Friday, April 20, 2012

School Limits

There are very few cartoons these days that catch my attention enough for me to be a fan but Phineas and Ferb has done it. The cartoon tells the story of two extraordinary boys who spend their summer days building out of this world projects in their back yard, or wherever they happen to be. The boys build everything from a giant roller coaster to carving their sister's face into Mt. Rushmore. To add to the comedic atmosphere is their sister who despite her attempts to "bust" her brothers, never succeeds as the projects mysteriously disappear just before her mother arrives. This is usually due to the antics of the villain Dr. Doofensmurtz evil "inators" being destroyed by the brave secret agent, Perry the platypus. Have I lost you? Well, take it from me that the show is entertaining.

Usually, I don't over analyze cartoons. There are too many things that just aren't possible to compare to real life ( I mean what HOA is going to let you build a roller coaster in your back yard?). However, I think there are some good points to make from the show if I make the assumption that these kids go to a typical public school during the school year. So let's do that, let's assume that these kids who are obviously gifted, attend your tradition public school, as seen in real life and see what this does for them.

1. Their school limits them.
Anyone with an extremely gifted child can attest to this. In a classroom with 25 children and a curriculum that must be taught in a certain time frame, children who fall behind and children who excel are the ones that fall victim to those "cracks" that everyone always talks about. Teachers can not teach 25 different topics at 25 different paces. It is impossible. So now the gifted child has a few options: they get bored, try to work ahead or talk and "disrupt" class and get in trouble, they quit trying because they are not being challenged and become the labeled "trouble maker" or they are in gifted and talented classes which may or may not challenge them and the first two incidences again become the likely outcome. All children thrive better in an environment that is tailored for them, but I would go further and say that gifted children can only reach their full potential in that tailored environment.

2. Their summer limits them.
104 days of summer vacation...These are the first few words of the theme song to Phineas and Ferb. For just a measly 104 days these gifted children are allowed to explore and create and excel. The rest of the year (with the exception of holidays), they are sat at a desk learning typical 4th grade (my best guess as to what grade they are in) stuff and probably prepping for a standardized test that they could take with their eyes closed. Think of the great things these kids could be doing if they had that kind of freedom all year long!

3. Their parents limit them.
In most of the episodes the parents never find out what the boys have been doing as, mysteriously, the project disappears just before the mom has a chance to see it. In one episode however, the mom finally sees it (the day is later rewound and she never sees it the second time). Her reaction was shocking. Instead of marveling at the intelligence it would take to create such a amazing project, she shouts and tells the boys they are in trouble. This happens a lot, I am even guilty of it, on a smaller scale. My children will create something marvelous, that took creativity, thought, planning and tons of imagination, but I can not see past the mess to see how amazing it is! Sigh, I am a work in progress.

I don't have a gifted child. Mine are quite average intelligence wise, but even in my own average children I can see how detrimental sitting in a traditional classroom setting would be. I can only imagine the damage it does to truly gifted children.

With that I leave you with this wonderful (though long) animation in which Ken Robbinson talks about how school kills creativity.

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Amy L said...

Love and agree wholeheartedly! One of my biggest frustrations as a classroom teacher was knowing that I was moving too fast for some and way too slow for others...

Lisa@ Totally Writing said...

I totally agree about the limits which is why I support homeschooling (& do my best to homeschool every summer) even though I must teach to pay the bills.