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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Metaphors and Sarcasm - A Puzzle for Many

Time to Learn

This is an updated version of my post in the Fall 2011 term.

"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:..." Despite the many opposites contained in the time for list found in Ecclesiastes, there is no mention of a time to learn. So I'll add that. I like to think that the reason to learn is not included is that there is no time we should not be learning. We do find "a time to seek and a time to lose." But we do not find a time to learn and a time not to learn. So we will take that as an encouragement to always learn.

This week we have the opportunity to learn about metaphors. Actually, most of you already know about metaphors. You certainly encounter them regularly. And you use them. If you are a Christian and you go to church, or if you read your Bible, you cannot escape metaphors. If you read children's books, metaphors are all around you. If you are a parent, you know about storks that deliver babies and a big jolly old man as large as I am who delivers presents to "good little boys and girls." If you watched the very first assignment in EDM310 you encountered Mr. Winkle. One of our mottoes has a metaphor (as I demonstrated in our first class with my saw and burp bag: No more burp back education!

I had expected you to substitute computers for pencils in the Tom Johnson assignment due last Sunday. Well, maybe I didn't expect that since many EDM310 students miss the metaphor (or allegory). It happens every semester. I guess that the correct statement is that I hoped that you would understand the metaphor, or that you would at least be suspicious that the post was not literally true. I was wrong. And I once again blame the situation on the type of schooling you have experienced in which you are taught that the teacher delivers truth; that you should memorize that truth; that you should burp it back on command; and then forget it after all the tests are complete.

So we now have a wonderful opportunity for learning.

Here are the results of the metaphor assignment:

Spring 2013
85 still enrolled (started with 102)
5 of the 85 are inactive (never do anything but have not dropped course.)
33 missed the metaphor.
8 active students did not do the assignment. My guess: they did not know what was happening in the post.
5 inactive students did not do the assignment
51 Total. So 60% missed the metaphor. Only 40% identified the metaphor correctly even though this semester I encouraged you to be a detective.

Fall 2011
119 still enrolled (started with 154)
109 active (10 never do anything but have not dropped course.)
20 clearly identified the metaphor. Five of these 20 wrote excellent commentaries.
9 identified metaphor after self described research or reading comments on the post
7 missed the metaphor but had suspicions it was not literal
50 missed the metaphor
23 active students did not do the assignment. My guess: they did not know what was happening in the post. If you did not do the post on time you should consider yourself as having missed the metaphor. You are hereby assigned the Missed the Metaphor Special Assignment.
10 inactive students did not do the assignment
119 Total

In the Fall of 2011 I gave this Missed the Metaphor Special Assignment. If you missed the metaphor in the Spring 2013 term I would suggest you do these readings even though I am not making any special assignments this semester.

Read these three posts:

1. Metaphors: What They Are and Why We Use Them

In that post there is a Special Assignment. Do that assignment in a new post which is Additional Post #1. It does NOT substitute for Blog Post #14 as it did in the Spring semester.

Due midnight Sunday November 20, 2011.

2. Metaphor Discussion Update

3. Jennifer Asked: Why Use Metaphors? Here is My Answer

4. For more information also see:
You Missed the Point! It's Not A Pencil…"

Great Metaphor Posts This Semester (Fall 2011)

I am awarding a special prize to the 5 students whose posts on last week's assignment were especially outstanding. They will each receive a Kindle copy of the four educational books written by John T Spencer @johntspencer. Mr. Spencer uses the pen name Tom Johnson for some of his writings.

Here are the five prize winning posts:

Gretchen McPherson
Gina Phillips
Angela Pitts
Jenna Reynolds
Ramsey Willis

Prize For Others Who Got the Metaphor (Fall 2011)

I am awarding a Kindle copy of Mr. Spencer's book Pencil Me In: A Journey in the Fight for Graphite to the 24 other students who got the metaphor.

We all have an opportunity to learn. Even those who got the metaphor. Here is their assignment:

Special Assignment #1 for those who Got the Metaphor

Write a post about why we use metaphors. Give examples in history and literature and even EDM310. Due Sunday November 20, 2011.

And I have an opportunity to learn as well. My question is: Why do metaphors fail to work so often with college students? Or a better question: When do metaphors work with college students? And still another question: "Does the way people are taught affect their perceptions of what schools are about so much that metaphors (and sarcasm0 get lost in the process? If you have any thoughts on these three questions I would greatly appreciate your sharing them with me.

So off we go to learn. A never ending process!

Satire and Sarcasm

The following is a revised version of my post from Fall 2011 about the McLeod assignment:


We now have 128 students in EDM310 (Fall 2011). 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. McLeod'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.

Now we return to the Spring of 2013

The class did much better with the sarcasm of Dr, McLeod than with the metaphors but about the same as in the Fall 2011 semester. A total of 25 students either missed the sarcasm or did not do the assignment. This amounts to 29% of the class compared to the 35% in the Fall 2011 class. If you believe the reports in Rate My My Professor .Com perhaps it is the result of experience with me. Here are two quotes: "Dr. Strange is cruelly sarcastic towards his students and fails to provide adequate explanations in order to complete the assignments." "[Dr. Strange] can come off as rude and sarcastic, ignore it."

Even with sarcasm and satire, however, we have an opportunity to learn! take advantage of that opportunity!

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