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Creativity, Education, Reform, Students, Teaching

Imagination is Morally Wrong: Lesson from Phineas and Ferb

Meeting Phineas and Ferb at the Phineas and Ferb Exhibit at Comic-Con

cc flickr photo: Loren Javier

I am not ashamed to admit that I enjoy watching Phineas and Ferb with my daughter. I have seen many episodes, enjoyed the humor, but rarely have I had any “a-ha” moments while watching the inventive pair of boys, their pet platypus and his evil genius nemesis – Dr. Doofenschmirtz.

This changed over our holiday break when we watched an episode in which Phineas and Ferb were sent to a “reprogramming” camp to relieve them of the potential dangers of their creativity. As I watched the following musical montage, I immediately thought of Sir Ken Robinson and his discussions about school’s effects on student creativity (I tweeted out the video and was thrilled to get a retweet and comment from Sir Ken himself).

I frequently hear, and see, frustration with the apparent lack of interest and motivation shown by students at our junior high school. Based on the number of books, blog posts, and discussions related to this topic, I know we are not alone. I also understand the frustration. Being a great teacher is truly a tremendous challenge requiring a commitment to ongoing personal growth and an investment of substantial amounts of time and energy. The persistence, flexibility and patience required to plan instruction that is both meaningful and engaging is one of the most difficult requirements of the job. Apparent student apathy strikes at the heart and soul of who we are as educators.

But, consider for a moment, a child who has gone through six years of an educational system, as described in the RSA Animate presentations by Sir Ken Robinson – Changing Education Paradigms, and Daniel Pink – Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us. Like Phineas and Ferb, many of these students have become convinced that school is not about them. It has nothing to do with creativity, innovation, or their interests – instead it is about whatever the adults decide is important.

Changing this perception is not going to happen in a single lesson, class or even school year. Instead, our schools must be committed to an ongoing process of “re-purposing” our educational system to encourage creative endeavors, instill innovation and convince students that school IS about them. Given the current climate related to accountability and testing, this will not be an easy task, but it is possible, and it is necessary.

We can start be ensuring that our students are given every opportunity to actively participate in their own education by creating, innovating, collaborating and sharing their work with an authentic audience. Allowing students to pursue individual interests and produce work that encourages passion and develops pride goes a long way toward breaking the chains of apathy.

What will you do to give students these opportunities in 2012? Make it a great year!


About azjd

Junior high principal by day, aspiring difference maker, and Jedi in my own mind. Act justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly.


3 thoughts on “Imagination is Morally Wrong: Lesson from Phineas and Ferb

  1. So true! I hear and see the same about high school students being apathetic but giving them choice and options to create for an audience other than the teacher, making it more than just a hoop to jump through for a grade makes an incredible difference.
    I think I might need to give Phineas and Ferb another chance…

    Posted by Cindy Minnich | January 2, 2012, 6:06 am
  2. I love Phineas and Ferb! My students and I discussed them earlier this year and talked about why P & F are such great inventors. Loved hearing the kids’ responses! I’m so grateful to be in a school that helps kids think about learning as fun and creative. Great post!

    Posted by Michelle Baldwin/michellek107 | January 2, 2012, 10:45 am
  3. I also love Phineas and Ferb. The show is great because it tells kids to seize the day and be creative. A very good post.

    Posted by barcncpt44 | January 2, 2012, 3:39 pm

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Jeff Delp

Junior high principal by day, sports enthusiast, technology fanatic and jedi in my own mind. Striving to be a difference maker!
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