I find it hard these days to hide my disgust of Congress. Lately their actions (and inactions) are increasing my levels of stomach bile and there’s not nearly enough ranitidine in the world to help.
But then I hear of a politician who comes up with a crazy idea that, on further investigation, isn’t so stupid after all — like one from a Republican legislator in West Virginia.
Delegate Ray Canterbury has proposed a bill to require “grade-appropriate science fiction literature” in middle and high school reading curricula. And he explains he’s not talking about the fake fantasy and dragon stuff that bookstores fill their “science fiction” shelves with, he’s talking the real stuff — science fiction where advanced technology and science propels the story and is used to solve the problem.
“I’m not interested in fantasy novels about dragons,” he said in an 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.”
Canterbury points to Isaac Asimov and Jules Verne, as well as 2001 and Star Trek that inspired an entire generation of technologists that helped us get to the Moon and build space shuttles and space stations. He says he believes that hard science fiction such as 2001: A Space Odyssey will inspire West Virginia students who are currently falling behind in math and science.
“In Southern West Virginia, there’s a bit of a Calvinistic attitude toward life — this is how things are and they’ll never be any different. 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. So it serves as a kind of antidote to that fatalistic kind of thinking.”
I’m pleasantly surprised that a Republican is offering this idea, since some fringe elements in the GOP have taken the lead in introducing anti-science bills aimed at keeping the ignorance level of their constituents high. But here’s one guy offering just the opposite — something to inspire kids to learn more hard science and technology. Not only will it open their minds, it’ll strengthen the country as we produce more students willing to go into the vital science and technology fields that will keep us in the forefront in the global economy of the 21st century.
Because we can’t wait for the Vulcans to land to show us how to build a good warp drive.