Friday, May 9, 2008

Music and comedy as a way to breaking resistance

I've been fighting resistance this semester, so I decided to try something different in my 110 class.  I brought in some comedians, funny video clips, and some music one day to try to bring my class back from the abyss of resistance.  This is the week when I talk about argument fallacies and different ways to construct and deconstruct arguments.  

I begin the class my passing out printed lyrics to Mim's "This is Why I'm Hot."  I hate this song, but for some reason my students love it.  I actually hadn't heard the song until I hung out with my 19 year old nephew one day.  The song is not my type of music, but I took my chances because it shows a fallacy right of (begging the question: I'm hot 'cause I am, you ain't cause you not), but then proceeds to tell why Mim is hot.  It's actually pretty well argued because it sets up criteria then gives evidence of the criteria.  OK, its as well argued as any rap song can be I guess, but it works for my point.  Plus the chance for my students to hear me say things like "so making ladies 'bounce' is a criterion for hotness?" and "Paying a guap for a car is evidence of his hotness as related to richness, what IS a guap?"  My students laugh at my discomfort with the language (discomfort that I willingly admit and compare to their discomfort with academic writing) and I laugh at their animated definitions of "guap."

Then I show my students Eddie Izzard's (Yeah, yeah, shut up! I can't help my "obsession") "Church of England" Lego Youtube video.  They laugh hysterically and when I ask what is his argument they stare blankly for a moment then explode into guesses and comments.  It is a great way to show that arguments come in many forms and can be fun and funny.  I think if I do this again (teach 110) I'll actually have them all write an Izzardesque rant of an argument just for fun.  When I ask the class, "Why do you think Izzard opposes the church of England?" students give assessments like "It was built by a man who rejected Catholicism because he wanted to marry more than once."  An excellent observation and assessment! 

I also show them a Veggie Tales clip which demonstrates a hasty generalization and the consequences.  I show Larry the Cucumber's "Everybody has a Water Buffalo" in which Larry gets in trouble for making that statement.  

The class when I do this is really fun and the students relax into it and give the best participation and assessments that I have ever seen.  I do this assignment on a Monday and the "afterglow" seems to last until at least Wednesday of the next week.  I know my students get bored with the regularity of the class and this is a great way to break up the monotony.  PLUS my students see fallacies as fun.  OK, maybe not FUN, but at least not the most horrible part of 110.  Music and laughter are said to be the keys to curing illness, just maybe they can cure classroom resistance too.                  

1 comment:

Nikster said...

I've been thinking of doing more of this next semester, just to offset my tendencies to run out of ideas beyond workshopping and lecturing. The fact that I'm showing two classic films for finals gave me an idea, in fact, that if I'm teaching 110 again next semester, I might have them do a critical analysis of a film from a different era.

I like your idea, too. I think I may have a lot of fun this summer coming up with ideas, especially now that I've a better idea what I'm getting into, unlike last summer's situation.