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Subject: Star Trek Elective rss

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Neil Carr
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I’m planning on offering up a non-academic elective to my students next quarter built around Star Trek: The Next Generation. The main goal is simply to expose the students to a positive view of the future and a work environment where teamwork, rationality, and professionalism are all stressed. I work with at-risk students and a major goal for our school is to prepare them for the work world where there are certain levels of professionalism that are expected. Star Trek offers up a consistent narrative that runs counter to a lot of the life experiences they have had. Rather than a “survival” narrative, it keeps aiming towards engagement rather than fear, teamwork rather than drama, and deliberation rather than intuition.

There will be eight classes that are two hours long so it will allow for 16 episodes worth of content to be shown, plus a little bit of discussion and evaluation by the students. I’ve drawn up a potential list of episodes to show them:

Encounter at Farpoint I 1x01 (introduction of the characters, bookend of the series)
Encounter at Farpoint II 1x02
Symbiosis 1x22 (Drug use, manipulation, ethics of prime directive)
The Measure of Man 2x09 (legal procedures, ethics of slavery)
Who Watches the Watchers 3x04 (prime directive, different perspectives, evolution of culture)
DejaQ 3x13 (taking a breather with a more fun episode, Worf saying to Q “Too Bad”)
Yesterday’s Enterprise 3x15 (How actions affect the future, the contrast of a bright path and a dark path)
The Drumhead 4x21 (McCarthyism style paranoia and how one needs to stand against it)
Darmok 5x02 (wildly different perspectives still being bridgeable)
Cause and Effect 5x18 (teamwork and problem solving)
The Inner Light 5x25 (history, wisdom, finding meaning in one’s life)
Ship in a Bottle 6x12 (moving past persona history and labels, growth, negotiation)
Tapestry 6x15 (reflecting on one’s life and future, taking risks)
Thine own self 7x16 (The empirical method contrasted with another perspective, demands of leadership, professionalism)
All Good Things I 7x25 (friendship, Q’s speech about the amino acids, owning up to your own mistakes, seeing alternatives, bookend of the series)
All Good Things II 7x26

I’m interested in any thoughts people have for the choices above and how they might put together their own list. I’m trying to emphasize the bigger ideas of the TNG, rather than the more personal character drama that does get injected into the series over time.
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Andy Andersen
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Bravo to you
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Xander Fulton
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It's definitely a lot to pull from! And it's certainly a solid list. I'm not 100% sure I'd go with 'Deja Q', but only as a matter of opinion given how many other episodes are out there. If looking for another contact with Q, for example...the introduction of the Borg in 'Q Who' presents an interesting point - sometimes you are just outmatched, and there is no winning option. It's the lesson Q was trying to "teach", anyway.

'Ship in a Bottle', too...hmmmm. I guess it definitely brings Barclay into the picture, and he's an interesting character given how poorly he 'fits in'. (Although I think his initial debut in 'Hollow Pursuits' handles that better - especially how much trouble he gets into for his 'escapism')

EDIT: and while 'Darmok' is certainly considered one of the 'classics' of TNG Trek...I think for "showing something alien" I'd suggest consideration instead of "Face of the Enemy". It does break from one of the themes you look to be sticking with, that of hanging out with the Federation for the episode, but it does show an 'alien' perspective quite differently. Notably that it's about an "enemy" of the Federation, although showing that even with an "enemy"...it isn't a single, monolithic, 'them'. IE, even for your opponent, there are internal questions about morality/duty/meaning and purpose/etc. That your enemy isn't an impersonal thing - they have their own hopes and fears, like yours in some ways, different in others.
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David Jones
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echoota wrote:
The Inner Light 5x25 (history, wisdom, finding meaning in one’s life)


To be brutally honest, it feels like you've shoehorned this in to your curriculum. Certainly it is one of the finest episode of TNG ever, but it doesn't really feel like a "teaching" episode. I might be more inclined to include The Enemy as there are lessons about the value in helping the disabled; the use of Geordi's visor could be likened to the idea that we never anticipated all the real world applications of NASA technology. Similarly, it also explains that the stories you hear about your adversaries are often propaganda and that the people you think you hate are often more like you than you realize.
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Ken Shogren
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davypi wrote:
To be brutally honest, it feels like you've shoehorned this in to your curriculum. Certainly it is one of the finest episode of TNG ever, but it doesn't really feel like a "teaching" episode...


I don't think it's shoehorned in at all. It's definitely a solid episode and it can be a fantastic platform to launch into all kinds of discussions. The fact that the alien race doesn't survive (and yet does) is quite important when looking at the meaning of one's actions and the ripple effect they have over time. At risk kids are often not afforded the opportunity to take the long view, to see how immediate disagreements that do not end in dominance can yield fully meaningful outcomes down the line. I think it's a fantastic episode to include.

The Enemy is a fine episode, but I think it falls short at providing that long view and it is the long view that is often missing.


And to Neil. I would like to say BRAVO! Fantastic of you to put this together.
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Neat idea, and a good episode list. I second the recommendation of The Enemy, I think there are a lot of good talking points in that one.

Although I don't know which episode would work best, I think it would be great if you could get part of the Worf/Klingon stories in there. The difference between "honor" (saving face) and "Honor" (doing the right thing) would make good fodder for discussion.

Also, I wonder if maybe you're packing in too many episodes. Two episodes in two hours doesn't leave a lot of room for conversation and exploration.
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Dennis Ku
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Wait - there was a Star Trek after The Original Series?

I kid, I kid.
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David K.
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I think that if you are going to use Yesterday’s Enterprise, then you should also include Redemption(4x26), and Redemption II (4x27). Furthering the example of how past can change the future.
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Neil Carr
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Audacon wrote:
At risk kids are often not afforded the opportunity to take the long view, to see how immediate disagreements that do not end in dominance can yield fully meaningful outcomes down the line. I think it's a fantastic episode to include.


Yeah, it is the long view that I am aiming for there.

One of the more gut wrenching things I have to hear from students is something along the lines of "I won't be alive at age X, so none of this matters to me." I've heard it enough times that I put together a unit where a central component is having each student create a timeline of their future, out to the age of 100. I give them a framework with a lot of pre-filled elements, such as when they are legally able to do various things, all the way to when retirement benefits kick in (at least as they currently stand) and then the students go over a wide range of projections about the future and fill in every year with something.

A refrain I often have for students is that I'm not just teaching them at that moment, that instead I'm also teaching their 25 year old self, their 45 year old self, and even their 85 year old self. Maybe they won't get everything right now, but in the future it might finally stick, and if I can lay a first layer of primer to accept some paint latter, then so be it.
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Chris Long
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Vaughn had always been a good student, but now it seemed as though he mastered his lessons too quickly.
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I agree with others that Deja Q and Ship in a Bottle are probably not worth including in the course when compared to others. You already have too many Q episodes as it is, and Moriarity is fun but totally implausible and its probably best not to veer off into discussions about the holodeck.

Suggestions I have for inclusion would be:

Sins of the Father - someone else suggested a Klingon episode and this is probably the best for your purposes. Discussions of Honor and the choices Worf makes could be very fruitful.

I Borg - wow, the ethics of the wholesale slaughter of your enemies. This episode would require a *little* bit of setup since you don't otherwise introduce the borg, but I don't think it would take much. And the discussion over this episode would be great.

Chain of Command, Part II - this one is hard to justify since its the second part of a two-parter, but damn do I love Stewart in this episode. THERE ARE FOUR LIGHTS!
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David Jones
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radynski wrote:
Chain of Command, Part II - this one is hard to justify since its the second part of a two-parter, but damn do I love Stewart in this episode. THERE ARE FOUR LIGHTS!


I don't think its too much to show this as a standalone. Part I really doesn't have much plot and is really just a bloated filler that is needed to setup Part II. You might need to show the final act of Part I to give it better context, but that's about it. I think the bigger problem is the subject matter doesn't really fit the curriculum. Its certainly educational in the sense that it explains some of the real world torture techniques that have been used against POWs in a "suitable for prime-time" kind of way. But in relation to the lessons and target audience the OP is describing, it doesn't seem relevant.
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radynski wrote:
Sins of the Father - someone else suggested a Klingon episode and this is probably the best for your purposes. Discussions of Honor and the choices Worf makes could be very fruitful.

I Borg - wow, the ethics of the wholesale slaughter of your enemies. This episode would require a *little* bit of setup since you don't otherwise introduce the borg, but I don't think it would take much. And the discussion over this episode would be great.

Agree on that Klingon episode.

Also, I think watching the full, two-part Encounter at Farpoint is kind of a waste. You don't really need to introduce the characters, since they're delineated pretty simply, and the episode isn't very good.

Instead, use Q Who? as the introduction to both Q and the Borg. That would allow you to show I, Borg, plus have great discussions about knowing your limitations and not being too proud to ask for help.

Edit: I realize that destroys your "Bookends" plan, but it would give you more flexibility.
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Chris Long
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Vaughn had always been a good student, but now it seemed as though he mastered his lessons too quickly.
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Gregarius wrote:
Also, I think watching the full, two-part Encounter at Farpoint is kind of a waste. You don't really need to introduce the characters, since they're delineated pretty simply, and the episode isn't very good.


Yeah, that's a great point. You really don't need to watch the whole shitty two-parter to give them the context for references in All Good Things, and then you have two extra hours to show better stuff.

Edit:
For that matter, you could instead show Best of Both Worlds part 1 & 2 which are just freaking awesome, and that would give you the Borg introduction and setup you need for I Borg (instead of doing Q Who). Plus its the best episode of the entire series, so there's that.
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Pieter
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The ones I am missing are:

The Ensigns of Command (3x02) -- Facing reality, dealing with bureaucracy
Hollow Pursuits (3x21) -- Recognizing differences between people, finding value in others who are not like you, dealing with psychological problems
In Theory (4x25) -- The value of feelings, misjudging people, the nature of romantic relationships, the nature of artificial intelligence
Silicon Avatar (5x04) -- The value of life, the right to exist, the morality of killing in self-defense
The Perfect Mate (5x21) -- Culture, duty, and choice
Lower Decks (7x15) -- Hierarchy, redemption, second chances

I would dump the two Encounter at Farpoint episodes as they are really boring, bad, and stupid. You can recap them easily with a few clips, if you really want people to know what they are about before they see the final episode. I would also get rid of Deja Q, Ship in a Bottle, Thine Own Self (if only for the desperately awful second storyline) and probably Cause and Effect (cool story, but escapism rather than something to learn from). The other episodes you mention I completely agree with, though.
 
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