Those of you who follow me on Twitter know that I’m a big fan both of comedian John Oliver and of his show Last Week Tonight. The show typically focuses on one or two topics in need of some level of social commentary, typically coming to a crescendo with Oliver taking down at least one person/company/entity who deserves said crticism. Recently, it appears the intellectual community of the internet — a community which I typically consider myself to be a part of — has found itself in a tizzy about one of Oliver’s recent web-only videos.
In the above video, Oliver reminds students it’s time to go back to school in his typical satirical manner. In doing so, Oliver pokes fun at some of the stereotypes associated with common school subjects such as biology, English, and mathematics. While I won’t transcribe the entire video, some of the lines I’ve seen yelled about the most frequently are below.
Let’s move on to math. You’re going to be repeatedly told this when you grow up. That is bullshit. You will need addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division…and that is it.
Let’s talk about biology. You may have to dissect a frog this year, in which case, if you do, the most lasting lesson will be what frog embalming fluid smells like. You will never forget it. Seriously, you will forget your first kiss before that stench leaves your nostrils.
Let’s move on to chemistry. This is going to be disappointing. Unless you have good teacher, you probably won’t even learn how to cook meth and that’s really all anyone’s in it for.
As you might imagine, this particular section of the video enraged members of the STEM community, particularly those who don’t understand Oliver’s dry, sardonic sense of humor. While I certainly understand that STEM fields are in need of positive portrayal and effective promotion by school districts (particularly to young girls), criticizing a humorous piece written by someone who is typical an ardent supporter of improving education is not the right way to go about things. After all, it’s not that long ago that the internet intellectual community was praising Oliver for his takedown of standardized testing in American school districts.
If you’re undecided about Oliver’s back to school video at the top of the page, I encourage you to take it as nothing more than what it was meant to be — a comedic piece aimed at younger students of various intellectual levels who may or may not enjoy every class they take with the same intensity as their favorite course((Hint: they don’t. I detested English class in high school. That certainly hasn’t stopped me from writing as an adult.)). If you’re angry at Oliver for writing and performing a piece that belittles the importance of education, I’d encourage you to rewatch the video. It would appear you’ve missed the point of the video altogether.