OK…I am really going to date myself with this blog post by admitting to one of my favorite shows – Doogie Howser, M.D. Starring a very young Neil Patrick Harris, this show ran for four seasons from 1989 through 1993. The main character, Doogie, graduated from Princeton at the age of 10 and from medical school at 14. He is the youngest licensed doctor in the country. The series storyline begins with Doogie at age 16 as a resident at Eastman Medical Center. Of course, the plot of the show is somewhat stereotypical, but there are some truths revealed in the show that cause those of us who (a) work with or know gifted students or (b) are gifted ourselves to smile knowingly upon watching certain episodes.
On October 4, 2013, The Chronicle of Higher Education published blog post titled, The Doogie Howser Problem, by Eliana Osborn. Naturally, I was curious given my affinity for the aforementioned television show! So, I gave it a read. In her post, Ms. Osborn shares how she had a 14-year-old student, who was dually enrolled in high school and her community college English course. She describes the student with adjectives like “smart, charming, interesting, and dream student.” Ms. Osborn even goes so far as to write, “She wanted to be there and did everything assigned.” Apparently, there was no problem at all with the student’s writing. The problem, according to Ms. Osborn, was that the 14-year-old student did not have enough “life experience”, and Ms. Osborn equated that lack of experience to a deficiency in critical thinking ability.
At this point in reading Ms. Osborn’s blog, I found myself having to roll my chair back from my desk so that I could take a deep breath and not do irreparable damage to my computer. I for one, working with 74 13- to 17-year-old early entrance college students, do not equate “life experience” with critical thinking skills. I know plenty of adults (my age and older with lots of life experience) who lack critical thinking skills! So, the idea that there is a magic age when critical thinking will develop in the classroom bothers me. The converse is also true, I have met many young students in my career who have had a wealth of life experiences (both positive and negative) packed into their relatively short lives. This, as my PEG students would say, appears to be age-ism at its finest…something Doogie Howser experienced frequently.
If you would like to read Eliana Osborn’s blog post in The Chronicle of Higher Education entitled, “The Doogie Howser Problem”. Click here for the full text.
The first season of Doogie Howser, M.D. is available for your viewing pleasure on Hulu.com. Enjoy! I know I did!
I am always eager to engage in new conversations. Feel free to leave a comment on any of my blog posts or pages or send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. All the best! ~Stephanie