Everything Education

Why everyone should see the Imitation Game

“Sometimes it is the people no one can imagine anything of who do the things no one can imagine.”
― Alan Turing

Once in a while I come across something so profound that I feel like everyone should experience it. The movie The Imitation Game is one of such things. Set in between pre and post World War Two, it is a thrilling drama about the British effort to break the German war communications machine. According to the wikipedia entry about the film:

The Imitation Game is a 2014 American historical drama thriller film directed by Morten Tyldum and written by Graham Moore loosely based on the biography Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges (which was previously adapted as the stage play and BBC drama Breaking the Code).

The lead role played brilliantly by Benedict Cumberlatch left an indelible mark on my mind. Besides the grandiose nature of the problem being solved- decrypting the communications of the Nazi war machine, there were several take aways that I found especially significant.

Stereotypes and perceived gender roles

The concept that anyone may be exceptional, especially those who don't immediately seem like it is a thought that needs more introspection. Unfortunately, most people do not subscribe to this notion. In fact in schools the antithesis to this can be seem in a systemic manner. Anytime you hear an educator saying “that student doesn't belong in that (class, grade, club, etc.)” you are seeing  this. We have so much work to do to challenge this paradigm. The following ideas could be explored to build capacity:

[su_spoiler title=”Open enrollment” style=”fancy”] All students may try honors or advanced course, including research programs etc. Without barriers erected to track students into certain areas of study. [/su_spoiler]
[su_spoiler title=”Flexible grouping” style=”fancy”] Base classes on ability levels rather than arbitrary attributes such as age. Self paced curriculum would help tremendously, allowing students to progress at their own pace.[/su_spoiler]
[su_spoiler title=”Promote growth” style=”fancy”] Transition away from rewarding grades and promote reiteration and mastery. Portfolios of student work over a longer time period could replace the traditional high stakes summative assessments. [/su_spoiler]


A fundamental change also must occur in how educators view students themselves. I find that so many in the profession view students as fixed entities when in fact, students possess unlimited potential. For some reason this is quickly lost and young people are grouped together based on metrics that don't serve their benefit.

Educating about the struggles that LGBT people face is another extremely important lesson from this film. Turings' persecution for his sexual preference is shocking, yet an important reminder of how far we need to go in becoming a tolerant and respectful society. In schools LGBT students must be welcomed, and not excluded or bullied. A welcoming school community where everyone feels valued is the goal. This is more difficult than it sounds, yet essential to the system accomplishing its goal of providing an education for all students.

Promoting tolerance with staff is a great first step. There are many resources to learn more about how to support LGBT students. A book study with staff would be a great place to start. I think the following title would be really helpful for many educators:

Dignity for All- Safeguarding LGBT Students

“Students who identify as lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, or transgendered are susceptible to dropping out of school. This book provides professional development ideas and real-life vignettes that will help educational leaders foster a more caring school culture not only for LGBT students, but for all students. Peter DeWitt provides specific strategies for school leaders” – from Amazon.com

I think that there are many important points raised by Mr. DeWitt, especially the concept of the silent majority in the lead off chapter. Creating safe spaces should be the central goal of building leaders who are in charge of developing and maintaining school culture.

Treating students as the special individuals they are is important. There is no reason why this cannot be accomplished in every school. With conscious effort all students can feel welcomed. This ensures that they may explore what interests them and build capacity towards success.


Another thrilling discovery from watching this film was the realization that we mis-read people on a fundamental level simply by judging them in the first place. There was a simple beauty in the way Cumberlatch hires the people he wants to work with on his project. It is easy to judge his seeming indifference to individual loses with a calculated emphasis on the big picture. I felt conflicted here, but it dawned on me that the holistic view was so important with the statistic at the end of the film about how many lives the Turing machine saved and the reduction in the overall length of time for the war.

Keeping the message from The Imitation Game that people with differences can have great impact on the world is important. It is clear that we must create inclusive schools by seeing how marginalized students are treated. Who knows how many groundbreaking discoveries or important inventions didn't come to fruition because the divergent thinker who dreamed them up wasn't feeling secure.


https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/87041.Alan_Turing Retrieved- 2/26/17

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Imitation_Game Retrieved- 2/26/17

http://primaryfacts.com/3062/interesting-alan-turing-facts/ Retrieved- 2/27/17

About Jasper Sr.

Jasper Fox Sr. is in his fourteenth year of teaching science in New York State. An avid writer and connected educator, he maintains an active Twitter presence as @JasperFoxSR and writes regularly about improving educational practice to help all students succeed.

2 Replies

  1. Kolton Knight

    I have seen the imitation game and I thought it was a great movie!

    1. Jasper Sr.

      Thanks for giving this post a read and for taking the time to comment! One idea I found especially profound from the movie was that when we judge someone, we fundamentally mis-judge them due to the fact that we know very little about what has actually occurred in their lives.