No sarcasm in class? Don’t take the mick

Research suggests that employing the ‘lowest form of wit’ actually boosts students’ creative thinking, despite teachers being told to never use it in lessons. Maybe this type of humour does have a place in the classroom – if we follow a few ground rules, says Emily Seeber

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Oscar Wilde famously described sarcasm as “the lowest form of wit, but the highest form of intelligence”. If I’m not mistaken, boosting students’ intelligence is something teachers should be in the business of. So why then is there such vehement opposition to sarcasm in the classroom?

I have heard sarcasm demonised as “toxic humour” and “cruel and demeaning”. I have heard “warm-hearted and humorous” teachers contrasted with “lazy and sarcastic” ones. And as far back as 1928, Thomas H Briggs argued that students considered sarcastic teachers to be “taking advantage of [their] position or ...

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