DOC HORSE TALES
Doc, a diminutive of doctor, typically signals distinction and particularly references specialized study in professional schools of the healing arts or in academic universities. What follows may seem a bit tedious, but please bear with me, for what I'm trying to expose tends to escape our awareness. According to the Oxford English Dictionary's first definition, doctor refers to a teacher who gives instruction in some branch of knowledge, or inculcates opinions or principles. The connection with doctrine is evident, and we easily assume that a qualified teacher (in this meaning of doctor) is highly literate in the relevant doctrine (or branch of knowledge). An earned doctorate corresponds with status in hierarchical governance structures which are vested in the printed word; thus, in a sense, doc represents consciousness achieved through literacy.
My earned doctorate was in the field of English and communication education at the University of Texas, mostly in the classical tradition of rhetoric, but (as a research-one institution) also committed to the behavioral paradigm of research. So I claim to know the kind of consciousness that is vested in book learning, especially when the print states what qualifies as theoretical and what qualifies as research-based (verifiable by the scientific method). Theory and Research are the criteria for what counts as worth knowing to doctors in academia. This has significant implications filtering down into all levels of education and further out into our culture. These are limited ways of knowing but still dominate the stuff of literacy consciousness.
Literacy comes from the Latin for letter, and technically the term associates primarily with writing and reading. So tests of reading and sometimes writing are used to mark a person's basic competence. The term literacy is also popularly used in combination with media, culture (cultural literacy), and other terms suggesting that the term literacy has been abstracted to mean basic or functional knowledge in general. This semi-conscious presumption allows our us, our schools & government to force literacy testing as the criterion for a person's worth which establishes all kinds of restrictions on status and opportunity.
This website, DOC-horse-tales, offers a space for exploring this typically unexamined implications of doctor and, more particularly, in literacy. For example, what are the implications of abstractly connecting knowledge with printed discourse? I've spent over 50 years in schools and can authoritatively assert that the educational enterprise is dominated by a focus on literacy which is reinforced by the political machinery. This is mostly good but also has an unexamined dangerous underside.
The development of literacy relates to a kind of consciousness that individuates, that promotes the development of the individual. This is exemplified in literacy's distinctive form of discourse: the novel. The novel's defining quality centers around the capacity to fine-tune character. The quality contrasts with the defining exemplar of the pre-literate culture: the orally-told fairy tale (which has been extensively examined for ways the oral tales constituted and maintained the community, not the individual).
While literacy propels a person’s capacity to be individual and novel, this focus simultaneously distinguishes (promoting hierarchy) and isolates (promoting relational problems). Thus the reign of literacy has produced, in addition to the many accomplishments and discoveries associated with it, an exigence for previously unneeded or less needed healing arts.
I have here too-quickly (though admittedly tediously) traced the lines around huge territories in order to suggest the meaning and significance that I associate with Doc. While the resources in this quality are vitally needed, their power to address the places that need a good doctor in our time are sorely limited unless they are joined in imaginative ways to other elements such as those suggested in Horse and Tales. These sketchy lines are given more substance in the conceptual and creative explorations of this website.
January 25, 2006