Tag Archives: teaching with humor

Fact or Opinion (It’s a Teacher Thing)

“Climate change is a hoax by the Chinese.” 

That, unfortunately, is not an opinion.  It is a fact.  It is a FALSE FACT.

Facts are statements that can be proven or disproven.  There are studies by government agencies and university science departments all over the world that provide evidence to back up the theory that the climate is drastically changing in ways that threaten our existence.  The studies are repeatable, peer reviewed, and thoroughly “vetted”, to use the new word that Republicans embrace so deeply and lovingly for immigration issues.  On the other side of the question, you have scoffing congressmen who bring snowballs into the capitol and say, “See?  The science is not proven.”   That is not a fact.   Where is the evidence which is not anecdotal and based on a misunderstanding of the difference between “climate change” and “weather change”?  That is by definition an opinion.  And it is not even an informed opinion.  Opinions are not equal to facts.  Comparing the two is like comparing apples to onions.  No, that is not even correct.  You can eat both of those things.  It is more like comparing apples to planetary moons.

After a long and heated Facebook debate about immigration between me, a Texas teacher, and an Iowa Republican Trump supporter I went to high school with who doesn’t even know if he ever met an illegal immigrant, I have pretty well proven to myself that a big share of the divide between liberals and conservatives stems from the unwillingness of one side to avoid equating facts and opinions.  Apples and moons.

So give me a moment to do what teachers do.

Here is a non-political lesson in Fact versus Opinion.

Who do you prefer?  Mickey Mouse or Bugs Bunny?  The answer doesn’t matter to me.

I can give you a quick and dirty lesson on fact and opinion using these two cartoon characters.  And it doesn’t even matter who you like more.

Here are some obvious facts about the two of them.

They are both cartoon characters.  They are both anthropomorphic animals.  They both wear gloves most of the time.  They both have a thumb and three fingers on each hand.

These things are observably true.  You can prove them by looking at the illustrations I have already provided.

Other things may not be as readily apparent, but no less provable.

Both of them are heterosexual and both of them have one main love interest.  Neither of them have ever been married, but neither of them really are playboys and even though there are no legitimate bits of evidence that either one has ever had sex with their respective girlfriends, Bugs has kissed Lola on more than one occasion and Mickey has kept company with Minnie for longer than most old married couples.

These things are provable by watching the cartoons and observing a preponderance of evidence.  There is no contradictory evidence.  But the possibility of contradictory evidence doesn’t change these things into opinions.  A disproven fact is still a fact.  It is merely a false fact.  Over time the relationship between Bugs and Daffy Duck may become clearer and the fact that Bugs is gay may pop out of the cartoon closet.  It does however, require proof, so it is a fact, not an opinion.

Here’s another fact you know the evidence supports.  Bugs Bunny is a nudist.  He almost always appears in cartoons naked.  Mickey, however, believes in wearing clothes.  Even when he gets out of the bath tub, he clutches the nearest towel, and you never get a look at whether he has cartoon genitals or not.  Mickey does hang out a lot with a duck who wears no pants, but that’s an irrelevant fact.


The notion that Mickey and Bugs are very different personalities because they had very different creators, is an opinion.  It is a opinion offered by people who have studied the characters and their creators, and therefore can give you an informed opinion.  But it still can’t be proven.

Walt Disney made Mickey into more or less of an every-man sort of character whom audiences can identify with.  Things happen to Mickey Mouse, and the comedy comes from him trying to deal with those external forces, be they wind storms during music concerts, Donald Duck’s raging temper, or the evil plots of Black Pete.  Walt never said this was so to prove it, but it is not unreasonable to think it.

Bugs Bunny, on the other hand, was created by several great animators like Robert McKimson, Tex Avery, Chuck Jones, and Bob Clampett.  And Bugs tends to make things happen to other characters.  Think of how he plays Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam, and even his pal Daffy for laughs.  He is more of a Groucho Marx type character than an every-man.  We don’t identify with him.  We only laugh at his victims (because they always deserve what he gives them).  That too is an opinion.  And even if one of his creators were to say that this was the intent, it still is not proven until all of them agree.  And they all had very different ways of doing things.

But these are only informed opinions.  You cannot be proven wrong whether you agree or disagree with them.  You are entitled to your own interpretations and opinions because they are not provable facts.  There is no one way to view any opinion.

Opinions, even un-informed opinions and religious beliefs are never either wrong or right.  You don’t make a mistake when you have an opinion.  It only becomes a mistake when you try to use it as a fact, or mistakenly believe it is a fact.

So, there is my lesson for those Facebook arguers who never seem to know the difference.  It’s all color-coded and everything.  So try using this new knowledge when arguing with me, rather than calling me stupid, or making your point IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS!




Filed under angry rant, artists I admire, cartoons, commentary, education, Mickey, strange and wonderful ideas about life, teaching

Classroom Clownery (Not to be confused with Sean Clownery… He’s James Blond)


See Dick?

See Jane?

See Sally?

See Dick run?

See Jane run?

See Sally…?   Wait a minute!  Why don’t I remember Sally?

Did Dick forget to feed Spot and Spot was forced to kill and eat Sally?

No…  I had Dick and Jane books in Kiddy-garter and they did have Sally in them.  And Spot never killed anyone.  But with all the running she did, Sally did not do anything memorable.  If my teacher, Miss Ketchum, had told the Spot eats Sally story, I’m sure I would’ve remembered Sally better and learned to read faster.

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But I actually did learn to read faster because there was a Cat in the Hat, and a Yertle the Turtle, and because Horton the elephant heard a Who, and a Grinch stole Christmas.  Yes, humor is what always did it for me in the classroom.  Dr. Seuss taught me to read.  Miss Mennenga taught me to read out loud.  And in seventh grade, Mr. Hickman taught me to appreciate really really terrible jokes.    And those are the people who twisted my arm… er, actually my brain… enough to make me be a teacher who taught by making things funny.  There were kids who really loved me, and principals who really hated me.  But I had students come back to me years later and say… “I don’t remember anything at all from my classes in junior high except when you read The Outsiders out loud and did all those voices, and played the Greek myth game where we had to kill the giants with magic arrows, and the stupid jokes you told.”  High praise indeed!


I think that teaching kids to laugh in the classroom was a big part of teaching them how to use the language and how to think critically.    You find what’s funny in what you learn, and you have accidentally examined it carefully… and probably etched it on the stone part of your brain more memorably than any other way you could do it.  And once it’s etched in stone, you’re not getting that out again any time soon.



Humor makes you look at things from another point of view, if for no other reason, then simply because you are trying to make somebody laugh.  For instance, do you wonder like I do why the Cat in the Hat is trying to pluck the wig off of Yelling Yolanda who is perched on the back of yellow yawning yak?  I bet you can’t look at those two pictures positioned like that and not see what I am talking about.  Of course, I am not betting money on it.  I am simply talking Iowegian… a totally different post.

But the point is, humor and learning go hand in hand.  It takes intelligence to get the joke.  Joking makes you smarter.  And that is why the class clowns in the past… the good and funny ones… not the stupid and clueless ones… were always my favorite students.

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Filed under clowns, goofiness, high school, humor, irony, kids, philosophy, teaching, word games

Avoiding the Tiger Traps of a Humorous Life


In point of fact, using humor in the classroom is one of the easiest ways I know to become a beloved and effective teacher.  But it requires skill.  It is like dancing barefoot in a mine field that is littered with pit traps for trapping tigers.  See how I linked the title to my opening paragraph there?  Kids in the classroom don’t… unless you make it funny.  Sometimes they want you to fall in the tiger trap on purpose even though there are punji sticks at the bottom.  They want to see what the consequences of the mistake really are so they are not surprised when they immediately make that same mistake.

So, let me tell you about a few of those tiger traps and how to navigate through them.

Poo-Poo Jokes

Yes, one of the unfortunate truths about humor in the classroom is that nothing is funnier to middle school and high school kids than references to sticky brown stuff.  (If that last statement made you snicker, then you know that it even goes beyond school.)   And it can be a devastating thing on fragile, fledgling egos in a school environment where boys will invariably stick a half-eaten chocolate bar in a back pocket on a hot day even though they are wearing khaki-colored jeans.  Over-reacting to a sudden fragrance from one of a number of volatile digestive systems packed into the same small classroom can completely empty the room and imperil the teacher’s job.  (Principals don’t appreciate unauthorized leaving of the classroom… so teachers need to quickly learn how to calm-and-continue in an unusually gassy environment.)  Of course, the girl leading the lemming rush out of the classroom under gas attack is usually the one who dealt it.  But you can’t point that out without crushing some young flower’s petals of self-image.  It is necessary to lay down fences of regulation at the beginning of the school year to regulate exactly how brown and sticky a bathroom joke can actually be before it traps you in eternal detention.

Hurt-y Humor

There is the kind of humor that numerous comedians use as their fall-back style, that Don Rickles-esque “Your mama’s so fat that satellites can see her from space”sort of humor.  It is also a highly tiger-trappy sort of humor to use in the classroom.  Students don’t perform well after being the butt of slappy-face-style put-downs.  You don’t want to remind the kid in the back row of how he mixed up the words “pied” and “peed” in last week’s read-aloud right before taking the State science test that will determine his educational future and your next evaluation.  So how do you resist the urge to tell the snooty little cheerleader that just told you her mom is going to get you fired that she’s got a tail of toilet paper hanging down from the back of her skirt… when she actually does… and the football player she most idolizes is watching every move she makes with that big, tart and trippy tongue of hers?  You take pity on them, and remember that if you break them down into tears in front of their peers you are doing the same thing to them that Bully Bob Beegshout did to you back in high school.  Self-deprecating humor is far more effective at defusing a confrontation.  You get them to laugh at themselves by making them see themselves in the story you just told on yourself.  You can often make them laugh themselves right out of the bad behavior that way.  (Oh, and I didn’t point out the toilet paper, but you can wait until someone else inevitably does and karma can balance the universe in that way.)

So, now that I have rolled well past the 500-word goal and still haven’t used up the whole list of tiger traps, I suppose it is time to reveal there will be a follow-up to this post.

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Filed under education, empathy, humor, Paffooney, teaching

Mickey is Magical

I have decided that since I have a tendency to write science fiction and fantasy, with a special emphasis on the fantasy part, I should actually be able to do magic.  It doesn’t take a lot of self-examination to see that it is so.

Teacher Magic

wonderful teaching

As a teacher I know several powerful magic spells.  I have the power to put teenagers into a deep and restful sleep.  All I have to do is start a lesson focus and heads drop to desks and snore-music fills the part of the room that my blah-blah doesn’t.  I also have a powerful ability to make teenagers hate things.  All I have to do is testify with my best honest-to-goodness face that something is good for them, and they will thoroughly hate it.  Protein at breakfast is good for you?  Gotta hate that.  Independent reading of books is good for you?  I have just made the entire school library radioactive by saying it.  Think what good a teacher could do if the principal would only let them say, “Illegal drugs are good for you!” or, “You should join a street gang, it would be good for you!” or even, “Racial prejudice is a good thing for our white society!”  (I know I would never actually feel good about saying those things, and I could never make the proper honest-to-goodness face, but that last thing was actually tried by a teacher I once worked with… he said it because he believed it… and even the white kids were instantly up in arms and got that teacher fired.  Come to think of it, that was the only lesson he ever taught that I actually approved of.)  An even more powerful teacher magic is to forbid things.  Anything forbidden by a teacher or a teacher’s rules is the only thing they want to do.  I was able to get kids to read more by forbidding them to read library books during lessons.  I found it strengthened the urge to occasionally catch them doing it and lecture them about how they will end up unable to flip burgers at McDonald’s because they will let interesting and complicated stuff get in the way of mindlessly doing repetitive tasks.

cudgels car

Traffic Magic

I have an amazing magical power over stoplights.  I can unfailingly turn them bright red just by approaching them, no matter what color they were five and a half seconds before.  If I am in a hurry, I have the power to make that red light last for more than the three minutes that is supposed to be the maximum for the cycle.

I can also make old people (of course I mean other old people) drive slower in the fast lane by driving behind them.  I can make young guys in Bubba trucks zoom in front of me and nearly kill me simply by having a few inches of space between my front bumper and the rear end of the car I’m following.  I don’t know how they fit those big old Chevys and Ford Broncos and Dodge Rams in those little spaces which are less than half as long as their vehicles, and do it while using one hand to give me the finger out their window.  I suppose they have fold-able bones like a rat so they can squeeze through tight places.

Laughing Magic

20150105_161714 I suppose the magical power I am proudest of is my ability to magically make people laugh at me.  (Yes, they always say they are laughing with me, not at me… but we all know how humor really works.  We laugh because we are really happy that it didn’t happen to us!)  I am able to put on the clown nose and people automatically laugh almost as hard as they laugh at me without the clown nose.  I am able to say things in weird words that stimulate your brain to shout silently in your head, “That jest ain’t right!”, and you automatically think, “Funny!”  So, with all this magical power, I have concluded… I am a wizard!

space cowboy23

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Filed under humor, magic, photo paffoonies, Uncategorized