My one-year-old son will be asking me many difficult questions all too soon. Ones like: “Where do babies come from?” “Is Santa Claus real?” and most certainly: “Why is my middle name Tiberius?” As a Star Trek fan, I look forward to answering only one of these questions. I think that Star Trek has a lot of lessons to offer children, whether they hail from outer space or Riverside, Iowa. Indeed, I feel a sense of urgency to teach my son about his namesake “James Tiberius Kirk” of Star Trek: The Original Series (1966-69) because I have recently gotten the distinct impression that the popularity of Star Trek TOS is on the wane with today’s youth.
How on earth can a mother prepare her son to one day become a mini Captain Kirk?” A few guidelines to follow, ahead…
While teaching art history at a California University for the past few years, I have occasionally inserted a Star Trek slide into PowerPoint presentations for chapters that we are covering. For example, I’ll show Kirk and Spock in togas from “Plato’s Stepchildren” (1968) to begin the Greek and Roman history chapters, or Mr. Spock in Nazi uniform from “Patterns of Force” (1968) when introducing World War II. Heartbreakingly, upon showing the toga slide, I once heard a female voice from the very back of the class murmur “Eww.” I realized at that moment that Kirk and Spock are no longer the nerdy heartthrobs that they had become since the late 1960s through the 1990s, but merely strangely dressed dudes who look outdated to younger audiences, laughable even. I have begun to query my students about Star Trek, asking them to raise their hands if they had seen it before. Usually about five students will respond, then afterward I would correct my statement, clarifying: “the Original Series, not the new films,” and most hands usually dropped away. This has been the depressing pattern semester after semester. I intend to fight it.
I have resolved to teach my son about Star Trek, mostly because the show brilliantly conveys so many affirmative elements of the very best human qualities: friendship, honor, bravery, sacrifice, and so much more. And, let’s be honest, there’s the bitchen’ uniforms and the best triumvirate of friends that there ever were. Here’s the list of life lessons that I have begun to compile for my son, so that he might one day gravitate toward a show that his parents admire so much.
Star Trek Lessons For Lil’ Officers:
Though something might seem strange to you at first, try to understand its purpose before acting with aggression.
I will never be as hard on you as Spock’s parents were on him.
Captain Kirk is right, life is a lot like a game of poker. Sometimes you have to bluff (then I suppose I’ll have to explain poker to my son as well).
Don’t judge a book by its cover, though Vulcans look serene, they can kick you from here to Seti Alpha Five.
Don’t go into basements where flying creepy creatures live.
If something looks mysterious and crystalline, don’t touch it, and don’t remove the gloves from your spacesuit, either.
Don’t go off on your own to investigate.
If a friend pulls out a foil and begins to fence madly in various hallways and corridors, keep your distance.
You may find that having is not so pleasing a thing, after all, as wanting.
Superior officers aren’t always right.
Your evil twin has a goatee and wears cooler clothes that you do.
Shields are protection for ships, but also for your own emotions.
Hanging from trees can be refreshingly liberating.
Thinking your way out of situations is sometimes as powerful as fighting your way out.
Hitting is not nice, even though Federation-Fu makes fighting look surprisingly risk-free.
You can wear black Cuban heeled ankle boots with clothing from any galaxy and look pretty cool.
The colors gold, blue and red look good on almost everyone.
Everybody should wear a patch, because patches look neat-o.
Grow your sideburns into points (eventually).
“Dammit” is a highly effective swear word.
At the end of the most harrowing of days, you can have a good laugh if you have your friends by your side.
Revenge is a dish best served cold.
….well, maybe not that last one. Not until he’s 12, at least.