STEM talk is everywhere.
Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.
I flip on my radio-okay, it’s NPR- and hear dire facts about how girls flee those fields, how we need to encourage young women to embrace the science and math. I peruse the continuing education options and am flooded with course options promising to “make STEM appealing.” Websites such as Girlstart.org, http://www.girlstart.org/ provide ideas for students, teachers, and parents to gather fun and quality resources, and stemchallenge.org, http://stemchallenge.org/ invites kids to try their hand at creating video games.
I ask-where does all of this tech-talk leave English teachers like me? We completely miss the boat, (errr, rocketship?) if we exclude the contributions of science fiction literature as a portal to understanding and valuing contemporary scientific and mathematical research. Stories such as Asimov’s “Robbie” from I, Robot and his short story “Key Item” introduce students to the issues they will face with the exponential increase in the use of robotics and artificial intelligence that they will experience in their lives. Our children will need to decide whether to microchip their own children, whether to have their family’s DNA sequenced, and whether to trust the government with their most personal medical and genetic data. Novels like Nancy Farmer’s The House of the Scorpion raise questions about the ethics and dangers inherent in cloning. Patterson’s Maximum Ride series postulates on the effects of cybernetic and bionic enhancements to the human body. Even Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, arguably the first science fiction novel, asks not only “can we?” but also “should we?”So yes, I support the STEM movement-but I am doing it in my own way, through the words and often prophetic thoughts of science fiction authors.