Church and school are serious business.
So why is Hall Duncan, whose titles include missionary and scholar, chuckling while he relates this item from a church newsletter: "Would all young mothers, or those who are trying to be, see the pastor at 10 o'clock in the morning?"
He's doing it because: A.) It's unintentionally funny; and B.) he's spent a lifetime studying humor and believes that laughter is one of the most important things in life.
Duncan is the international director of the Association of Humour in Motivation and Learning, a group built around the concept that laughter and education should go hand in hand.
His mission to teach people how to use humor as a teaching tool and to bridge cultural gaps has taken Duncan to places such as South Africa, Ukraine, Nigeria and China. In 1993, he plans to lecture in Papau, New Guinea, Ukraine and Luxembourg, among other places.
Today, his mission will bring him to the Centenary United Methodist Church, Fourth and Elm, where he is scheduled to conduct a workshop from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
THE WORKSHOP is designed for teachers and will focus primarily on the importance of bringing humor into the lesson plan and tactics for making learning fun.
A running theme is that humor should not be demeaning or offensive. But that doesn't mean it can't have a satirical edge something Duncan has cultivated since his days as a student cartoonist at Oklahoma City University in the 1940s.
Duncan said he used to draw cartoons that would accompany poems about instructors in the campus newspaper. Not all of them were a hit with their subjects.
"One of them chased me in the Fine Arts Building," he said. "And I outran him. He wanted the cartoon back."
The anecdote drew a laugh from the Rev. John Gingerich, minister of Centenary United Methodist, who was Duncan's boss as editor of the paper. The men are celebrating, as Duncan puts it, "Our golden anniversary of friendship."
SINCE leaving OCU, Duncan has worked as a cartoonist and taught cartooning and illustrating in the United States and overseas. In 1990, Duncan and a group of other participants at the World Humour Conference at Sheffield, England, formed the Association of Humour in Motivation and Learning.
"This business of humor, if it's used right it can be a very, very potent thing as far as doing some good in the world," Duncan said.
Duncan said his son, a mathematics teacher at a Mormom school in Ogden, Utah, has proven that point. He said his son's students have memorized math forumlae by setting them to rap music.
Duncan said his son also puts on skits called "Math Moments," which stress the merits of learning math. In one, he said, his son portrayed a desperado who approached another man in a bar and asked him the square root of 1,016.
When the man couldn't answer, Duncan said, his son shot him.
The skit closed with a barmaid telling the crowd: "Math It can save your life."
Duncan says humor makes for a better learning environment.
"The key is involvement," he said. "That's the name of the game, especially when you can get them involved as a group. We remember our experiences. And the chances of recall are much, much higher when we remember pleasurable experiences."