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Possible Worlds (I)

Author: Elizabeth M. Harvey


School of the Future

Year: 2008

Seminar: Teaching Science with Science Fiction

Grade Level: 9-12

Keywords: biological sciences, Biology, Blood Child, Brave New World, environment, genetics, governmental structures, I, robot, Science, societal structures, Technology

School Subject(s): Biology, Science

This unit is about worlds that do or could exist. The three books we will read are Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley, Blood Child, by Octavia Butler, and I, Robot by Isaac Asimov. Each of these books shows a world that could exist, and each world follows a different set of rules and social mores. Through these books, we’ll examine the science, technology, and the rules that govern the people, both governmental and social structures. In Brave New World, the world is divided into five different classes- Alpha through Epsilon- and each one is specifically conditioned from birth- both physically and psychologically to think their specific set of limitations and conditions are the best.

Blood Child is a short story in which Earth humans who have traveled to another planet are used by the bug-like inhabitants of that planet to propagate their own species- at times against their will. Finally, I, Robot is a collection of short stories, from which we’ll read the first and the last stories. In the first story, the three laws of robots are introduced.

When one of the laws is seemingly violated in the last story, you find that the robot was, indeed living within its parameters- but thought it had better information than did the humans. We’ll also watch three movies- GATTACA, Matrix, and Aeon Flux. These movies each have different perspectives- GATTACA is an analogue of Brave New World; a society in which genetic information is as free as a spit swab, and is used to permit or deny life opportunities. Matrix will be used to show the power of society as a control mechanism, and to introduce the possible worlds within our minds. Lastly, Aeon Flux offers yet another utopian civilization ideal- scientists run the only city-state that survived the virus that wiped out the rest of humanity. These stories have in common that the civilizations are held together by strict adherence to rules, some of which may be repugnant to us today, due to our belief in the supremacy of our own free will.

Additionally, these stories are built on the premises of human biological systems. At the School of the Future, our curriculum is planned around project level and learning cycle. In a 200 level project, in second learning cycle, the science standards include the biological sciences that would be covered by this proposed curriculum. The science topics that I’d need to uncover are the expression and transmission of genetic information, how genetics impact populations, and how populations, diversity, and natural processes impact the environment and environmental systems. The possible worlds we’d study through these books and movies will tie in with these topics easily- in fact, a detailed study of biological sciences will enhance my learners’ understandings of the stories.

Download Unit: Harvey-2.pdf

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