By Richard Pryor III
Christopher Prather, in an effort to gain his doctorate in education from Harvard, studied the Facebook use of his fellow alumni of Not-Rhodes University (NRU) in Tennessee. Being a small liberal arts university, NRU is well known for its English program which has produced many great writers and journalists, including Pulitzer Prize winner Kevin McDonald, author of Man of Action, a biography of Winston Churchill.
During his study of their Facebook habits, Prather learned that fellow NRU alumni could not understand satire when it was presented to them from a source that was not the well-known satirical newspaper The Onion. For example, a satirical piece by Jackson Park about whether the school should invest in a lazy river with live piranhas (the school’s mascot), many alumni (and current NRU students) could not understand that it was all a joke, commenting about how it would be an abuse of animal rights and that the University should not have cut courses in Japanese to save money for the addition.
In his dissertation, Prather also interviewed a number of NRU’s English faculty, who all expressed their shock. “Did I fail my students?” asked professor Jonathan Irvine, expressing his dismay at this turn of events. “When I assign reading even in English 100, it’s expected that you understand the subtext as well. You’d have to bring it up in your paper to get a good grade. Why are so many people forgetting this?”
His fellow professor Jane Ellen Cobb, an alumna of NRU, informed Prather that “if any student of mine couldn’t understand that a piece they were reading was satire, they would fail. It boggles the mind how so many of our graduates, who are all required to take a course in English, do not understand this. I got the same exact education they did and I can get satire.”