Thank God for Charlie Sheen

By Watson Scott Swail, President & CEO, EPI International/Educational Policy Institute

I like him. Charlie Sheen. He’s a fun actor to watch. Of course, it must be easy to act in a sitcom about, well, your lifestyle and life. Nonetheless, he has done some great acting in Platoon and Wall Street and… Hot Shots… Major League… Scary Movie(s).

I admit: this isn’t the most educational piece I’ve ever written. But let’s be clear: if there was EVER a poster child for education—Charlie Sheen MUST be it.

Here is a guy who hails from a pedigree acting family—his father, Martin, is a former President of the United States (OK, only on TV), and is an outstanding actor. His older brother, Emilio Estevez (remember St. Elmo’s Fire?? Nuff said), is a talented director and actor who, amazingly, keeps out of the limelight. A stretch for this family.

Mr. Sheen may be right. He deserves $3 million an episode (yes, episode; that would be $66M/year), his latest request from producers, 50 percent above his current $2 million per year. He is ultra-talented. He is. Just ask him. He said today he was “special.” I thought we all were special. I guess only a few. And Charlie is one of them. Poor Charlie.

Education is important. It isn’t about being 2.5 men. It is about being whole. I wish for a world—I’ll settle right now for Canada and the US—to have world-class education, not just at the higher education level, but from pre-school up. Because it is very apparent we need it.

When I watch the Sheen interviews—and I don’t disagree with everything he says (although as a wife beater and drug user and porn king—he probably isn’t a role model; fun is “definitely” relative for Charlie)—I think of what a good education would do for his talent, let alone his life. I look at certain actors and understand their depth:

  • Jodie Foster, who graduated from Yale University and studied in Francais;
  • Natalie Portman, Oscar winner (from last night), a graduate from Haavvvvaaaad;
  • Meryl Streep (Vassar, Dartmouth, and Yale; a TOTAL underachiever behavior which has followed her into the academy; 16 Academy Award nominations; 2 wins—really bad odds when you think of it…);
  • and even James Franco, the Oscar co-host, who is a student at Yale (of course, he dropped out of UCLA, and NYU, where he earned a D in Acting!! I cannot make this stuff up. See this link). I realize the last example may take away from my point, but, hey, this is a blog–I’m having fun. Deal with it.

If you want to talk about Charlie’s talent, what could he have done with an education? His father, Martin Sheen, whom EPI tried to get to keynote at our Retention 2010 conference, went BACK to college in Ireland at age 68 years two years ago. Why? Because he felt something was missing. He wanted “more.”


Isn’t that what it is about? It isn’t about vocation (but it is, I know…kills me). It is about “more.” Knowing “more,” which leads to “more” questions. “More” inquisitiveness. “More” philanthropy (yes, Gates dropped out and still found his calling). “More” caring. “More” understanding.

Just more.

That’s what higher education does. And I argue—that’s what a better K-12 system does, too. We just aren’t there. We just don’t do it in enough places.

Charlie, please take a break from your $2 million/week job, and walk in your father’s path. Go to school. Teach us. Show us. Be us.

Education salves all wounds.

For all.

I’m just really glad right now Charlie Sheen isn’t Canadian.

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