Most kids can’t stand the books they’re assigned to read in school and I can’t blame them.  While some of what the all-powerful curriculum overlords deem worthy actually isn’t bad, for the most part the books kids are asked to read are uninteresting, irrelevant, and do nothing to broaden their minds.  I mean how can they force kids to read Great Expectations?  That thing is a mound of steamy dog turds.  Miss Havisham can choke on her musty rotten cake!
Most of the books kids are asked to read just don’t serve to inspire.  Simply being expected to study “classic” literature for literature’s sake is meaningless unless you’re a literature major in college or doing in on your own for fun.  But in primary, middle, and high school, it’s pretty much torture.  Reading should not only foster good reading and writing skills, but also fill kids with a sense of wonder and elasticize their imaginations.  It should be fun! 
frank-herbert-dune-gameIt looks like West Virginia legislator Ray Canterbury agrees with the inspiring part.  He has proposed a bill that would require schools in his state to include age appropriate science fiction in their reading curriculum.  His reasoning is that reading science fiction promotes interest in math and science, which would then lead students to pursue careers in these fields.  This is absolutely awesome, as well as vital, as these are the exact same careers that Americans as a whole just don’t seem interested in.  Not only does this country need scientists, but the human species needs them.  Science and math are two of the most important fields where the most important work is being done, and will only become more important.  
Canterbury’s push for including science fiction in the curriculum comes from an interesting perspective; folks in his neck of the woods tend to have a Calvinistic attitude, which means they tend to see things as immutable and static.  He lays out his whole point of view quite simply in a great quote:
“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’ve always thought we should be shoveling science fiction into kids’ minds.  There’s a reason intelligent people gravitate towards science fiction.  The greatest minds in science could probably give you a list of their top ten favorite books, or at least TV shows, in less than thirty seconds.  And not only science, think of all the people who make video games, or great writers and directors making SciFi shows and movies.  I guarantee all those successful, influential people changing our world for the better give credit to science fiction for making them see wonderful possibilities all around them!
image source: [deviantart] [scificool]