Unlike countless other bloggers logging in to contribute their two cents to the story, I don't really have much to say about the family, their possible motivations, or the viral (and admittedly very funny) meme videos that are surfacing. Instead, I want to share something that one of my students said to me this morning.
A few weeks ago I began preparing my classes to read the O. Henry short story, “The Ransom of Red Chief.” It seems nearsighted to teach O. Henry without first discussing irony, so after taking a day to give the classes a definition and a few clear examples (none of them being the ironically un-ironic song by Alanis Morrisette), we were set to read. (If interested, here are some of the examples I used.) Students were able to identify irony in Red Chief, so I felt I did an adequate job.
This morning I had a student come to me with an exciting observation. While watching one of the major news outlets cover the story of the “Balloon Boy,” she had overheard the reporter mention that it was ironic that a boy named Falcon has been suspected of taking to the skies. My ever-observant student couldn't wait to share the reporter's error with me.
She eagerly explained that the reporter had mistaken a coincidence for irony. After all, the student noted, our class definition of irony is an outcome that is the opposite of what is expected. In this case, it would have been ironic only if the boy's name had been that of a land-dwelling creature. A boy named Turtle or Goldfish flying off into the Colorado skyline would have been ironic.
The true test of learning is the transference of knowledge. My students will soon forget the specifics of the story they read with me, but they will never forget what irony is.
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