"Language exists less to record the actual than to liberate the imagination." This quote by Anthony Burgess highlights the importance of teaching science fiction in English classrooms. My students are committed learners who deserve to "explore the possible" through this under-taught genre.
Sometimes labeled as "disadvantaged," my students remain an enthusiastic group of learners.
I teach in a large, high poverty, urban high school in Massachusetts; all my students qualify for free or subsidized school lunch. Each class is diverse. Our students display a wide range of talents and strengths; some have IEPs and/or are English language learners. Many will be the first in their families to go to college. What they all have in common is a desire to read high-interest, engaging literature that is at their skill level, and that pushes them to grow and develop as readers, writers, and thinkers.
Often dismissed as pulp, science fiction provides a crucial outlet for students to consider pressing questions about the human condition. In the science fiction unit I am planning, students will be asked to break out into "discussion circles," leading their own conversations about one of the three books provided to foster their curiosity and ownership. Students have selected the following three titles as the most interesting to them: "The Uglies" by Scott Westerfeld, "Feed" by MT Anderson, and "Among the Hidden" by Margaret Peterson. Each book poses a high-interest ethical question. "The Uglies" hypothesizes a world where beauty is mandatory. "Feed" presents a world where people are hooked up to the Internet - literally. "Among the Hidden" features children amidst a Malthusian crisis, where each family is only allowed two children. While each book is topically different, each pushes students to consider the world around them - and how they could potentially change it.
Rarely in language arts classrooms are students truly given a "menu of options" to read and discuss what engages them.
This project is truly different in that it involves giving students real choices in studying an under-taught genre. As "the study of the possible", science-fiction frames the issues that adolescents naturally wonder about in a high-interest literary format. As such, this unit is designed to foster critical literacy and ownership, and will greatly broaden students' perspectives.
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