Lessons from Ghostbusters: Afterlife

Ghostbusters: Afterlife has so many great quotes that take you back to the original 1984 Ghostbusters. But my favorite line was about…learning.

In Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Phoebe is the main character. She is a precocious 12 year old girl. From the first moment you meet Phoebe, you can tell that she is intrinsically driven to explore and experiment. She is quite clever too when she’s teases her teacher for being “obtuse” during a momentary discussion of triangles. As someone who hopes to get more girls interested in STEM, I am in love with the fact that this movie focuses on Phoebe, a young female scientist.

Photo by Martin Widenka on Unsplash

Early in the movie, Phoebe’s mom is not really on board with Phoebe’s super inquisitive nature. In fact, it kind of irks her. Phobe’s mom gets particularly frustrated with Phoebe when they are heading into school one day. It’s not just any day, it’s the first day of school after they have arrived in a new town. No doubt, this situation would cause any child agita. But Phoebe’s mom knows her kid is kind of brainy so she says, “but I thought you liked school” to which Phoebe replies, “no, I like learning.”

Best. Line. Ever.

Generally speaking, adults assume that kids go to school to learn. We send our kids off to the confinement and constraint of school to get a good education. But kids know the real deal… school doesn’t promote learning.

When you google the definition of learn, it says, “to gain or acquire knowledge of or skill in (something).” When you think about it — when you really, really think about it — what are the skills that our children are gaining at school? Critical thinking? No. Collaboration? Nope. How to be innovative? Definitely not. Instead, they are developing skills like how to memorize loads of facts and how to do as little as possible in order to get through that dreadful worksheet or note-taking exercise.

Phoebe knew that her free time was for more valuable to her learning than her time spent in school. Outside of school, she had the chance to explore what interested her and to develop her passions. Her experiences would yield deeper learning because they were fueled by her intrinsic motivation. On her own time, she could also try out her ideas, fail, iterate, and try again. She could safely experience failure and construct her own understanding of things. Rather than being told what to know. And rather than being given a bad grade for failure.

I think we can all learn an important lesson from Phoebe: Use your time outside of school to find what intrinsically motivates you and then develop your skills…and one day…you might just save the world!

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Denise Bressler

Denise Bressler

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Author of Unlearning the Ropes: The Benefits of Rethinking What School Teaches You — Helping everyone rediscover the excitement of learning — denisebressler.com