Science fiction class is a great venue for students to work out some of their deeper sociological and anthropological thoughts. It isn’t difficult to get an opinion from a teenager, but it is more challenging to have them think their opinion through to its logical conclusion.
Science fiction has done some of this work for us as we read and discuss the latent effects of our view of the world. Many students think living is all about them, and that doing as they please is a “seriously serious” right not to be infringed upon by those of us who wish to deny their “freedom.”
Sounds perfectly acceptable — until the science of the fiction takes us on a journey down the unmistakable and treacherous path of selfishness exposed in the future world and positions the reader to lay aside their present reality and view the world more objectively.
The future holds plenty of promise and a whole bunch of potential based on the certainty of our present circumstances, beliefs and values. But should the future adapt to the more pressing concerns of individual and self as opposed to the societal implications of certain decisions that impact our society?
Science fiction offers up a smorgasbord of stories based around the central role of making decisions about how we live and how others should go about living in relation to us. In faraway places, on distant planets, in galaxies yet discovered are the answers to the questions we have about living today. That’s the beauty of science fiction and the characters, settings and conflicts.
Students quickly realize that human nature remains very much the same — past, present or future — and our opinions lived out can be a scary place if we are not careful.
At least, that’s what I teach.