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A Comedy of Repeated Errors: Changing How We Learn History

Updated: Dec 21, 2019

By Ashlie Castaldo

“Each week, I, Dave Anthony, tell a story to my friend, Gareth Reynolds, who has no idea what the story is going to be about” is spoken through my headphones every week. Writer, actor, and comedians Dave Anthony and Gareth Reynolds are hosts of The Dollop, a podcast focusing on the strange events within U.S. history. Anthony joined the podcast scene on May 24th, 2010 with Walking The Room (Berkowitz, 2010) after being on the verge of ‘making it’ and eventually unable to secure work in Hollywood. Walking the Room eventually ended in 2015 but segued into the biggest career move to date for Mr. Anthony: The Dollop. Who knew that by giving up and reaching out to a friend he would get his big break and change how an entire generation approaches America’s past?

Sidekick extraordinaire Gareth Reynolds has admitted both within The Dollop episodes and in interviews to not have a lot of memories from history class growing up and sequestering himself from learning about it now. This helps him maintain the role of “every man stand in” and representing the surprise that the audience feels. His planned ignorance allows the listener to feel as if they are on a journey together: a no good, horrible, truly messed up journey. One that as of this week, spawned 400 episodes covering infamous topics such as Ferguson and George W. Bush, and lesser known (but hysterical) characters Rube Waddell and Jack Parsons, baseball player and Jet Propulsion creator, respectfully.

Since finding this podcast in late 2018 my entire life and outlook has changed. I play it during work hours and I am immediately more productive: it is akin to background noise that jolts you every so often to go “I’m sorry, come again?” Just the laughter and change in voices creates the right amount of distraction that I can refocus my brain without getting lost in monotony or chaos. The subject matter itself complete with research cited from the episodes, have led me to personally challenge assumptions I have made in the past about our world as a whole. It has opened me up to an entirely new field of interest: I would have never gone out of my way to learn about history prior. Now it is something that I excitedly seek out. Teachers on The Dollop reddit have posted requests for kid friendly episodes because this is a unique and viable vehicle for passing education on to the next generation.

With a Twitter based President who does not have a concentration that lasts longer than 140 characters or a never ending new cycle, students and educators alike will need to find new tools to retaining information and memorizing for tests. Having moments of laughter and fun provide a hit of dopamine that brings immediate reward. It chemically convinces your mind that the labor of learning is worth it since your efforts are rewarded, so you will be far likelier to stick with it. Education will just have to be more modern and flashier to keep up with savvier generations. The Dollop is the perfect example for how to create best practices in a persuasive way. Another benefit is that it can be heard or utilized anywhere, and a burgeoning trend in education is remote/adaptive learning. Educators would be smart to begin transitioning to placing lessons as podcasts, whether as study aids or as a viable means of earning a living with sole ownership and control. Regardless of the arguments that arise out of The Dollops’ influence, it is clearly here to stay. Congrats to 400 episodes and I cannot wait for more!

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