The Benefits of Having Students Read Science Fiction
As a teacher I realize the difficulty that reading science fiction presents for students and adults. Some have judged the reading level of most SF to be 11th grade or higher. That reading level should challenge most high school students. But, then, that is the point, to some extent
A large number of scientists and engineers today claim to have read a book by Clarke or Heinlein or Niven or Pournelle that turned them on to science. Another factor is that having examples of technological and science-oriented experiences, even if vicariously lived through reading, gives the student a set of examples on which to hang the difficult science concepts in his mental tree of developing knowledge. It helps bridge the gap between the totally abstract concepts of science and the more concrete realm of applications of the concepts.
My favorite authors have some science in their background education and use this knowledge to construct logical worlds. Some are good educators, too, and lead the reader through a problem-solving scenario that works to train the follower to think like a scientist.
I see other values in reading science fiction. As with all speculative fiction, science fiction allows the reader to imagine,"What if?" Extreme consequences can be the results of extreme situations, with no damage done to political correctness since the time is not now and the characters are in no way real. As in all literature, social issues and personal concerns can be explored. In science fiction, the explorations can range through more possibilities than plain fiction because the world can be defined to fit one's imagination, not what is real.
I see society experimenting with new class definitions, social contracts and political entities in science fiction; thinking outside the box to generate answers to current social problems and learning to live more comfortably with new technologies. I call science fiction the myths of the future in that they serve the same purposes of the Ancient Greek myths in shaping our thoughts to deal with our changing world alongside man's constancy of motives and desires and needs.
And, SF is fun to read!