Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Education Doctor

David Tennant, the Tenth Doctor

"Maybe there’s something in all of us that aspires to greatness; that wants to save whole planets."

(Dedicated to those Whovians who have had a really emotional day today)

I’ve been trying to avoid this -- an education blog post about Doctor Who. But face it, my summer has been all about the Doctor.  And today was Doctor Who's Big Reveal of the identity of the Twelfth Doctor. So here’s one of my own.

See, I have to put education activism on hold every late-spring through the end of summer to concentrate on producing jewelry inventory enough to last through show season. This year it was particularly difficult; I have a dozen-odd education projects going, and have to simply put them aside to do some work that might actually have some chance of making us some money. I had to have something to hold me to the work.

So I propped my son’s Ipod close enough to see but out of the way of torch flames and made my way through the 9th, 10th and 11th doctors while making my usual fabulous beadies.

Now, the true confession comes when I reveal that I’ve fallen into my first major movie-star crush since getting married 18 years ago. I’ve been gobbling everything actor David Tennant (the Tenth Doctor) has done that’s available for viewing, legally or illegally. (By “illegally” I mean on YouTube, of course. Ya gotta believe me.) It sparked an emotional spiral similar to the one I went through in the Fall of 1984 when Derek Jacobi came to New York with the Royal Shakespeare Company productions of Much Ado About Nothing and Cyrano de Bergerac.

I was 23 years old, everything before me; just recently returned to the city of my birth with plans to become a playwright and join the circles of New York City theater. Nothing brought me flat down to earth like seeing those shows. And I saw them each twice! Got on line in the wee hours waiting for the cheap tickets, four times. And what I got from it was heartsick because I knew I would never be that good At. Anything. Ever. With an embarrassing intensity -- and not a little drama -- I was both deeply moved and violently cast down.

DT did it to me again (real fans do that. We call him DT). Funny that one of his own acting inspirations was Derek Jacobi. And for the first time since that year, I felt like I was blundering about in the world of the mundane, destined never to transcend.

Until these words came to me. “I’m the Education Doctor.”

Maybe there’s something in all of us that aspires to greatness; that wants to save planets (“I had to reboot the universe,” says Matt Smith sometime in Season 6). Sometimes a fictional character can make us look inside ourselves to try to find what greatness might be there. The Doctor makes many mistakes but he goes for it full-tilt anyway. He’s a hero.

I’m sure of my footing: 

  • The first priority in public education should be to provide the support, resources and time.needed for every student to be able to pursue his/her passions and interests. 
  • Give kids the freedom to do work that matters to them and to the world. 
  • Get rid of standardized testing. 
  • The only good curriculum standards are the ones derived from a student’s goals and interests. 

I’m an advocate of the rights of children; I call for building relationships with children based on mutual respect and trust.

I play devil’s advocate with myself more than most people do. (The part of me that must try to understand every side of any argument is part of what makes me an almost decent playwright.) I have enough folks who believe what I believe that I don’t feel I’m out on a limb. I’ve done my homework and when all’s said and done....I’m really quite cock-sure that I’m right about education.

A little humility is called for...even the Doctor, when he chose to die for Wilf, an ordinary man, said “It would be my honor.” 

While not everyone has done the homework I’ve done, I have not had their experiences in life. Everyone deserves to be listened to. Nobody’s experience should be dismissed. I get very excited by the possibilities I’ve been exposed to; great ideas that yield great results for kids, and I want everyone to see what I see. And I get impatient with people -- I don’t want another generation to have to live under the heel of the education industrial complex. So my emotions get in the way of a discipline of careful listening to what others have to contribute, when it runs counter to my own ideas. That's why the Doctor's companions are there -- to bring him up short, and back down to earth.

I work on that. I can’t help who I am. High passion, high intensity, constant work.

I want to be great at doing good. Truth, justice, fairness. A better life for children. A better future for us all. 

We can do it. Trust me. I’m the Doctor.



  1. I had no idea Matt Smith was leave DW! And my family and I had just gotten used to him. We actually liked him a lot (my wife and daughter were much bigger fans of DT than I). Don't know what to make about the new guy. I guess we'll see this Christmas.

  2. I can see it! I really wanted either Andrew Scott or Simon Baker (who wasn't even mentioned) but I am excited by it. He has that Doctor twinkle, and I think he is gonna show us something.

    But of course...he's not DT.