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Tuesday, October 4, 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. I wonder if this is a case of students not understanding sarcasm, getting too upset to finish the post before they started writing (I do this all too often), or because they simply did not read the post critically?

  2. Or perhaps because in every lie/sarcastic comment/exaggeration there is a hint of truth...?