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Science Fiction as Inspiration for Education

Below is an audio teaser for Chapter Two of the book Space Education: Preparing Students for Humanity's Multi-Planet Future by our cofounder Dr. Mark Wagner.



Students are tested in Star Trek (2009): Utopian or dystopian education technology?

At the invitation of Space Education professor Dr. Barry Elsey, I took the opportunity to look deeper into ways that science fiction might inform our answer to the question of how best to educate students for humanity’s multi-planet future. Like the previous chapter, this chapter includes both a review of literature (in this case an exploration of imaginative fiction rather than philosophy) and an original study synthesizing expert opinion. Some conclusions are surprising, but the final recommendations converge with the results in Chapter 1.


As a science fiction fan myself, I was surprised to realize that most depictions of education in science fiction stories are either rather dystopian, or quite traditional. Even in Star Trek, students are usually depicted seated in rows with a teacher at the head of the room, and arguably modern schools are already tending toward the more dystopian with their increased standardization and centralization. Still, there are some inspirational examples of more individualized and authentic learning in science fictional depictions of the future, and we can look to those as models. At its best, education in science fiction tends to include development of both technical skills and soft skills (like leadership) through a focus on student agency and one-to-one mentorship rather than a traditional school model. This is very much in keeping with the individualized, authentic, and (in a word) constructivist approach the expert opinions support.


Perhaps most importantly, science fiction can inspire educators and students to create a more positive vision of the future to aspire to and work toward. And, of course, dystopian stories can inspire us to avoid them.


You can read the original study for free in the Journal of Space Philosophy (Volume 10 Number 1) and the whole book is available now in paperback or kindle format.


Explore a complete Space Education Curriculum developed by Dr. Mark Wagner for high schools - it's a FREE and open education resource available to students, teachers, and enthusiasts everywhere. And be sure to register for the FREE online Space Education Summit on April 21, 2023.


Educators, sign up for online professional development based on the book and curriculum.


School leaders, contact at launch@areslearning.com to bring custom space education professional development to your teachers.


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