Monday, October 31, 2011

Zombies and Education

Everything that has every scared me about education I learned from Zombies...

I'm not sure what has taken me so long to think of this post, but today seems like the perfect day to write as I sit at the airport. There has been a strange cultural obsession with the living dead in recent years. The Walking Dead, an awesome show on AMC that everyone must watch, is an example of the popularity Zombies seemed to have shambled onto. I feel that Zombies have something to teach the education world and I'm the one to blow its brains open.

The Zombies I am writing about today come from the Romero universe where our walking dead are in fact dead. They are not living people with a terrible disease that causes them to act like cannibals. These are the corpses of the dead that have risen and need their brain destroyed to be put down. A bite will kill you within a day or less and you will rise again. These are important facts to lay out as I make my evaluation.

I guess I need to say who the Zombies are before I go into deep analyzation. I think that the students are the second generation Zombies created by an entire horde of educator Zombies. Let me explain.

Our current system of education is focused on testing. Creating the perfect student is not about a well rounded thinker. It is about a person that can perform basic functions on an exam. The bar is set and students are asked to shamble over. There are educators that have no problem sinking their teeth into these students and turning them into these Zombies. That is way easier that putting up a fight. Bite them and move on.

Not all people that are bitten turn into Zombies. Some are devoured completely. This happens to students every day. Our current system chews up students every day. If they do not fit into the system set up, they struggle and leave. If they cannot conform to the standards established, they do not stand a chance. In the Zombie world, a body or two need to be consumed for the good of the Zombie horde. It happens all of the time. I'm sure it happened today.

Zombies do not think. They do not problem solve. They are not creative. They wander. It is actually very easy to feel sad for these Zombies. It's not their fault they are a Zombie. If given a choice, I'm sure they would not choose to be a Zombie. How can you not feel bad for a students that exits a system not knowing how to be creative or solve problems when they leave a system that has not showed them how?

Zombies are inherently drawn to the living. The desire for life is something they seem to physically crave. They want to devour the life they so desperately wish they had. Is that any different for students? Students are drawn to creativity. They always move toward what they lack or have always wanted. That spark of creativity is something that does draw in students. As any hungry Zombie would, students eat up the chance to be creative.

To kill a Zombie, their brain must be destroyed. This is close to true for our students. If we want to save education, we need to destroy the message that has been drilled into their head about bubble filling and memorization and replace it with critical thinking and problem solving. The entire educational system needs its brain destroyed and filled with the ideas that will save future students from being Zombie food. Killing a Zombie is never an easy thing and changing the educational system will be just as tough.

Like all Zombie movies, there are pockets of resistance. Places of refuge where people are trying to keep going and start new. I see this every day on Twitter. There are pockets around this country that are striving to create more humans and less Zombies. They go about it slightly different ways, but they are fighting. These pockets are far outnumbered, but they continue to fight.

The truly scary part of Zombie movies is always the numbers. A single Zombie does not make for a very good movie. It the hundreds and thousands of Zombies that truly scare an audience. It's the feeling that there is no escape and resistance is pointless. Our current system feels that way. There are times I feel like giving up as I look at the numbers and try to figure out a way for my kids to survive. It seems hopeless.

In that hopelessness, there is always success. No matter how many Zombies there might be, thinking and creativity seem to win in the end. We will lose some good teachers along the way, but it is possible to win this war.

Thanks for taking the time to read this whacky post. I just put this together while waiting at the airport. Forgive the typos. I feel like a Zombie got a piece of my brain this morning.


  1. Great analogy! Sad part is that more and more zombie movies end up with the zombies overrunning the world. But not us! We will destroy the education zombie's brain and save our children from being turned! Down with the testing monster!

    Walking Dead is the best show on TV my wife and I have seen in a long time. We had to wait for shows like True Blood to come out on DVD to get our vampire fix so it's nice to get a zombie fix on regular TV and have it be so top notch.

  2. What about Zombie teachers?

    I feel as an administrator we also need to awaken certain teachers to self-reflect and get enthusiastic about learning and trying something new again.

  3. Another great post! This comparison of zombies and ed really does make sense in a very twisted, face-the-facts kind of way. I think we do need to face the facts, though and realize that if things don't start changing in a big way, many of our students are going to grow up to be mindless. Don't we already see this???

    Keep up the good fight!

  4. This post really resonates. I've been working against the zombification of my students for years. One of my strategies has been to teach zombies. Zombies really are far more than just a movie monster. Zombies are great to use in an educational context because of their cultural popularity, especially among the school age demographic. As a teacher in the humanities, I have found them to be fascinating philosophically and think that zombies have a lot to teach us about ourselves. I have written about the meaning of zombies at my website (the first post is at This series is a little academic and quite detailed. If you'd like a lighter version I summarized it all in a post called "10 Things Zombies Tell Us About Ourselves." You can find that one here: I hope these resources can help teachers to engage their students.


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