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Politician Wants Sci-fi To Be Mandatory In School

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the when-i-think-scifi,-i-think-rural-west-virginia dept.

Sci-Fi 295

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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By Science Fiction, does he mean.... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43567173)

Creationism?

No - that is called Fantasy. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#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:By Science Fiction, does he mean.... (2)

erroneus (253617) | about a year ago | (#43567517)

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 being held back while the market for 'product X' has not quite yet exhausted itself yet.

If someone were to make a list of things we didn't have in the 70s which we have today which are NOT merely incremental advances, I'd be glad to see it. Hey, and why not. Let's see what we can come up with? Reply here with a list off the top of your head.

I'll go with LCD displays as an example. While it's true we had LCDs, it was in development. Then there's DLP. That's really very new without much in the way of precursor technology supporting it.

What do you have?

Re:By Science Fiction, does he mean.... (1)

war4peace (1628283) | about a year ago | (#43567629)

A prezidential sex scandal?

Re:By Science Fiction, does he mean.... (2)

ultranova (717540) | about a year ago | (#43567901)

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.

Re:By Science Fiction, does he mean.... (1)

kilodelta (843627) | about a year ago | (#43567677)

Well, Creationism isn't scifi - but I could see reading Asimov, Heinlein, Hebert, et al.

Re:By Science Fiction, does he mean.... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43567769)

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.

A Wrinkle In Time was a great book (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43567183)

One of my first, as well. Right after LOtR (I guess that's not technically sci-fi, but sci-fi and fantasy are often grouped together, wrongly or rightly).

Re:A Wrinkle In Time was a great book (4, Informative)

Z00L00K (682162) | about a year ago | (#43567469)

There's usually a sliding ground between them - if you look at books like the Dragonriders of Pern [wikipedia.org] you have a wide spectra.

It's also possible to look at Science Fiction from the perspective of trying an idea - which Heinlein was doing a lot - take an idea and write a story around it. Not all ideas are realistic, but it can still be a seed for a nice story.

There are also the dystopian stories like Nineteen Eighty-Four [wikipedia.org] , THX 1138 [wikipedia.org] and Kallocain [wikipedia.org] .

Add to it the movie and TV series Max Headroom [maxheadroom.com] , which really is interesting since it looks much like the future we are heading to. "This is Edison Carter, Live and Direct...".

Science Fiction is a great package for "Thinking outside the box" stories.

Re:A Wrinkle In Time was a great book (3, Informative)

kilodelta (843627) | about a year ago | (#43567687)

And you forget Huxley's "Brave New World". That's a classic!

so they can be indoctrinated? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43567197)

So this is so they can have their fragile young minds softened up for indoctrination by politicians?

Wrinkle (4, Informative)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | about a year ago | (#43567211)

When I went to school (I'm 46), "Wrinkle in Time" was on the curriculum.

Re:Wrinkle (1)

Br00se (211727) | about a year ago | (#43567223)

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

Re:Wrinkle (1)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | about a year ago | (#43567241)

Good choice. Really good choice...

Re:Wrinkle (1)

SternisheFan (2529412) | about a year ago | (#43567353)

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 two cubes together. In the novel, the tesseract functions more or less like what in modern science-fiction is called a space warp or a wormhole, a portal from one area of space to another which is possible through the bending of the structure of the space-time continuum.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Wrinkle_in_Time [wikipedia.org]

Re:Wrinkle (2)

Jaysyn (203771) | about a year ago | (#43567693)

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.

Re:Wrinkle (1)

Maxx169 (920414) | about a year ago | (#43567869)

But god the rest of the books in that series are awful... Almost unreadable.

Re: Wrinkle (1)

iamhassi (659463) | about a year ago | (#43567285)

I'm a good bit younger than 46 and Fahrenheit 451 and 1984 was required reading when I was in school.

Re: Wrinkle (5, Funny)

Nerdfest (867930) | about a year ago | (#43567405)

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

Re: Wrinkle (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43567577)

And the RIAA think Fahrenheit 451 is an instruction manual.

Re: Wrinkle (5, Informative)

kilodelta (843627) | about a year ago | (#43567707)

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.

Re:Wrinkle (1)

Karl Cocknozzle (514413) | about a year ago | (#43567327)

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.

Re:Wrinkle (1)

jythie (914043) | about a year ago | (#43567631)

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 the standards and were usually slipped in by english teachers who felt there was something worth discussing in the book.

Congress can Butt Out. (1, Insightful)

Shavano (2541114) | about a year ago | (#43567215)

Congress has no business deciding what students should read in school. Leave that decision to:
  • students
  • parents
  • professional educators

Hes not a congressman (1)

voss (52565) | about a year ago | (#43567257)

Hes a West Virginia state legislator

Re:Hes not a congressman (2, Insightful)

Shavano (2541114) | about a year ago | (#43567329)

Hes a West Virginia state legislator

OK. Then the legislature can butt out too. It's fine for them to set high-level standards. Micro-managing what kids read in school is a decision for somebody much closer to the process.

Re:Hes not a congressman (2, Insightful)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | about a year ago | (#43567367)

I agree. At least it should originate from the state's department of education and not from the state's legislature. Regardless of how good of an idea it may be, it sets a bad precedence.

If it's okay for the legislature to pass a bill mandating that all schools teach science fiction then it becomes okay for legislature to pass a bill mandating that evolution should banned from the classroom.

You should never let a camel put his nose in your tent.

Re:Hes not a congressman (2)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | about a year ago | (#43567431)

If it's okay for the legislature to pass a bill mandating that all schools teach science fiction then it becomes okay for legislature to pass a bill mandating that evolution should banned from the classroom.

The reason that it's not ok to ban evolution from the classroom has nothing to do with whether that decision comes for the state, local, or federal level, or from a legislature or a Board of Education. The reason it's not ok is because It's wrong because the alternative is teaching religion. (Or not teaching biology at all, but failing to give kids a basic education is child abuse.)

Re:Hes not a congressman (0)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | about a year ago | (#43567483)

My point is that once you allow a state legislature dictate what should be taught in class, you open the door for another state legislature to dictate what should not be taught in class.

Re:Hes not a congressman (1)

Belial6 (794905) | about a year ago | (#43567831)

In California, the legislature has dictated school subjects for a long time. I assume it is the same in most states.

Re:Hes not a congressman (1)

jythie (914043) | about a year ago | (#43567649)

Well, it depends on how micro it is. If they legislate specific books then we have a problem, but if they put together a document saying 'hey educational board, this stuff is important, increase the percentage of it in your course designs' then that is not a bad thing.

Re:Hes not a congressman (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43567333)

Hes a West Virginia state legislator

Perhaps a bit of grammar and punctuation as well.

Re:Congress can Butt Out. (2)

Greyfox (87712) | about a year ago | (#43567315)

Yeah, because all those guys are doing a great job.

My actually-decent high school in Delmar, New York, had a fantasy/sci-fi elective course when I went through it back in the '90's. We got exposed to stuff like The Little Prince, Archy and Methithibel and a bunch of other stuff I'd have otherwise missed out on. Then Dad got transferred to Alabama for my senior year. Glad it wasn't sooner, so I only felt like I had one year of wasted time in a useless fucking educational system. Those jackasses didn't know what to make of that elective on my transcript. If it doesn't involve spelling tests, the educational system in the south can't comprehend how it's "English." Kind of like how if it doesn't involve the civil war, they don't quite figure out how it's "history." But I digress...

So yeah, it's not a bad idea. It's probably not a great one either, but having the option was nice. And on the bright side, maybe I'll get Alzheimer's disease in a few years and have that last year of high school blotted out from my memory. That'd be nice. It's a good reason to look forward to getting older. Yeah...

Re:Congress can Butt Out. (1)

Shavano (2541114) | about a year ago | (#43567345)

Yeah, because all those guys are doing a great job.

It might actually be easier to do a good job if the politicians would butt out.

And on the bright side, maybe I'll get Alzheimer's disease in a few years and have that last year of high school blotted out from my memory. That'd be nice. It's a good reason to look forward to getting older. Yeah...

You'll never know what you're missing.

Re:Congress can Butt Out. (2)

AuMatar (183847) | about a year ago | (#43567427)

Civil war? They wouldn't understand that either- down there they call it "The War of Northern Aggression".

Re:Congress can Butt Out. (4, Insightful)

The Rizz (1319) | about a year ago | (#43567331)

Actually, I'd say this is the correct level of curriculum decision by legislators: Guidelines are being decided, but the actual curriculum (i.e. what books are actually read) are left up to the teachers/schools. Considering how broad "sci-fi" is as a writing field, and how arbitrary the reading choices are in pre-college English classes anyway, this is hardly forcing a massive shift in what is being taught.

Re:Congress can Butt Out. (1)

rasmusbr (2186518) | about a year ago | (#43567343)

Congress has no business deciding what students should read in school. Leave that decision to:

  • students
  • parents
  • professional educators

Very true.

Ask a teacher or someone with a PhD in pedagogy. The problem is not that kids don't read enough quality literature or that they don't read a diverse enough range of genres.

The problem is that books are boring and iPads are fun and that consequently most kids don't read unless an adult is actively monitoring them and forcing them to read.

Re:Congress can Butt Out. (3, Insightful)

jythie (914043) | about a year ago | (#43567675)

Meh, before iPads it was something else. Looking back over the decades, students who seek out reading have always been few and far between, and it is not unusual for them to be stigmatized or even punished for it. We are not a nation that values education or reading and never have been, our heros and role models are generally people who get rich through hard work and force of personalty, with extra points if they did it with a minimal education. iPads might be one of the current toys, but the problem is much more pervasive and deeply rooted in our culture.

Re:Congress can Butt Out. (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43567351)

"professional educators" are the main problem. Yes, they got the degree. Yes, they get paid to teach. But in my experience only about 1 in 10 teachers is any good at teaching, let alone any kind of creativity in lesson planning. The problem is most of them are drones who unquestionably follow the teachers' union...but hey I guess if I had a giant group that made it so I could endlessly fuck up and not get fired I'd probably do whatever they said also.

Re:Congress can Butt Out. (1)

Lendrick (314723) | about a year ago | (#43567393)

Sounds like someone's view of teachers is being heavily colored by their political beliefs.

Sounds more like he survived public school. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43567505)

Unfortunately, most public schools pay the absolute minimum they can get away with. And waste money on "politically appropriate" instruction.

Re:Sounds more like he survived public school. (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year ago | (#43567873)

Unfortunately, most public schools pay the absolute minimum they can get away with.

My son's public school pays teachers an average of $79,787. Last year a teacher retired, and they received over 400 qualified applications before they even advertized the job vacancy. Local charter schools, which can pay market rates, have average teacher salaries below $50k, yet achieve slightly better results.

If you live in California, you can see how much your school district pays by clicking this link. [sacbee.com]

Re:Congress can Butt Out. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43567455)

Don't forget the (R) after his name.

I don't know why A Wrinkle in Time was mentioned. It may use sci-fi concepts, but it also prominently uses Christian symbolism. When I read it in 3rd grade, I didn't get it, but then, I'm not a Christian. Maybe it was just chosen by the submitter and not by the delegate.

What I did understand in 3rd grade was Gobots and Transformers and Voltron, and that stuff came from Japan, but that Japan was eating our lunch because the best stuff was made in Japan. I remember the ABC news documentary that showed how even their 3rd graders were better, so if we were ever able to catch up with Japan, we needed to be good at math and science. I didn't understand their advantage was just mainly due to planned monetary easing and speculation on stocks and real estate.

Re:Congress can Butt Out. (1)

whizbang77045 (1342005) | about a year ago | (#43567497)

I agree! As much as I like sci-fi, I don't think this is a proper place for congress to meddle.

Re:Congress can Butt Out. (1)

CimmerianX (2478270) | about a year ago | (#43567563)

I couldn't agree more. This time, they want more scifi.... but next time, they may want more religious understanding (code for let's slip religion into public schools)

really conflicted here... (2)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | about a year ago | (#43567225)

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.

No (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | about a year ago | (#43567247)

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 (4, Insightful)

The Rizz (1319) | about a year ago | (#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.

Failing of State Education Boards (3, Insightful)

PPH (736903) | about a year ago | (#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.

Re:Failing of State Education Boards (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43567409)

Wouldn't put it past the Texas School Book Committee to do a visual aid of Fahrenheit 451 on that one and stuff from Heinlein, especially anything related to Lazurus Long. Many others as well. Can almost smell the fire and brimstone from here.

Colleges should require reading from the various banned lists around the country with discussion on if they really should be banned. Things like Huckleberry Finn and other stuff that should never have been banned.

Re:Failing of State Education Boards (1)

dierdorf (37660) | about a year ago | (#43567747)

My wife was a sixth-grade English teacher and every year her classes read some science fiction. Some was obvious (Asimov's The Fun They Had and some Clarke and Bradbury short stories) and some was not. I particularly remember a novel her advanced classes read, called Invitation to the Game. It was quite good, set in a dystopian future with the premise that what teenagers THINK is a fancy virtual reality game is in fact training for a secret colony on a virgin planet, established by the authorities as a backup to prevent the human race from possibly going extinct when Earth goes belly up. Not exactly sweetness and light for eleven and twelve year olds.

Agreed this was in Austin, not in Texas. (Everyone knows that in fact Austin is NOT a part of the state of Texas. It's an iniquitous den of a million college-educated liberals surrounded by 20 million tea party fundamentalists.)

Re:Failing of State Education Boards (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43567921)

Agreed this was in Austin, not in Texas. (Everyone knows that in fact Austin is NOT a part of the state of Texas. It's an iniquitous den of a million college-educated liberals surrounded by 20 million tea party fundamentalists.)

Austin, well known in Texas as the centralized location of many Californian imports, mostly "Liberals" and "Liberal Laws". Quotation marks because the word's meaning has become so corrupted and co-opted. All of Texas is not comprised by "tea party fundamentalists" nor is Austin all "Liberals", for that matter anyone not born in Texas is not a "wet back" or a "damn yankee" as labeled by some Texans who apply those same labels to those who moved here while a child and are now retired, to them they still aren't "Texans". There are a whole lot of people who aren't "Liberals", "tea party fundamentalists", non-tea party fundamentalists, those that call college graduates "edumacated idjits", or any other variety of prejudiced jackass. But they do seem to be in the minority.

GDI

And all the Heinlein juveniles (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43567253)

Something happened to the world when it stopped reading Heinlein.

Re:And all the Heinlein juveniles (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43567341)

Yeah, moronicity decreased, so you can imagine how bad it was back then.

Good idea, but some rewriting required? (1)

Bearhouse (1034238) | about a year ago | (#43567301)

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?

Asimov (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43567303)

I think this really says it all, every time.

"Individual science fiction stories may seem as trivial as ever to the blinder critics and philosophers of today - but the core of science fiction, its essence has become crucial to our salvation if we are to be saved at all."
-Isaac Asimov

HHG2TG (1)

Jerry Smith (806480) | about a year ago | (#43567305)

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

Re:HHG2TG (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43567443)

That's not science fiction, though. It's a glorified radio comedy set in space. At best, you could call it a space fantasy. sci-fi has been diluted to mean space or future, the science part of it, as been removed. Any true sci-fi can can tell you the better titles have valid science within the story, like mini lessons for the unsuspecting reader. Alas, just about everything you see in a sci-fi shelf these days is just fantasy.

Re:HHG2TG (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43567951)

That's not science fiction, though.

Sure, and Animal Farm was just about some talking pigs that got uppity.

reading books (2)

pesho (843750) | about a year ago | (#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

Re:reading books (2)

SternisheFan (2529412) | about a year ago | (#43567459)

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 a more contemporary and attractive look for Meg, with neither glasses nor braces. Religious elements of the novel are largely omitted—the name of Jesus is not mentioned as one who fought against evil; and when Mrs Whatsit asks Charles Wallace to translate the song of the centaur-like creatures on Uriel, he simply says "it's about joy". It is implied that the Man with Red Eyes is a former colleague of Dr. Murry on Earth, and IT fills an entire room.

In an interview with Newsweek, when L'Engle was asked if the film "met her expectations" she said, "Yes, I expected it to be bad, and it is." The film was subsequently released on DVD. The special features included a "very rare" interview with Madeleine L'Engle, discussing the novel.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Wrinkle_in_Time [wikipedia.org]

Re:reading books (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43567585)

Shit, Dune (with Sting version) was like super long. Imagine how long it would take me to read that. My jaw would be very sore.

Drop teach the test / College prep for all as well (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year ago | (#43567319)

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.

More reading at home? (1)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about a year ago | (#43567323)

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 a 12 - 14 year old read Enders Game.

It won't be Asimov and Clark (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43567355)

It'll be "literary" SF (Canticle for Liebowitz, Flowers for Algernon, Bradbury), which has it's place, but is not even the same genre in my book. And also would stimulate much interest in science.

Re:It won't be Asimov and Clark (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43567569)

Or H.G. Wells, Jules Verne.

Asimov was a good storyteller with a fine imagination, but I wouldn't call him a great writer of fiction. There's a "need to meet Astounding's submission deadline" aspect to his work.

Ummm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43567363)

Sci-Fi is already on the list in west virginia... All the religious bullshit they are given.

that's pretty much outright fiction. that for some weird reason they believe is non fiction.

Wrong headed, alas (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43567387)

Understand that I'm a dyed in the wool SF&F fan, having read the stuff since the early sixties. And just because it comes up so often as to be a cliche, and because I like to be contrarian, I'll mention that I've never read Wrinkle in Time. I suspect it just wasn't on the shelves back then... or perhaps I've simply forgotten it, because memories that far back are vague. I read Dune largely on the bus to and from high school - some things are more universal than others. :-)

Anyway, I think the idea here is, well, unfounded. Oh, I'm sure there is a good correlation between those who enjoy reading SF and the maths & sciences (those who enjoy big-screen SciFi and telephone sanitizers is another hot number), but this legislation is based on the notion that by mandating the outward effect (reads SF) you can magically create the inner cause (likes math & science). It's an old brain fart, and makes me wonder if the congresscritter is demonstrating the simple fact that statistics don't predict individual outcomes crisply.

sci-fi? (1)

iggymanz (596061) | about a year ago | (#43567401)

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

Politicians != Educators (1)

craigminah (1885846) | about a year ago | (#43567411)

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?

Required Books (1)

Gallenod (84385) | about a year ago | (#43567417)

Every student entering 6th grade should read "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card and "A Wrinkle In Time."

From a man named Canterbury (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43567421)

You might expect that he'd be filing to require kids to read Chaucer in school.

But maybe his relatives pushed those books on him, and this is an unintended consequence.

crap (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43567423)

Most people don't read science fiction because it's beyond crap. I love science but that's not the way to go for the kids. UNLESS the books are the first three in the Hitchhiker's Guide series. Everything is else is rubbish, albeit mostly harmless.

Re:crap (2)

lightknight (213164) | about a year ago | (#43567509)

And yet, sadly, there are some people who cannot get into the HHGTTG...they read the first few chapters, completely skipping over the humor, and think it awfully dull. I have known two such individuals, and I don't think even therapy can save them now...

Sorry, it must be Sy-Fy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43567477)

and it must show wrestling and people running around in the dark with flashlights looking for their assholes.

The man wants kids to dream of a better world. (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | about a year ago | (#43567481)

There's nothing sinister here. You can question the literal material he's suggesting but I don't think there's any question that this is from the heart. He's encouraging something that won't cost anything and that might perhaps get kids to see the world in a different perspective.

The guy represents West Virginia. It is a part of the US in need of dreams.

Personally... I say why not. It can't hurt can it? And it isn't as if there aren't other books they read which are of roughly the same caliber... or less for that matter. I remember reading some absolutely terrible books in school. Any classic book... even a science fiction classic is likely to be better then some of the ALTERNATE options which are frequently not read at all outside of captive classrooms.

Re:The man wants kids to dream of a better world. (1)

turkeyfeathers (843622) | about a year ago | (#43567601)

Won't cost anything? Is SciFi out of copyright now? The guy's probably getting kickbacks from the publishers.

Re:The man wants kids to dream of a better world. (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | about a year ago | (#43567805)

Depends on the book. And regardless, children are reading IN copyright books all the time.

Go to your public library and pick up a book.

That's all you'd have to tell the children to do... you could make it a two part assignment. Learn how the library works and get a book.

Regardless and again... they read books in copyright all the time.

But if you wanted to avoid copyrighted titles... They exist.

Re:The man wants kids to dream of a better world. (1)

russotto (537200) | about a year ago | (#43567991)

The guy represents West Virginia. It is a part of the US in need of dreams.

Ha... good news, West Virginia introduces âoegrade-appropriate science fiction literature" into the curriculum. Bad news: it's "The Hunger Games" trilogy.

If you want to kill a piece of literature... (4, Interesting)

yesterdaystomorrow (1766850) | about a year ago | (#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:If you want to kill a piece of literature... (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43567729)

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 though), not even touching the really interesting stuff. They will find a way to do the same thing with Sci Fi. I think this has to do with the idea that "everyone should be able to learn" every subject. They make it into stuff that has no more "understanding" in it, only some method or ruleset to memorize and repeat parrot fashion. And maybe it has to do with it having to be something that can be taught for a specified x hours and then be tested thoroughly in a formalized test.

Well, that, and the fact that now all your classmates also know the stuff, so it no longer makes you feel special to know it I suppose :)

Re:If you want to kill a piece of literature... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43567993)

Popular in their time.

Shakespeare on the 19th century

My head exploded

Re:If you want to kill a piece of literature... (1)

SvnLyrBrto (62138) | about a year ago | (#43568011)

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 tedious piles of suck, in retrospect mostly because of the way they were "taught". Years later... well after graduating college... I happened across my copies and flipped through them, mostly out of amusement that the bitter old shrew from HS would never have any authority over me again. To my dumbfounded surprise, I found myself accidentally reading large portions of them, finding them fantastic, and eventually reading both from cover to cover in short order.

Left to my own devices, I'd eventually have read both myself, later in life than HS no doubt, so I'd understand the cultural references from them that come up from day to day. That's how I wound up reading things like Ulysses and The Demolished Man. But I shudder at the thought of the damage a high school english teacher could do to an impressionable youth's opinion of James Joyce or Alfred Bester.

Likewise Shakespeare... I hated every minute of it until college; where I wound up with an English Lit & Comp professor who understood that things like Hamlet, Othello, and Julius Caesar were written to be performed, not read. Instead of reading them, he arranged for on-campus performances. And I found that a good theatre production of Shakespeare is pretty fantastic.

When I think back about all the joy I found, as a kid, in Clarke, Asimov, Heinlein, Niven, and Herbert; I'm absolutely appalled at the notion of their works being ruined by the lot who made it their mission to "teach" me literature when I was in high school.

The death of scifi (1)

hackertourist (2202674) | about a year ago | (#43567523)

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?

Re:The death of scifi (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about a year ago | (#43567633)

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.

Re:The death of scifi (2)

russotto (537200) | about a year ago | (#43567797)

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. A modern reader has trouble with the language and style that a contemporary reader would not have had (and further, Shakespeare wasn't writing to be _read_).

And then there's the bad. There's a good story in Melville's Moby Dick, which is why it has been copied so many times... but the writing is absolutely awful. Willa Cather's "My Antonia" has absolutely no saving grace so far as I can tell. Not sure about Conrad (Polish then English), all I remember is "the horror, the horror".

Can't have this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43567551)

*Heavy sarcasm mode on*

God no can't have this in the gool ol U S OF A. Our kids need to be dumb fucks whether they be white, black, mexican, and barely be able to work at mcdonalds or on the street. Giving them the ability to have an imagination and actually be intersted in science? Oh hell no they need to be very dumb fucks and only care about american idol and the kardashians...

*Heavy sarcasm mode off*

Unfortunately this is how most of the world see's the USA.

Please no (4, Interesting)

russotto (537200) | about a year ago | (#43567597)

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:Please no (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43567789)

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.

Re:Please no (1)

russotto (537200) | about a year ago | (#43567959)

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.

But is their not some Requirement (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about a year ago | (#43567605)

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.

It works (1)

trollboy (46578) | about a year ago | (#43567623)

My high-school actually had Science Fiction as an English credit. Favorite English credit ever.

Just SF? (1)

houghi (78078) | about a year ago | (#43567647)

Oh yeah, many already make fantasy mandatory. Sorry.

Well it worked for me (1)

mknewman (557587) | about a year ago | (#43567655)

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 Algernon were on her reading list.

We covered a bit of SF and Fantasy (sort of)... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43567665)

Not sure what they teach now, but in the UK in the 80s and 90s we covered (I realise these can depend on a loose definition of SF or Fantasy) Nineteen Eighty-Four, Brave New World, Day of the Triffids, Wizard of Earthsea, Lord of the Flies and Fahrenheit 451. Compared to the other books we made to read, these were definitely the stand out texts for me, because I learnt more from them then I did, say, Shakespeare, Steinbeck, Chaucer, Harper Lee, Camus or any of the other (apparently forgettable) "classics" we covered. SF gets overlooked because most people think lasers, robots and aliens rather than science, philosophy and the human condition.

Dune would've been amazing to cover, but it's a large book in comparison to the ones we studied. I doubt you would be able to do it justice, given limited teaching time and limited attention span of most students. We were usually asked to read a chapter or two for homework once a week, over something like 8-10 weeks, and a bit in class time. To fully appreciate Dune would've taken a whole year - unless you concentrate on one or two bits, but what would they be?

Already being done. (2)

supercrisp (936036) | about a year ago | (#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.

Given that teachers, especially English gnazis (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43567725)

English teachers will choose the same types of brain destroying fodder they've always chosen. You won't see hard science like Charles Sheffield's and damned if there'd be a book by Asimov or Clarke in the school system. You'll get socialist progressivist drooling by Harry Harrison or the other mundane science fiction crowd. You'll get marxist fantasy by writers you've never heard of. If an English teacher can instill a hatred of reading in a child they'll find a way to do it.

A subversive librarian is the cure for all that. ;)

Teacher here (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43567771)

Many comments above have some good point. I'd say most are going about this the right way, saying, "I like the idea, but is it the state legislature's place to specify reading curriculum?". And the answer is no, unless you want every repressentative's pet idea to be included.

Someone once told me that the best science fiction is, at the core, social science fiction. I agree completely. Yes, the actual science can be cool, but the social and cultural implications are what is really valuable, especially in the classroom. Furthermore, literature in public schools also has to act as students' introduction to philosophy and ethics, since there isn't anywhere else to teach those ideas in the adopted standards. So I'd be very supportive of science fiction in schools, but you can't do it this way.

Also, I wanted to mention, this is in friction with the new common core state standards. If you haven't heard, 45 states have adopted a common set of mathematics and literacy standards (note: NOT federal standards, this was a collaborative effort by member states, and the Feds weren't invited, even though title 1 [aka NCLB] accountability will now be tied to these topics and assessments). The literacy standards reduce the amount of fiction being read substantially, and non-fiction reading becomes emphasized. I think it's a reall good thing--we currently do a poor job of preparing our students for the myriad of technical text they will have to interact with as a person and a professional. Furthermore, fiction reading stratigies don't work for non-fiction (for example, you can't use context for vocabulary you don't know). The flip side of this is, teachers, parents, and students are going to have to give up some fiction literature to make time. This is going to be a bloody fight, I can see already. People have in their mind a canon that they think everyone must have read, else they are undereducated (nevermind everyone's list is different) but that mentality has to go.

I have a lot more to say, but this is too long already. If you are in a CCSS state (everyone but TX, MN, VA, NE, AK, PR) and have some spare time, check out the new standards. I think they are a really huge step forward (generally, less focus on facts and rote skills, more focus on problem solving, using tools, and deeper ideas), and honestly, we aren't doing a great job of getting the word out.

Are we sure about this? (2)

teaserX (252970) | about a year ago | (#43567779)

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'.

SF already Exist in most curriculum (1)

PeterJFraser (572070) | about a year ago | (#43567817)

I have moved several times and the schools seems all seem to have "The Veldt", "1984", and "Brave New World" as part of the curriculum. It is not that there is SF in the curriculum, but rather is there relevant SF in the curriculum. The titles above good but dated, the best SF makes you think about the world that you are in and what the futures could be, the titles above starting point is too far in the past. I have trouble recommending title because the best I can immediately think of have too much sex and drugs in them for the schools systems (e.g. William Gibson).
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