Saturday, November 12, 2011

Special Assignment #1 - Why We Use Metaphors

After many classmates did not understand the metaphor in Larry Ferlazzo’s Don’t Let Them Take Pencils Home, Dr. Strange has asked us why it is that some students don’t get metaphors. Metaphors are, according to, “a figure of speech in which a word or phrase literally denoting one kind of object or idea is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them.” In Ferlazzo’s blog post, he was clearly comparing students using pencils to students using computers. Using this metaphor made the post funny, but it also made you think because saying students can’t use pencils sounds outrageous and gets your attention, much the same way saying students can’t use computers should sound outrageous and get your attention. Using the metaphor allowed him to use the joke that if students brought pencils home, they will only play hangman with them. This was important because a major concern for some parents and administrators is that students will only play games on the computers. He justifies both scenarios by saying he tries to keep them busy with work and exploring his lessons, but even if they do play Hangman, they will probably still learn something from it.

Another metaphorical post we were assigned to read and comment on that many of our classmates didn’t understand was Scott McLeod’s Don’t Teach Your Kids This Stuff. Please? He sarcastically says not to let your students or children use technology because of all the dangers out there, the security concerns and predators that may be online, and to lock down cell phones and computers. He then turns around and says that he is letting his kids use technology and “we’ll see who has a leg up in a decade or two.” His use of sarcasm really got your attention and made you think. That’s what metaphors are supposed to do.

A couple of examples of the usage of metaphors in history and literature that I immediately thought of come from the Bible. John 7:37-38 says: On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” He is not offering people water or Gatorade! He is offering them knowledge and a way to get to heaven so they will not be thirsty for salvation. The living water that will flow from within them refers to the Holy Spirit, that knowledge and righteousness inside them. Another metaphor in the Bible is 1 Corinthians 10:4, “And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.” Obviously, Jesus Christ was not made of stone. He was a man, but he was so strong and so solid, he symbolizes our foundation, a rock on which we are supported. Jesus used parables to teach, much like we use metaphors to teach, because it gets our students to think on a deeper, more conscious level.

As for Dr. Strange’s question, I don’t know why some students didn’t get the metaphor, and honestly don’t know what would make them get one if they couldn’t see the sarcasm in Ferlazzo’s and McLeod’s posts. Maybe it is the way they were taught. Maybe they are too serious about this class to see any humor while learning. Maybe they weren’t exposed to metaphors or satire before, such as Jesus’ parables. Hopefully this class will open their eyes to this important literary figure of speech.

cartoon drawings of metaphors

1 comment:

  1. Honestly, I missed the metaphor. For some reason I was reading the blog without the thought of searching for a metaphor. I understand it now. It was so obvious! I did, although, understand the sarcasm in the other post. At least I'm not a complete failure!