|Some antics in the family|
From The Pun Also Rises: How the Humble Pun Revolutionized Language, Changed History, and Made Wordplay More Than Some Antics, by John Pollack, speaking of the digital influence on learning, the inclination and ability to make connections i.e., get the joke, Pollack writes:
“Research has suggested that the single most important predictor of intelligence, academic performance and later social success is how many words a baby hears on a regular basis, as long as those words are spoken by an engaged and present person, not broadcast over radio or TV. So, if encryption theory–the idea that humor requires shared, unspoken information to ‘Get’ the joke–actually explains the evolutionary advantages of verbal humor, the most verbal among us might just end up getting in the last word for generations to come.
“If such wordplay does offer and evolutionary advantage, a propensity for it might well be hardwired within us. As the late neurologist Max Levin theorized: ‘If play were not pleasurable, kittens would never chase each other’s tails, and so would lack practice in the motor skills needed for survival. If there were no pleasure in the appreciation of the absurd, if there were no fun in playing with ideas, putting them together in various combinations and seeing what makes sense or nonsense–in brief, if there were not such a thing as humor–children would lack practice in the art of thinking, the most complex and most powerful survival tool of all.”
From a British Minister of Education: “It is important not to make plans that are too rigid … Everything to do with children must have room to grow … Schools must have freedom to experiment, and variety for the sake of freshness, for the fun of it even … Laughter in the classroom, self-confidence growing every day, eager interest instead of bored uniformity … (Ellen Wilkinson, Minister of Education 1945–1947, Labour Government, concluding paragraph of The New Secondary
Education; quoted in Vernon, 1982).
And, making my heart sing, comes this from Helen Johnson, Director of the Professional Education Research Centre at Roehampton University of Surrey, UK (2005):
“What is laughter? Its sound is easily recognisable. But what can it be said to represent? Aristotle saw the tendency to laugh as a force for good, and clearly laughter reflects an amusement and happiness with life, however fleeting. But in itself it can be a building block to high positive self-esteem and confidence. The playful and laughing child, one who has not been cowed into a sullen acquiescence or provoked into an aggressive rebellion, has the spirit and the means to learn, and that such learning should go beyond the mere assimilation of the familiar (Ken Dodd’s ‘logic’), though rules are important, to the adding of new ideas (Piaget, 1952; Inhelder B and Piaget J, 1958). So humour and laughter are part of the development of the individual child – and support the personal, spiritual and professional development of the teacher. Laughter is about autonomy, but it is also a unifying force. Laughter builds relationships in the classroom and the playground – and in the staff room. These relationships are between child and child, child and adult, adult and child, and adult and adult.
“In summary, it can be said that, as a qualitative performance indicator, laughter reflects the following behaviour:
Management● Laughter helps effective decision-making
● Laughter locates a moral sense in that decision-making
Difference● Laughter sees difference
● Laughter is an ironic process
● Laughter is an expression of the awareness of moral complexity
● Laughter is an expression of cognitive or emotional or social dissonance
Political position● Laughter is a political act
● Laughter is an expression of plurality
● Laughter trains pupils to be citizens
● Laughter is dissent
● Laughter is unifying
Human development● Laughter sees the gap between the norm or standard or target and the reality of life
● Laughter gives the individual autonomy, self-esteem and self-confidence
● Laughter builds relationships with others
Educational processTherefore, laughter is an educational process.
“It has been argued that one such indicator of culture and organisational climate and its impact on the performance of the school is laughter. (Its importance is based on it being a significant precondition and support of learning; being an indication that learning is taking place; and that it is a learning act in itself). On that basis, it is suggested here that each school should have a laughter rating.
“This is important; as research has long shown (West, 1992) that parents choose a school where their child will be happy.” (Italics added by SW, who is very happy about all this.)