Pedagogy, teaching

The Pedagogical Brilliance of John Hodgman

I enjoy a number of the podcasts on the podcasting network a great deal. One of those that I listen to on a weekly basis is Judge John Hodgman, which is characteristically dry, funny, and thought-provoking. If you don’t recognize this fake Internet judge’s name, you’ll likely recognize him from his most famous role in a bunch of old Apple ads:

On his most recent episode, “Strictly Courtroom,” Judge Hodgman had a brilliant nugget of wisdom about the process of learning that I felt compelled to transcribe and share with you here:

Your argument that why not have fun while learning is undermined by the fact that you know learning is not fun. Learning is painful. Learning is awkward. Learning is essentially admitting that you don’t know something that you’re embarrassed not to know. That is the hard part of learning. And sometimes learning means chanting various body parts over and over and over again until the embarrassment of not knowing, or the embarrassment of not being good at something, or the embarrassment of not being sophisticated, or the embarrassment of not being a grown person, or whatever the embarrassment of not knowing is, gets beaten out of you until you can finally learn.

I realize that out of context that point about “body parts” must seem very strange, but give the whole episode a listen and you’ll have a sense of why that apparently bizarre comment shows up in this pithy observation about learning.

I particularly love the fact that Judge Hodgman is willing to directly challenge what seems to be the ever-growing chorus of “let’s make learning fun” with the hard truth that learning isn’t “fun,” per se, but can certainly be rewarding and fulfilling, which happens precisely because learning is challenging.

And now that I’ve got that great quote typed up, I can include it on all my future syllabi


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