Klingon 2: Consequences of Teaching Klingon to Every Student

If the language Klingon were to be taught in every school, some consequences would follow that would need to be addressed at a policy or practice level.

Most teachers may not currently be fluent in the language or they may need to have their knowledge of the language refreshed. That would require systematic professional development for teachers in Klingon. Teacher education programmes would need to ensure that graduates were sufficiently fluent in the language for it to be taught well.

Not only would teachers need to be competent in Klingon, they would need to be persuaded of the importance of helping children become fluent in the language at an age-appropriate level as early as possible.

If teachers are not on-board with the teaching of Klingon, the consequences for the initiative could be problematic. Teachers who are also Star Trek fans won’t need much motivation here but teachers who don’t know Star Trek or who are new to it may be less committed. They may go along with teaching the language, but do it in a mechanistic, dutiful way without conveying the spark to children that this language is something worth learning. In other words, it could become an exercise in ticking boxes or timetable filling – something done to satisfy principals or politicians but not something which elicits much personal commitment.

Not only will teachers need to be committed to teaching the language but so must the children (and their parents). Some children may already know the films and may be able to visualise themselves as Klingon characters; they’ll be excited about learning the language and will need little further motivation to do so.

Others, however, may find the language remote from their daily lives; they may bemoan the fact that few people outside of Star Trek movies speak the language. Especially as the vocabulary and the grammar becomes more difficult, they may lose interest and need extensive incentives to keep learning the language.

Children and teachers may bemoan the fact that the language is not widely spoken and that it is difficult to use the language in authentic contexts because everyone who speaks it can communicate in other languages, such as English.

As learners of the language become more accomplished they may also be unhappy with the relative shortage of reading material in the language. Although a handful of classic works, such as Hamlet and Much Ado about Nothing, have been translated to Klingon, few other original or translated texts are available to potential readers.

If Klingon is introduced but fails to attract widespread buy-in from teachers and students, the consequences could be dire. Of course it would mean that the attempt to introduce Klingon would fail, despite the benefits articulated for introducing it in the first place. That would be a loss in itself.

But leaders in education would require courage and judgment to decide if and when teaching the language should be stopped. Should it be stopped completely or should it become an optional subject for children and teachers who believe in it and who are committed to it? Should it be taught to children in a certain age group? What should be taught in the time that was allocated to teaching Klingon?

What could be even worse than calling time on teaching Klingon, would be to keep on teaching the language in a vapid, uninspiring way. No-one would really care about how the subject was taught and no one would be willing to take responsibility for how well the language was spoken on completion of school. The lacklustre teaching that would inevitably follow could have a contaminating effect on the entire school curriculum.

In the absence of widespread acceptance and endorsement of Klingon teaching, keeping the language on the curriculum would affect other subjects. An unwritten and unspoken compromise would be reached between teachers and children where teachers realise that teaching Klingon is superfluous and of little interest to the children and where the children will passively go through the motions of learning the language without actually learning it provided teachers don’t challenge them too much about learning it.

Going through motions of learning in school is detrimental for all learning. Apart from the fact that nothing is learned, teaching a subject insincerely, without believing it’s important, legitimises not learning, which breeds cynicism among both children and teachers. Cynicism is an unhealthy characteristic to grow in schools and needs to be avoided.

So, if the introduction of teaching Klingon in schools is to be successful, it needs to be accompanied by genuine and widespread conviction, courage and commitment from policy-makers, practitioners and participants. Otherwise, let it go.

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