I’m thinking of adding stand-up comedian to my repertoire and resume. Because people think I’m so funny. Not. But I figure I really only have one way to go…and that’s to get funnier.
Seriously, I am thinking about stand-up comedy, especially that incredible skill of great stand-up comedians to help us to see what we have come to take for granted and what we are neglecting to see or think about any longer.
This weekend, on a long walk with Lucy (my dog), I was listening to the podcast “Seeing in the Dark” on RadioLab. At the end of the podcast, in some NPR fund-raising, the hosts explain that they are touring with comedian Demetri Martin. They play a bit of his recent release “Stand-Up Comedian.” I don’t have the exact transcript right, so please forgive the quotes, but I have most of the essence. Demetri Martin is pointing out the amusing idiocy of how we introduce people…
“This is Frank. Sounds pretty normal but when you think about it. This. Walk up with a person. This. This stuff right here is Frank.”
“Excuse me, what is this?”
“This? Oh, this is Frank.”
“When you call someone. You have to say, ‘Hey. This is Demetri.’ But when you go up to someone in person, the rule flips. You have to say I. ‘Hey. I’m Demetri.’ You can’t say, ‘This is Demetri’ about yourself.”
So, that got me thinking about my stand-up comedy routine. How might I use stand-up comedy to help others see what we have come to take for granted and neglect relative to school and education? I think it will start with something like this…
“Hey. Yeah. I’ve just started this new job. I’m the Director of Educational Innovation. Sometimes I think what it would be like to have this job and title 150 years ago.
“So, we’ve been studying the way children naturally learn. You know, they explore, investigate, inquire, play. That sort of stuff. We want school to be a natural extension of the natural amazingness of human, child learning. I mean, the word education comes from the Latin educatio and educare which mean to draw out from what is normal. So, we’re proposing having the kids sit in desks for about 13 years and listen to adults mostly talk. And when the kids ask questions a lot, we’re telling the adults to say that they don’t have time to answer that right now…there’s too much material to cover.
“And, we want formal education to prepare people for what life’s like after school. We know that most people work in situations in which they don’t have precise answers, and they tend to work in project-mode on complex things that are ambiguous and hard to define. Big challenges and messy issues that need serious solution finding. And empathy.
So, we thought we would mimic that in school by teaching kids about all the stuff we think we already know the answers to. Projects? Oh, of course, we’ll do projects. We’ll have the kids make posters of their latest book report, and we’ll ask them to do it at home with lots of parent ego involved so that the kid’s poster will be the prettiest on Monday morning. And, we’re gonna have them take a lot of multiple choice tests because those hit you all the time in the real world – we take standardized, multiple-choice tests all the time in the real world. So should kids. We think that will really prepare young people for the world they’re gonna face when they get to work.
I think people’s sides will split. Hilarious, don’t you think?
Demetri Martin has a pretty clever way of presenting things from an alternative perspective. I’ve enjoyed much of his work throughout his career.
I concur with your point, Bo. It is important for us to be deeply reflective and consider new perspectives, alternative models and strategies, and think creatively about teaching and learning. Do so will reveal a lot and lead us to innovation.
Thanks, Clif. First, I appreciate your incredibly gracious way of alerting me to my misspelling of Demetri’s name. Second, I do think we have to explore perspective after perspective in order to break some of the taken-for-grantedness that we all develop. To “reset” and stretch our minds is essential to gaining insight and empathy/perspective consciousness. This is a major reason why I use my blog to test thinking through “What if…,” imagining myself a comedian, sharing TEDs that point to possible perspective shifts, etc. It’s the power of metaphor and margin-exploring that often sparks new ways of understanding.
As always, I appreciate your feedback. And I love dialoguing with you.
Ready for prime time!