Speculative Lit. Disclosure

M R .   P E C K ’ S   S P E C U L A T I V E   L I T E R A T U R E

Speculative fiction, at its core, creates an existential metaphor that allows us to tell stories about the human condition. –Ray Bradbury
What is Speculative Fiction

When we say “speculative fiction” what do we mean? There is (oddly enough) a lot of debate over what speculative fiction actually is, and what subgenres exist within its borders. For the purposes of this class, I have decided on the following limitations to this genre: speculative fiction consists of books that concern themselves with making predictions on outcomes given certain criteria. For instance, in the book The Last Days of New Paris, the author speculates what it would be like if a form of technology made all surrealist art come to life (near the end of WWII). The book deals with the outcomes of this given situation. Likewise, the science fiction book, The Martian, predicts possible ways to survive on Mars when stranded. With this definition in mind, we can safely narrow down our subgenres to the following: science fiction, alternate history, modern fantasy, and some traditional fantasy.

Speculative fiction (and even more specifically, science fiction) provides opportunities for its readers to be introduced to philosophical ideas. Many authors and philosophers alike have discussed, at length, the philosophical implications of common themes found within the genre. The nature of reality, identity, freedom, our role in society; each of these subjects help us understand our lives and our actions. Speculative fiction provides a unique perspective that should be taken seriously. The late science fiction author, Arthur C. Clarke said, “speculative fiction, at its core, creates an existential metaphor that allows us to tell stories about the human condition.”

The Purpose of this Class

The purpose of this class has two parts. Firstly, I want to help show how speculative fiction is a serious genre; that there are elements within the genres of science fiction and fantasy (etc.) that are important and are best addressed through the study of the genres. Secondly, to show how traditional and modern philosophy ties into these genres in important ways. Much of this class will be focused on introducing you to a variety of speculative fiction stories and discussing seriously philosophical issues through the stories.

Class Structure and Schedule

This is a semester-long class that will focus on a variety of speculative fiction texts and philosophical themes. Throughout the semester we will discuss four major philosophies and how they tie into the genre of science fiction. Finally, we will end the semester through understanding world-building and the fantasy genre. Each term, students will be required to read at least one book and discuss how it addresses one of the themes discussed during the semester. Below are the themes that will be covered throughout the semester:

The Nature of RealityIdentityLanguageFreedom & FreewillFantasy World Building

Throughout the class, we will not only be reading but watching science fiction/fantasy films. A list of films is provided below (however, it may be subject to change based on classroom discussions and/or interest).

Inception (PG-13), Episodes of Over the Garden Wall (TV PG), Arrival (PG-13), Star Trek: TNG, Darmok (TV PG), The Day After Tomorrow (PG-13), The Fellowship of the Ring (PG-13)
Classroom Expectations

 “Read critically, write consciously, speak clearly, tell your truth.” -Clint Smith, poet

One of the most important things that can be learned in the classroom is citizenship. The way that you, as students behave in the classroom will reflect attitudes and behaviors you will take with you, after graduating. Because of this, it is important that every student learns how to be a valuable citizen who is respectful, kind, and contributes to their community. Below are my expectations for behavior in my classroom. Below are commitments I want all of my students to make, and commitments I also will make to create a valuable and safe classroom environment.

Prepare. Arrive on time and be prepared for class.

Listen. Follow directions the first time they are given.

Respect. Be kind. Respect others and classroom materials.

Speak. Engage in discussions; share your opinions respectfully.

Assignment Grading

Students must take responsibility for their own grades. Each student will receive the grade that he or she has earned. Practice assignments will count toward the student’s participation points for that day (see the Participation section below). Assessment assignments (final essays, projects, etc.) will be given 0 – 4 points per rubric item according to the following scale:

0 = the assignment is missing or doesn’t meet the requirements

1 = the assignment demonstrates very poor quality or extremely low proficiency

2 = the assignment demonstrates the student is not yet proficient in the assessed objective

3 = the assignment demonstrates a basic proficiency in the assessed objective

4 = the assignment demonstrates a high level of proficiency in the assessed objective

Points that the student accumulates will be figured into a total percentage of the points possible. Letter grades will be assigned according to the following scale:

A = 96 – 100%; A- = 90 – 95%

B+= 84 – 89%; B = 79 – 83%; B- = 75 – 78%

C+ = 70 – 74%; C  = 65 – 69%; C- = 60 – 64%

D+ = 57 – 59%; D = 53 – 56%; D- = 50 – 52%

F = 0 – 49%

Late work policy: Assignments that are late lose 5% each school day past the original due date. Late work will not be accepted after 2 weeks. (As is always my policy, if there are genuine reasons an assignment cannot be turned in on time, please communicate concerns with me.)

Engagement Points

All students are expected to engage in all classroom activities.  Participation points will be awarded for in-class practice assignments and, of course, classroom participation.  3 points will be available each day according to the following scale:

0 = did not participate in the day’s learning activities

1 = participated below expectations (see explanation below)

2 = participated in the day’s learning activities

3 = participated fully in the day’s learning activities and demonstrated engaged learning

Some students may earn an extra point (for a total of 4 points) for exceptional in-class performance.  At the teacher’s discretion, points may be withheld for incomplete practice work, inattention, rule violation, tardiness, or any other lack of participation.  As this class is participation-based and includes activities which are difficult to make up, these points have a large impact on the students’ grades.

Above all, because engagement points are earned through participation in the classroom learning activities, they will be withheld for absences (which obviously preclude classroom participation).  Excused absences and school-excused absences are no exception.  An excused absence simply means that the student had a valid reason for being absent.  It does not excuse the student from the responsibility to learn or practice the material.  Any student who has missed a class, for whatever reason, will be expected to make up any learning that was lost due to the absence. In order to make up the points, the student will need to fill out a Remediation Request.** This is no substitute for the content missed in class, but it at least exercises the language arts portion of the brain and is the best I can offer. 

The best way to ensure a steady grade would be through open communication regarding absences. If the student knows when they will be absent, practice work and/or learning goals can be provided to them to ensure assignments or tasks are turned in on time.

I do not give extra credit. However, all work may be remediated and turned in repeatedly to ensure a grade the student is comfortable with.

For medically excused absences (verified through the attendance office), contact me personally.

Attendance

Each student will be expected to be in class and on time each class period.At the start of each class period, students will read their personal book for 10-15 minutes, silently. If tardy, students will lose one participation point for the day. It is up to the student to make these points up during PRIDE. If a student is absent, he or she should speak with the teacher beforehand to keep up with assignments.  If there are questions, that student should contact me by email or in person during appropriate consultation times. Students are responsible for any work missed.  Participation points will not be awarded for time not in class.  Attendance is largely associated with participation points (see participation section for specifics).

Cell Phone Policy

As an English department, we have committed to the following in regards to cell phones and other electronic devices. We expect students to be engaged in the process of learning within the classroom. Cell phones and other electronic devices can be obstacles to this goal. We ask that students keep their cellphones put away during class time. If students need to use their phone during class, I ask that they do so quickly and quietly in the hallway. There are no punishments or penalties for stepping out of class except that of missed learning. If leaving class becomes excessive participation point may be lost.

Reading Assignments

At the start of each class period, students will be required to read a book of their choosing for 10-15 minutes. According to the common core, students must learn to read and analyze a text, and also discover themes within, through sustained reading. To help students elevate their reading ability, the Orem High School English Department requires students to read for 10-15 minutes without interruption. If a student is late to class, they will be required to make up the lost participation points gained through reading (for a full 15 minutes) during PRIDE. Students must complete a Remediation Request in order to make up these points.

I encourage parents to discuss what students are reading, both as part of our class-wide reading (see unit schedule above) and for their personal reading. I have a vast classroom library, with many books of varying genres and content which makes it difficult for me to know what is and is not appropriate (both in content and reading level) for each student. If you have any questions about a specific book or author, please contact me and I will do my best to help with any questions or concerns.

Email: christopherpeck@alpinedistrict.org

Phone: 801-610-8165 ext. 226

Website: hipsterteacher.com