Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Understand Sarcasm and Satire or You Might be Dangerously Irrelevant as an Educator

As I said in the previous post, we now have 128 students in EDM310. Seventeen did not do Blog Post #5 leaving 111 who did. Of those, 24 students clearly did not understand the satiric/sarcastic nature of Dr. McLeod's post Don't Teach Your Kids This Stuff. Please? found on his blog Dangerously Irrelevant. Another six probably missed the sarcastic and satiric nature of the post. The posts of eight students were so poorly written that I could not tell anything about how they interpreted the post - or if they had even read it. Add all these up and we have 73 (65%) who understood Dr. McLeod's post.

Dr. McLeod Tweeted me on Tuesday September 20 concerned about this: "There's a certain percentage of your students that completely misses the irony in 'Don't teach your kids this stuff' :)"

I responded: "Ah yes! And they want to be teachers... About a third [last semester] and probably this."

My guess was correct. 35% missed it this semester.

The failure to understand the post even drew the attention of m.williams-mitchell. Dr. Mcleod drew my attention to this comment in the middle of the EDM310 comments this semester:
um…could someone please reassure me that the requirement for the class was to respond to this post as though one DIDN’T UNDERSTAND THAT IT WAS SATIRE??? I’m beginning to fear for our future.
Posted as a comment on Don't Teach Your Kids This Stuff. Please? by m.williams-mitchell, September 20, 2011 at 5:34 pm

And Now a Lesson

Let's look at the definitions of sarcasm and satire.

Definition of Sarcasm
sar·casm /ˈsɑɚˌkæzəm/ noun
1: the use of words that mean the opposite of what you really want to say especially in order to insult someone, to show irritation, or to be funny
Merriam Webster Learner's Dictionary
Definition of Satire
sat·ire noun \ˈsa-ˌtī(-ə)r\
1: a literary work holding up human vices and follies to ridicule or scorn
2: trenchant wit, irony, or sarcasm used to expose and discredit vice or folly
Merriam Webster Dictionary

1: a way of using humor to show that someone or something is foolish, weak, bad, etc. : humor that shows the weaknesses or bad qualities of a person, government, society, etc.
Merriam Webster Learner's Dictionary
As juniors in college I would expect you to recognize sarcasm and satire when you encounter these literary devices. Obviously that is not the case. So it is time for learning!

Dr. McLoed's meaning should be clear to you, if your are able to recognize sarcasm and satire, when you read the very last portion of his Don't Teach Your Kids This Stuff. Please? post:
don't do any of it, please


'cause I'm doing all of it with my kids

can't wait to see who has a leg up in a decade or two

can you?
Remember the Class Motto: I don't know. Let's find out.

That is what we are undertaking to do.


  1. Dr. Strange, I am a student in your EDM 310 class. I was very surprised by your analysis of our class's response to Dr. McLeod's blog post. The fact that students at the college level are not able to recognize these literary devices certainly concerns me. Currently, I am teaching 7th and 8th grade language arts. We are presently working on a unit about short stories and their elements. Irony and sarcasm are two of the terms they are learning. Most of my students are able to locate examples of these two devices in different pieces of literature. So, I feel strongly that my fellow university students were exposed to these terms, if not in middle school, then certainly in high school. I think you made a good point in your blog when you said, "And they want to be teachers?" Now that you have made them aware of their mistake, I am sure they will learn a lesson from this, and in the future, I hope they will be able to recognize these entertaining literary elements.

  2. Dr. Strange,
    I have spoken with a few other classmates of mine that are also in your EDM 310 class. They have expressed concern and discontent with the comments given by you particularly on the McLeod post you speak of in this blog post. I appreciate how precise your calculations are about our blog posts. This truly proves that you take pride in your work and above all want us, your precious padawans to succeed. I rather enjoy the tough love approach that I believe you are trying to take when commenting on our classwork. Others might argue (as you mentioned in the 1st class required meeting this week)that instead of publishing your disgust with our lack of understanding sarcasm on your blog or on ours, an e-mail would be a kinder approach. It would appear to me that your above post is just a reaction to all of the comments received because of this literary mistake. I also believe having your comments as well as those of the lab assistants on our blogs should be great incentive to strive for better work. I enjoy reading some of your strange thoughts. FYI-My husband is jealous of your name and often talks of changing his name to "Dr. Strange."

  3. It's Called Respect!
    Dr. Mcleod's post was interesting because he uses satire and sarcasm through out, " Don't Teach Your Kids This stuff. Please?". It was a great example of the bitter nature of someone that utilize this negative technique. In my class there will be absolutely no sarcasm or degrading.If there is I will handle it appropriately. Satire and sarcasm, in my opinion, is basically shaming individuals. In EDM 310 our class motto is, "I don't know. Let's find out". If Dr. Strange was sarcastic I would be intimidated slightly, to be open to that policy. However, it works both ways, for example, if I was sarcastic in my classroom I would scare off my students, rather than producing a comfortable learning environment. In Summary, sarcasm and satire produces a false sense of direction, as well as a non productive learning environment. my class blog tweet me

  4. I honestly thought it was pretty self explainable, especially at the end. That is when I figured out Dr. McLeod was being sarcastic and I commented that I bet his kids will be ahead of the rest. For those who did not understand it, this post should help them clearly identify the sarcasm, but what I do not understand is how they did not see that it was sarcasm. Maybe they did not read it all the way through and just wrote something on the first part they read. That is why you should read everything all the way to the end and this post was short! So, if someone did not read this through to the end, then that might explain why the misunderstanding. Sarcasm is a good way to bring your point of view to people when the subject is somewhat misunderstood. Sarcasm is used in numerous things in society today like comedies, most movies, most advertisements, and in a lot of personal jokes. Sarcasm and satire are all around and are taught at a young age, but somehow people still misunderstand the concept. True, sarcasm can be misleading and that some people just do not get it, but this was pretty easy to see, especially when he says he allows his kids to do these things and then ends with the question of who you think will be ahead. Pretty simple to grasp the concept there, but I still believe some just did not read it all the way through.

  5. Dr. Mcleod did grab my attention with the sarcasm and satire. I thought it was a cleaver idea to use both. He is a very intelligent man. But to use both can be confusing tosome people. If not caught it could give the wrong understanding of the topic. Sarcasm is pretty self explanitory, but on the other hand satire can be confused and not undr stood. I don't think I would use satire in a presentation due to it's confusing aspects.

  6. Hey Dr. Strange.

    The challenges, twist, and turns of this course never ceases to amaze me! I really enjoyed the post, "Don't Teach Your Kids This stuff. Please?" The thing that really grabbed my attention was the irony of the post, and the sarcasm. Now, I must say that it was not my typical style of reading, but that was the point. Dr. Mcleod dared to try something new! I believe the whole outpour of concern about this post is because we as a people, become swiftly locked into traditional ways of learning. So as teachers we must be willing to engage into the "newness" of technology and teaching innovations, or we will soon become the tradtion.

  7. Dr. Strange,
    I had no idea that it was possible to miss the sarcasm. I will admit that at first I did not understand Dr. McLeod's post but as I continued to read (like the second example) I actually found myself smiling and laughing out loud (lol). I not only enjoyed reading his post, but I found it completely genius. The way we as humans use sarcasm and satire to greater make our point is amazing. On the other hand, I am amazed that some of the students missed the sarcasm completely. I would assume <-(which may not be such a good idea) that since sarcasm is used in everyday life that we as students should be able to pick up on it.


    P.S. The picture is great.

  8. Dr. Strange,

    I was reading through your blog and I came across this post. When I saw how many students missed the sarcasm, it made me very curious. I decided to read the post "Don't Teach Your Kids This Stuff. Please?" for myself. I was very surprised to see how obvious the sarcasm was. I can't believe that students at the college level had trouble figuring that out. The only explanation that I can come up with is that the students didn't even take time to read the post.

    Our blogs are on the internet and can be searched by anyone at anytime. Having said that, I don't understand why someone wouldn't take the time to produce quality work.

    Emily Printz

  9. Dr. Strange,

    I'm not even going to lie. My first time taking this course I misunderstood what Dr. McLeod's was saying. Now that I retaken this course and paid more attention in my reading, I can now understand that his post was nothing but sarcasm. I realize when you take the time to understand what the writter is saying, you can make sense of the material. Many people use sarcasm in their writing, we just have to know when they are using it. Thanks for sharing. Realizing that many want to be teacher need to know when and where sarcasm is being used. I will not forget Dr. McLeod's post.