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Heinlein : Why science fiction should be taught in schools





Koi Fish
I have spent much of a highschool career reading Heinlein. The Door Into Summer, Stranger in a strange land, The Moon is a harsh mistress to name a few. These books go beyond the "reality escape" of most sci-fi. Stranger and Mistress are unbelieveably deep and require a fair amount of knowledge. I feel that people could pull alot from these books, if they were analyzed.
At the very least, one could spend a week or so seeing how Heinlein wrote of the "future". The books, most written in the 50's, really show what peopel thought this year would be like then. Its facinating. Most of his books are actually movies now, though few people know it. Star Ship Troopers is a prime example. So is mission to mars.
Even going beyond his works, many authors have written works that are now parts of society. I think it was Clarke that wrote of the idea of satellites.
sponguy
I appreciate your sentiments. Science fiction is a genre of literature that much like any other genre, has both stars that shine and dull asteriods, deviod of any life or excitement. One important reason it should be included in the reading lists of younger students is to offer an alternative, a field of interest for children who may not be as interested in other genres or fictional works. It is important for young people to be offered alternatives and opportunities to develop interests at young ages, especially in literature.
pexivee
Sometimes science fantasy is mistaken for science fiction.

As an exchange student in USA, I took a science fiction literature class in high school. I had read my Heinleins, Asimovs, Lems, Clarkes and Strugatskis by then, but I remember learning one lesson from that class: it is really hard to write good science fiction.

This revelation did not come as much from the analysis of books, but from an assignment. We were assigned a task to write a story. For the story we could research our school library and use a planetary simulation program, that allowed us to create our own planets. The program itself was not half bad, but the starting point to our mission was like starting to climb up a tree with your soles going first.

Like in any good literature, you need to have an idea - something to say. Then you need a story that will convey that idea. In telling the story, you need that vast knowledge that for example Asimov and Heinlein are known for. Too many science fiction writers take the high school route - create an environment, fill it with characters and there´s your story!

Personally, I just love Heinlein. His storytelling capabilities are just amazing and reading his books is like listening to a good debate. He just seems to argue himself into a corner and then suddenly, he sails through triumphantly. And in the end of a book you realize that you were taken for a ride: what you presumed Heinlein was thinking was actually your own look of life. And there´s your big bang!

Then again, reading the Strugatski brothers, I sometimes struggle to find the story. I still get deep satisfaction from the atmosphere that they create: the story gets told in your own mind as much as in the pages of the book. Your mind gets bent just little by little until you barely know what to think.

I agree, science fiction should be taught in schools. But does this require too much of the teachers?
Koi Fish
I dont think it requires to much from the teachers. Yes i know literature like Wuthering Heights and Gatsby are important. I like both of them, but i do agree with kids needing an alternative.
pexivee
You may be right.

I guess same rules apply to science fiction as any other literature. I found it rather neat, though, that our teacher, Mr. Smith, was himself a science fiction fan. It was fascinating to see his eyes light up when he got warmed up on the subject. It did not happen that often in World literature class...

But to recognize the likes of William Gibson, and to bring their works to the class when the ideas behind the story are current, takes considerable devotion to the subject. I don´t mean to say that Neuromanger or Virtual Light are not current anymore, but if you have read them in the mid-90´s, you might know what I mean.
Koi Fish
(This is the actual Koi Fish, not the one who began this thread)

I had a literature teacher in 9th grade that placed Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game on a summer reading list. Me, being the science fiction fan that I am, said "HEY! I want to read that!!" Little did I know, she would have preferred that everyone read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and novels like that. So I lost.

I did end up going to the Georgia Governor's Honors Program interviews in 10th grade and my interviewer noticed that I was reading The Moon is a Harsh Mistriss by Heinlein. He was a male teacher. My SAT Prep teacher was also male and a big fan of DiscWorld. Therefore, I've noticed that mostly only male literature teachers/proffessors are fans of the genre. How odd.

Relating to the original post... Heinlein's Mistriss could be taught in an economics and or government class, seeing as how it is primarilly a novel about economic struggle between the moon and earth.
benwhite
I would also add Ursula K. Le Guin to the list of suitable authors, with books like The Left Hand of Darkness. Many people tend to dismiss SF or Fantasy. But in reality, literature is literature, regardless of the setting.
Koi Fish
Unless it's smut. That shouldn't be called literature. Bleh. Laughing
riv_
Quote:
Unless it's smut. That shouldn't be called literature. Bleh.

This must be a subjective issue... I've been given things to read by profs in school that I would definitely consider to be smut. Sure, it's smut that was written a long time ago, but just because it's an old book about a couple of people getting all hot and bothered, doesn't mean it's art.
I guess I agree with you, but disagree with the literary community in general... sort of...
But, I actually started out reading this thread to rave about the merits of science fiction. SF is in many senses, just like other forms of literature.
But I think it ought to be specifically included in course of study because it has a few unique features.
Like all literature, SF influences the culture around it. But because if it's unique subject matter (futuristic technology), the influence of Science Fiction works can often be measured. There are several known cases where theories presented in works of fiction prompted scientific study and discovery which changed the course of well, history I guess.
I think this is a remarkable thing, and worthy of study.
Nevermind it's artistic merits. Older SF generally had a deeply philisophical slant as well. And I'm sure had impact on our social development!.
Anyways, just a few of my thoughts on the matter...
igor123d
I have read a few science fiction books that I have enjoyed. Nevertheless, I believe that this genre is not interesting to all readers or students and therefre should not be imposed on them. If anyone is interested, he has ample opportunity to read on his own, however I believe that in class the more prominent literary works should be studied.
riv_
igor123d wrote:
I have read a few science fiction books that I have enjoyed. Nevertheless, I believe that this genre is not interesting to all readers or students and therefre should not be imposed on them...

Sorry, but that's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard!
Since when was a book's educational merit based on wether or not a particular studen found it interesting?
I think Steinbeck and Tolstoy are thoroughly dull, and I don't enjoy them at all. Does this mean that they should not be imposed on students? That people who are interested should be left to read them if they choose?
Actually, that's a good point. Teachers shouldn't impose any books on students ever because not all people find the same booksinteresting.
Students should just read what interests them on their own time and we should stop teaching anything in schools for fear that someone might get bored or be exposed to somtehing they find distasteful!
Really!
I don't think you have to like SF by any means... but that it shouldn't be taught because you don't enjoy it... that's weird.
xeroed
first off I love science ficton and I agree it would make a good study, because just analizing how things are different today then how they were predicted and why people thought things would turn out the way they wrote about would be a history class aswell.

There is also the philosophy... I think there is a college course dedicated to the study of the Jedi (I know there is a religious sect that is "Jedi").

The simpsons also has its own college class I beleive...

really science fiction isn't much different from books written about the current time except that the author is predicting what might happen.. there can still be intelectual pursuits and satiric critisisms that go into writing it...

then again there is my favorite brainless lazers back and forth battles amongst the stars...


I hope I didn't get too far off topic
Olivia Wood
I agree with the majority opinion here, I think.

I mean, I've studied Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 and Orwell's 1984 (repeatedly) in high school, and both of those could be called science fiction, though maybe that should be 'social science fiction,' and I don't think many people would argue against teaching Orwell.

The more classical sci-fi authors are a lot like that, though. It's not just about the cool, futuristic technology, it's how the development of that technology would affect the society we live in, which can almost always be reverse-engeneered into a statement about society or the human condition or existance today. And that's what good literature is supposed to do, right? Cool
johnny99
good writing is good writing, shouldnt matter about the label
c'tair
I agree to the view that some good science fiction like Asimov, Clark, Heinlein or Lem are usually just cover-ups for some really, REALLY deep stuff. I mean they usually read like some good sci-fi, but then You start edging towards the subject the author really had written about. Last things I read were Clarks "I, Robot" and Asimovs "Foundation's Edge", both really good stories as well as "teachings", showing things closely associated with robotics, with the ethical sides of robotics which may well be in store for us in the future.
MtgRuler
I definally think that this should be taught in school. They are alot more interesting than other books that we read in school, but they still contain the same lessons and symbolism that the teachers want. All the novels we read in English are romances. A little variety would be nice and expose students to different kinds of books.
Who knows, it may even get kids interested in reading, so it would be a win-win to teach them in schools.
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