Monday, April 16, 2018

Data Would Make a Terrible Teacher

Data would make a terrible teacher. Yes, in "All Good Things" former Lt Commander Data has become a professor, but that's years after we knew him on the Enterprise. The Data we know and love would make a terrible teacher, for the same reason he made a compelling character- he doesn't understand human emotion. Data knows everything there is to know, and what he doesn't know he can learn faster than anyone else on the ship (unless it's Riker learning a new ensign's room number). Data can relay all that information back to you. But, with a quizzical head tilt, he cannot understand why you don't get it. He can relay the information, but he can't relate to it.

So who on the NCC-1701D would make a good teacher? What can we learn about teaching from my Enterprise crew?

Some may answer Jean-Luc Picard, the best captain a ship named Enterprise ever saw. And it's hard to disagree. He's powerful, commanding, well-read, empathetic, loves history, and can play the Ressikan flute on the days the music teacher is sick. Oh yeah, also he can't stand being around kids. At all. As in, in the season 5 episode "Disaster" when everything goes wrong and everyone is trapped doing jobs they are not equipped to do (is this also the "You may now give birth" episode) the show traps Picard with three children. And for just a moment, he would rather fall to his death in a broken turbolift than figure out a way to survive along with the kids. There's a lot to love about Jean-Luc (just ask Vash), but he's not the best teacher. Not even, I'd think, at the university level because even though he loves his history, he'd be one of those professors who loves his subject so much that he doesn't realize he's talking straight past his students. However, you could get in his good graces by bringing him tea. Earl Grey. Hot.

Riker also has qualities that would make him a good teacher, and others that disqualify him immediately. For example, he would probably have excellent relationships with the moms in his class, as well as those parents with no gender.* He's got an easy smile and the respect of those who work him him. Also, it would be fun to watch him sit down. But he's also hard on those under him, and not terribly supportive at times. Riker couldn't stand Barkley, for example, and how a character treats Barkley can be a litmus test for how good of a teacher they'll be. He also had trouble relating to the cadets and junior officers in "Lower Decks", which means he might forget what his students are going through. And finally, he might teach his students to play trombone, which is a deal breaker.

While we're on the subject of Barkley, Geordi also wouldn't make a great teacher. Like Riker, Geordi couldn't stand the insecure goofball when he met him and had no patience for his fumbling and stuttering. Geordi knows his ship inside and out, and solves problems creatively, though maybe a little creepily. You don't want Geordi teaching a class, he's more at home with his engines. I assume he could see what's written on the notes his students are passing without opening them up, which would be helpful.

Everyone's LOL choice would be Worf, but I don't think he'd be as bad as all that. Hear me out- Worf evolves a lot over the course of the show. Season one Worf, no, not a good teacher. But in season one Worf's response to literally anything was "Shoot it with a phaser." But then we get to "Lower Decks" and Worf drops this amazing bit of teaching.

I honestly love that scene, what she takes from it, and how he conveys it. Worf also actively tries to grow and get better. He's never a great father to Alexander, but he improves and finds ways to accept how his son is different and that he has to teach him the way Alexander needs to learn, which might not be the Klingon Way. Worf is also my favorite character, so I'm biased about all this because he'd also headbutt a parent into next week given the right motivation.

We're left with two main cast members- Troi and Dr. Crusher. I have to say I'm a little disappointed that the two most likely to be good teachers are the two women, but we can be honest and say that for as progressive as TNG was, it still put the women in the care-giver roles. (Except Tasha, but Tasha wouldn't make a good teacher because she'd die halfway through a lesson early in the year.)

Troi is an empath and a counselor. And honestly, if I had her at a school, I wouldn't put her in a classroom, I'd put her in the counselor's office. She would make an excellent teacher, with her ability to read the kid's emotions. But I think she might not be as strong as they would need sometimes. Yes, she learns to be stronger in "Disaster' (wow, the same episodes are coming up over and over), but a great school counselor is a gift. Come to think of it, you could transpose the whole crew into similar school situations and it would work. Picard as principal, Riker as VP, Geordi doing Maker classes, Data teaching logic and computers, Worf teaching PE, Deanna in the counselor's office.

Leaving us with the best teacher on the main cast- Doctor Beverly Crusher. Strong, smart, empathetic, with experience with children. Dr. Crusher would be the teacher everyone learned the most from. She also was willing to put Picard (and anyone else) in place when needed. She can feel the emotion of a moment while also moving through it to do the job. She is confident in herself and knows that sometimes it's the world that's mad, not you. She took the time to teach Data to dance, and when Data downloaded a program to dance technically right she knew to tell him that technically right isn't the same as dancing well. Dr. Crusher knows that data isn't the end, but it is a tool she can use to do her job. I want to be in Dr Crusher's class.

Honorable Mentions-

Keiko O'Brian- She ends up being a teacher once she and Miles depart to Deep Space Nine, but she only gets an honorable mention because she's a botanist who decided to become a teacher because the station needed a teacher and how hard can it be? I hate that trope.

Guinan- Not a regular cast member, but more regular than Keiko, Guinan the bartender probably would actually be the best teacher on the ship, because that's often what her job was. She'd smile, tell a little story, and let the other crew members figure out their problems. She was also hundreds of years old, so she knew what was up. I'd also like to be in Guinan's classroom.

Q- Q would be The Greatest Teacher Ever and also The Worst Teacher Ever, often at the same time. He hates the rules, can't stand people who don't understand him, is constantly condescending and mocking, once asking Worf, "Eat any good books lately?" And yet, you know Q's class would be Can't Miss. 

*The Outcast is an outstanding episode with a dark ending that should have gone all the way with the casting of J'naii but does a lot for being a show that came out in 1992. 

If you like this post and the other posts on this blog you should know I’ve written three books about teaching- He’s the Weird TeacherTHE Teaching Text (You’re Welcome), and the just released A Classroom Of One. I’ve also written one novel- The Unforgiving Road. You should check them out, I’m even better in long form. I’m also on the tweets @TheWeirdTeacher


  1. I think Wesley would be a fantastic teacher. He understands how he can come off as cocky. He understands what it’s like to be a loner, to have high expectations of yourself (and from others), what it’s like to fail at something really important, what it’s like to make a mistake that costs a friend his life (and how to handle those consequences with honor and ownership). And of course, he knows what it’s like to be ignored, to be constantly told to shut up.

  2. Worf teaching PE could lead to lawsuits ... not sure that they'd be able to insure all that. Now, if they have the equivalent of Jr. ROTC, I could see him all over that -- as long as he keeps it to drills and formations and leaves the bat'leths locked up.