Over the years, having devoured the books of Issac Asimov, particularly his Foundation series, Arthur C. Clarks’ 2001: A Space Odyssey and Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series, amongst numerous other works of science fiction and being a lifelong fan of the Star Trek and Star Wars series, I was particularly interested in reading Saunders’ (2015) article about deploying science fiction as a framework for learning and teaching in the classroom. In addition, being a history educator, I was intrigued by the prospect of uncovering pedagogical approaches through which I could employ into my classroom practice a genre that I was fond of. Saunders uses science fiction as a gateway to examining imperial geopolitics from a critical perspective, stating that doing so allows students to interrogate the content at some distance and develop skills that address agency, representation, inter-textuality and discourse analysis (Saunders, 2015, p. 152).
While Saunders has a narrow focus on the area of imperial geopolitics, the parallels that he draws between historical events and popular culture such as George Bush’s “you are for us or against us” polemical statements and dialogue from Star Wars, the analogy of totalitarianism as represented by the Empire in the series, and the propaganda through popular culture during the Cold War period (Evil Empire versus the Good Guys), and later, communism and its collectivization being represented by the Borg collective in the Star Trek series, had a plethora of ideas whirling through my head about how I could use some of these concepts and representations in my World History and Politics classes.
As history educators, we are frequently challenged with teaching ideas of colonialism, imperialism and resistance, totalitarianism, and similar concepts in an engaging manner, resorting to the same devices, tried and true examples and methodologies, which more often than not leave the “non-history junkie” students under stimulated and disengaged. Saunders offers an exciting and engaging way of using popular culture, both visual and print, through which to teach and engage students. At a personal level, as a history and science fiction junkie and educator, I am already inspired to try some of these strategies, both, as lessons plans and as summative pieces in my senior history classrooms and yes, the answer to the most meaningful questions is 42 :).
Saunders, Robert A. (2015). "Imperial Imaginaries: Exploring Science Fiction to Talk about Geopolitics." Popular Culture and World Politics. Retrieved from: http://www.e-ir.info/2015/06/11/imperial-imaginaries-employing-science-fiction-to-talk-about-geopolitics/
Daraius M. Bharucha is a history educator and Department Head of History at Bill Crothers Secondary School. Daraius is also a student at UOIT in the M.Ed. in Digital Technology Program.