In my personal opinion, however, in directing my answer to this particular question: Yes, of course science fiction should be taught in public schools, but I believe that the same criteria for quality should be applied to science fiction as to any other genre of fiction. We teach Charles Dickens for a very specific reason, and similar reasons should be applied to science fiction novels (which are why the novels I mentioned above tend to be common). I simply think that there needs to be more variety. I don't think all science fiction texts should be taught, nor do I suggest that only the "classics" deserve a space. There are plenty of incredibly important science fiction novels that have sprung up in the last thirty years (such as William Gibson's work or Joe Haldeman, Arthur C. Clarke. et al). As such, there is a wealth of material available to the public and to schools that could beneficial for the teaching of modern forms of literature.
I personally feel that many of our schools place too much focus on "classic" forms of literature--particularly older work--and I see that as failing to prepare our students for the changes that have occurred in modern literature today. True, one's reading ability does not necessarily have to be advanced to read the vast majority of literature written today, but critical thinking is absolutely necessary to grasping the sometimes abstract or deeply-rooted concepts found within many great science fiction novels.
As to why I think science fiction should be taught: Science fiction is the literature of the future. It speculates upon the world we live in now to see where we might end up one day, whether that be 10 years ahead or 100 years ahead (or 1,000). As a genre it is important because many of the greatest science fiction novels do contain the depth and themes that make literature important to us. It is a genre that constantly questions and examines the human condition, which is precisely what literature is meant to do. That makes it an enormously important genre in preparing students for critically thinking upon the human condition. It also has a powerful influence on world perspectives and I find that the more I read science fiction the more I find that my own personal feelings about the world I live in now are put into question. While public schools aren't necessarily there to get students to challenge themselves, good literature will do this from time to time and it is important to expose the next generation of readers to such conditions.
That's the case I'm making for teaching science fiction in schools. What do you think? Do you have different opinions on the matter?