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Science Fiction and Sustainability Education: The Cross Overs

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The year 2016 saw a major policy breakthrough made in the education sector by the Government of India. This happened due to 14 new education policies that were launched by the Ministry of Human Resource and Development. Education Minister, Shri Prakash Javadekar through these policies brought in new dimensions in the education sector by introducing – a) digital payment campaign for education, b) end of no detention policy for class 5 and class8, c) introduction of gender education at a graduation level, d) free education for poor, e) education for people with disabilities, f) capacity building of school teachers through exchange programmes and training and g) emphasis on development of various state languages. Many of these measures pertain to the social and economic domains of sustainability. But the education policy could also explicitly mention about the need and importance of introduction of sustainability education as a part of school and college curriculum.
However, may be , the time is apt now to also bring in new readings of science fiction as a part of sustainability education at the school and graduation level. As a part of gender education, readings of Joanna Russ like “The Female Man (1966)” can be introduced at the graduation level. Science fiction interspersed with gender issues can be a strong communication medium for sustainability education. The other advantage of using science fiction as a medium of introducing to the world of sustainability will lie in the strong world of imagination that will be opened by science fiction for the students. Students will be able to relate to an abstract concept of sustainability by means of fiction and it will also open up new worlds of knowledge domain for the students. As a part of curriculum, storytelling on social domains of sustainability can also be an instrument to make education more participatory, innovative. Gender education at the graduation level or sustainability education at the graduation level can also include stories like “We Who Are About To (1976)” by Joanna Russ which highlights about a civilisation where women are reduced to the role of breeders. Stories like this can be a strong way of spreading messages, creating thought structures amongst students on social domains of sustainability.
The same experiments can be done at a school level, where sustainability education can be introduced as a part of the curriculum. Within the curriculum, stories of Isaac Asimov like Liar (1941), Runaround (1942), Reason (1942) can be introduced. All these stories pertains to the conflict between humans and robots in terms of understanding each other. The importance of understanding each other is an important element of social bonding and capital and hence can contribute to the social domains of sustainability. As a part of children education, Culture Novels (1987 – 2012) by Ian.M. Banks can be introduced to deal with contradiction of human and artificial intelligence relationships. They can lead to a long term thinking on how the future of sustainability education should strongly imbibe a harmonious relationship between new technology and evolving human civilisation. The importance of such harmonious relationships also emerge from stories like – Fondly Farenheit (1954) which deals with a constant dialectics between the android and human mind. Often, the android’s mind is being seen as a psychological projection of the subconscious layers of the human mind: it is in this turn of the story, the interfaces of psychology and social domains of sustainability are also touched upon.
In order to bring in ethics as a part of sustainability education, moral learnings drawn from books like – “Childhood’s End (1953)” by Arthur C Clarke, “The Liberation of Earth (1953)” by William Tenn can be introduced to bring in strong narratives of failures of human civilization to understand and dominate over nature and the metaphysical aspects of this world. The Liberation of Earth also subtly talks about post cold war situation on Earth where the world is divided into two superpowers viz. U.S.A and USSR and trying to get a control and colonize the human race in their own way pushing their own foreign policy interests. The underpinning of human colonization and its spree to seek freedom for betterment and future sustainability can be well explained by “Childhood’s End”: and it should be a part of the curriculum of sustainability education at a high school and graduation level.
The role of culture as a part of sustainability education can be brought in school and college education system through a curriculum dealing with Gwyneth Jones’s – “ Aleutian Trilogy – White Queen (1991), North Wind (1994), Phoenix Cafe (1997)”. The complex exploration of cultural difference and misunderstandings arising from the inability to accomodate the cultural differences can be taught through the narratives arising out of these books which can be an integral part of sustainability education curriculum. The disease of rent seeking nature of a growing middle income class and their conspicuous consumption nature without thinking about the future can be highlighted through – Robert Silverberg’s (1972) – “When we went to see the end of the world” . Stories like the ones mentioned above have something to contribute to the social, economic, ethical and cultural aspects of sustainability. Science fiction is a strong medium of imparting sustainability education as a part of higher secondary school and graduation course curriculum. For a country like India which is slowly progressing to new heights with a strong image outside, the time is apt to introduce sustainability education for nurturing a youth of future who are self reliant, confident and are selfless to serve the society of this country for future.

About the Author:-

Anandajit Goswami has done his Graduation from Heramba Chandra College in Economics year 2002, Also,  he completed his Master’s degree in Economics from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and is pursuing PhD at TERI University. He has written a novel “Lucy and the Train : Tryst with Sustainability”. The book is a type of Bhagavad Gita revisited where everything is predestined but yet one has to perform his/her own duties and go through the mortal ordeals to reach that goal. There’s no reverse gear in life there’s just only one way forward. The train resembles life and every compartment is but the phases of life that’s bound to come. Compact and gripping- the novel is all about self invention which  leads to sustainability. However, a great start for  Lucy. Hopefully the next series of the novel will be more thrills, twists & turns.


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