Prof. Journal #3 : LUSENET : MEd Cohort III : One Thread

Brenda Bender and Sue A. Lalama Kate and Karin assignment 1 - 2 page Position Paper April 8, 1999

It's Okay To Laugh

Since we are looking for ways to build motivation into a senior level English curriculum, the March 1999 issue of English Journal interested us. Alleen and Don Nilsen make a case for teaching humor in the English classroom in their article"Six Arguments for Studying Humor in English classes". The Nilsen's rebuttal to the "Strawman's" six arguments against using humor in the classroom is the structure for their article. They argue that teaching humor in the English classroom is not only benign, but also that it is effective at achieving the original goals of the English classroom anyway. Since adolescents are drawn to humor naturally, including humor education in the classroom could be a naturally motivating approach to teaching English skills. The first two arguments between the Nilsens and the Strawman explain that critical reading and reasoning skills are needed to understand many kinds of humor, and that since "Humor is an obvious emotion, and students are genuinely interested in figuring out what causes them to laugh," (35) they can be enticed into the study of grammar as well as into other kinds of literary analysis. They effectively make the case that humor can be used to teach the English "basic skills". With his next arguments, the Strawman voices the concern of the 'learn to earn' camp. The Nilsens refute this argument with interesting statistics that show that there are actually more jobs in the humor industry than ever before and that "Tremendous growth in the comedy business may mean that a young person has a better chance of growing up to become a professional comedian or comedy writer than of growing up to become a professional athlete."(37) We agree that the skills students would gain by learning about humor could be applied to any future situation. The Strawman and the Nilsen's continue to argue about censorship issues and the potential cruelty of humor. The Nilsens. of course, continue to effectively extinguish the Strawman's reluctance. For those of us who have trouble remembering punchlines, the Nilsen's end their article with actual tips and a list of resources for getting started. Using the study of humor as a framework for the study of English skills with high school seniors seems like the perfect match.

-- Anonymous, June 15, 1999

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