope it's being taught well.


More sci fi as required reading would be great, but with the focus shifting dramatically to nonfiction texts, this effort might be doomed from the start. West Virginia is a Common Core State, so at the moment I think the odds are against this bid being successful.

Personally, I recall several sci fi books that were required reading, beginning with A Wrinkle in Time in elementary school. I also read Slaughterhouse 5, The Postman, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Fahrenheit 451, and The Day of the Triffids specifically for school throughout high school. I feel like there were others but it's hard to remember which were independent reading and which were assigned.
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Old June 18 2013, 03:33 AM   #10
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Re: Mandatory sci-fi

thestrangequark wrote: View Post
RoJoHen wrote: View Post
Ender's Game is already being taught in schools.
Ugh. Let's hope it's being taught well.
I'm sure that depends on the teacher.

I know that when my mom read it a million years ago (she read it right after I did), she wanted to be able to teach it to her students. I'm not sure if it's in her district's curriculum or not. It was part of an "Independent Reading" unit during my Freshman year of high school.

Unfortunately, my group got stuck reading Lake Wobegon Days...which might have been the single most boring book that I have ever attempted to read. I say "attempted," but I really didn't even try to finish it. It was awful.


And oh yes, I also read Fahrenheit 451 in high school, though I don't recall which year it was.
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Old June 18 2013, 03:40 AM   #11
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Re: Mandatory sci-fi

^It's just that Ender's Game is an exceptionally problematic book (mostly because it's a pretty shitty book), and so would take an exceptionally good teacher.
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Old June 18 2013, 03:43 AM   #12
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Re: Mandatory sci-fi

I remember reading a few scifi books in school, including 1984, Brave New World, and my personal favorite, The Giver. I think there were a couple of others as well. More exposure to different genres can't be a bad thing, though I don't know if we necessarily need to legislate it.
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Old June 18 2013, 03:48 AM   #13
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Re: Mandatory sci-fi

Eh, to each their own. "Shitty book" is all subjective. Ender's Game happens to be my favorite book of all time; it's also the only book that I have ever read in one sitting.

One of my biggest problems with English classes in school was that I could never figure out why all this "classic literature" was supposed to be so good. Who decides that something is classic and worth studying? Almost every book that I was made to read in school I couldn't stand.

Except The Grapes of Wrath. Pretty sure I was the only person in the entire school to like that book.
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Old June 18 2013, 03:50 AM   #14
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Re: Mandatory sci-fi

^Well, there are a lot of things that one could debate about that book, some of which come down to opinion and some not. It's pretty poorly written, though. There are aspects of it I like, and I did like it a lot the first time I read it. Reading it as an adult completely changed my view, though.
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I remember reading a few scifi books in school, including 1984, Brave New World, and my personal favorite, The Giver. I think there were a couple of others as well. More exposure to different genres can't be a bad thing, though I don't know if we necessarily need to legislate it.
I loved The Giver, and I read that in school as well when I was 9 or 10.

As for legislation, realistically it would neet do be legislated. Overall the Common Core State Standards are pretty damn good, especially in their treatment of critical thinking. However, there is a legitimate concern over the potential marginalization of literature as the CCS require that 50% of all reading in middle school be nonfiction, building to 75% in high school. The concern is that the goal of promoting more quality reading and understanding of content-area texts, while laudable, may leave little time for literature, classic or contemporary. West Virginia is a CC state, and so they're not likely to be keen on pushing more sci fi in the classroom in this climate, I think.
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Old June 18 2013, 03:56 AM   #15
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Re: Mandatory sci-fi

thestrangequark wrote: View Post
^Well, there are a lot of things that one could debate about that book, some of which come down to opinion and some not. It's pretty poorly written, though. There are aspects of it I like, and I did like it a lot the first time I read it. Reading it as an adult completely changed my view, though.
This is why I don't read books twice.

I loved it when I was 14, and that's how I want to remember it.
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