Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Communist Plot? Crazy How Thought-Provoking Jokes Can Be ...

This has been the summer of educational conferences, which of course I knew when signing on the proverbial dotted line ... and I can honestly say that I will be a better teacher next year because of all the professional development work I've done this summer.

A lot of times, particularly in my early years of teaching, I found professional development stuff to be pretty much a good opportunity to zone out, to count dots on ceiling tiles, to plan units and lessons completely unrelated to the topic at hand, and so on.

But the absolute highlight of my summer professional development work happened this week when I ended up partnered with my colleague and friend Bob, who is kind of like my big brother at work.

I wore a red and white striped shirt to a schoolwide assembly last year, and he had the whole school calling me Waldo.  I scratch my nose with my middle finger when he walks into a room.  He's a trip.

I also taught his daughter 9th Grade English and am on a committee with his wife, so I do know a more serious side of Bob, but that was not what was memorable this week.

So we're told by the training facilitator to choose a controversial subject that we can argue one side of and then get together with a partner.

Yeah, I ended up with Bob.

Anyway, the directions were for one person to present their case while their partner listened and, after a set amount of time, the listener had to ask "probing, open-ended questions" that did not give away his or her personal feelings or opinions on the subject.

I talked about a New Hampshire Senate Bill currently under discussion which would expand the use of excessive force.  I'd just read an article about it, and I found myself really interested.  Surprisingly, Bob asked some good questions and made me think quickly on my feet (he later told me he agreed with me that, particularly when you consider the chaos that the word "bullying" has led to in schools, this is a can of worms it would be best to avoid), and that was good.

And then it was Bob's turn.

He argued that line dancing should be outlawed in America because it is a communist plot intended to take over the world.

Yeah, it took me a few minutes to stop laughing, but when I really listened to what he was saying, it was amazing how well he could fit it into the paradigm of communism.  I can't remember his exact arguments because I was trying really hard not to roll around on the floor in helpless guffaws, but it was priceless.

And that is what I love about the possibilities of contemplation coming up in so many different places.

Clearly, Bob was joking, and when he stated his position with a completely straight face, I was laughing so hard I was crying.

However, the scary thing was that he was able to make a very valid, logical, well-thought out argument in support of his (albeit absurd) thesis.

So while it made for a good laugh, it reminded me that you can learn a lot from the absurd, the ridiculous, and, perhaps most importantly, people you disagree with.

It's all about the thinking.  It always is :-)