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Should science novels and films be introduced at schools?

Posted by on May 22, 2013

The Hot Zone science bookBy Vydeki Shanmuganathan, Senior Scientist (Microbiology) at Affinity Water Shared Services

We all dissected Charles Dickens novels at school to great length and watched plays based on his novels. However, we were rarely introduced to science novels or films at schools. With the education system evolving, is now the time to introduce science novels and films at schools?

Science often has the myth of being boring and something that only occurs in laboratory done by old men with crazy hair in white coats. But the reality is that we come across science everyday.

Studying science opens the door to many jobs, including working in the laboratory and the field. Introducing science novels at school can enlighten students about how we come across science every day. Also, it gets them to understand various diseases and the roles of scientists.

An example of this is The Painted Veil, a 1925 novel by British author W. Somerset Maugham that has also been made into a mainstream film. Here we are introduced to the role of a bacteriologist and the disease cholera.

Another mainstream film is Contagion (2011), where the film focuses on how virus speeds between people and the impact this has on public health. The Hot Zone by Richard Preston in a non-fiction science thriller, which tells the story of how Ebola virus outbreaks occur and spread.

These novels and films will relate science to popular culture and hopefully get the students to be more interested in science. They can join book clubs that focus on science novels or look for books on websites that are dedicated to recommending books and films that are associated with science.

However, if science novels are to be introduced in schools we need to have books and films that accurately portray science rather than some of the more wacky science fiction scenarios.

It is important to highlight that sometimes the facts in novels and films are exaggerated in order to capture the audience and of course to win an Oscar.

But sometimes this is not the most important aspect: understanding that something is pushed to the limit is all that matters. Then it is a case of getting the message across. This leads to people wanting to increase their understanding of certain aspects. We live in an age of the information highway, and novels and films can be the starting blocks to this.

2 Responses to Should science novels and films be introduced at schools?

  1. Rebecca Nesbit

    There are some fantastic science novels out there. My recent favourite was The Roise Project, entertainingly narrated by a scientist with Asperger’s Syndrome. Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behaviour was also fantastic, and an interesting view of science from the outside.