SDSU Professor Using “Star Trek” Episodes To Teach History - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

SDSU Professor Using “Star Trek” Episodes To Teach History

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A San Diego State University professor is boldly going where no history class has gone before. He's using "Star Trek" episodes to teach his college students about American history.

The first episode of "Star Trek" aired in 1966. Since then, there have been five television series, 11 movies, and now a college history class.

"It is a history class and ‘Star Trek' is just a vehicle for me to explore it," John Putman said.

Putman first taught "Star Trek, Culture and History" last semester.

"I do own a ‘Star Trek' uniform top, which I did put on for class the first day of class," Putman said.

The upper division history class explores how "Star Trek" reflects American culture and political beliefs over the past 40 years. In one scene from 1968, Captain Kirk kisses his black lieutenant, one of the first interracial kisses aired on television.

"It was a very controversial scene. Some southern stations would not show this episode originally," Putman said.

The first "Star Trek" episodes were filmed during the Vietnam War.

"In the original series, Klingons were the Russians, in the Cold War, and the Federation and Star Fleet are the United States," Putman said.

Over the years, women took on more prominent roles in "Star Trek," and issues became more political. Putman predicts with a new "Star Trek," the pop culture phenomenon will continue.

"Here's a show that comes on and says don't worry, we're going to overcome all this. In the 23rd century there's no more poverty, no more racism, peace on earth. So this is perhaps the glue that's kept this series together and also the fans of the series," he said.

When news got out that Putman was teaching a "Star Trek" class, Paramount Pictures donated a complete set of "Star Trek" DVDs to San Diego State's library.

The course will be offered again in the spring semester next year.

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