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    Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child: Method 6

    February 23, 2011 by Brandy Vencel

    One of the reasons I didn’t touch on heroism a whole lot in last week’s post is because I knew that this method was coming: Cut all heroes down to size. Let’s quickly review the tactics for accomplishing this before we talk.

    Here are the approaches suggested in the book:

    • TEN WAYS TO DESTROY THE IMAGINATION OF YOUR CHILDCast aspersions on the military ideal. We do this by
      • Belittling the intelligence of soldiers
      • Settling for an “easy, self-serving pacifism”
      • Reducing the military career to an option for everyone, regardless or physical prowess or sex
      • Focusing on the misery of war rather than asking hard questions such as “what would Europe look like has Britain surrendered to Hitler and Mussolini?”
    • Instill a contempt for the more difficult and fantastic virtues. We do this by
      • Sniggering rather than cheering (flippancy)
      • Encouraging a knowing smirk rather than the flush of admiration
      • Laughing and what we don’t understand
      • Encouraging “small-souled envy”

        The proud man wants to excel; the envious man fears lest someone else excel.

      • Teaching children that they are virtuous simply because they have adopted the opinion that other people are not virtuous.
    • Hate and suspect excellence. This is mostly self-explanatory, but here’s some pointers…
      • Attack excellence itself (Esolen says this is a risky venture because in order to attack it we’d have to introduce the children to examples of it, and they might admire it anyhow)
      • Call everything excellent, even doing ordinary tasks (if everyone is a hero, then no one is)
    • Tarnish the genuine heroes of the past.
      • Point out their real flaws in such a way as to circumvent any praise for them
      • Mention foul rumors about them, even if there is little to no evidence for the rumors
    • Place mirrors everywhere for self-adulation.
      • Egalitarianism is key here. Make sure they digest the lie that no one is better than anyone else:

        [T]each them to consider themselves better than others because they consider nobody better than anyone else.

    I did something I usually don’t do, which is to say that I read some of the other posts before I wrote mine. I noticed that others were grappling with the same issue as me–viz., what is real heroism? Sometimes I feel heroic when I have a Supermom day. But is this real heroism? Sometimes I feel like my husband is heroic because he faithfully goes to work and provides for us, or when he does something out of the ordinary, such as fixing the sprinklers for a divorced neighbor. Is this real heroism?

    My guess is that in order to regain a working definition of heroism, we’re going to have to admit that Doing Our Duty is not heroic, even though it’s easy to feel like it is when it’s hard, or when we’re surrounded by slackers, or what have you.

    So I suppose heroism requires one to go above and beyond the call of duty.

    I got out my trust Webster’s 1828 Dictionary and found hero defined as:

    1. A man of distinguished valor, intrepidity or enterprise in danger; as a hero in arms.
    2. A great, illustrious or extraordinary person; as a hero in learning. [Little used.]

    In looking through related words, I discovered that a heroic act requires courage. A heroine, for instance, is “a woman of brave spirit.”

    I found myself wondering if perhaps there are two categories of greatness, one being a sort of moral excellence or virtue which has been attained, while the other being the sort of heroism achieved by the few (usually on behalf of the many, I might add). I was thinking through women of the past that I admire, and I thought that perhaps Tabitha and Caroline Ingalls might be great, perhaps it was only Jenny Geddes (out of the three) who was actually heroic.

    Newsflash: I am neither great nor heroic.

    Shocking, I know.

    -Don’t forget to read the other book club entries!

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  • Reply Go quickly and tell February 25, 2011 at 3:55 pm

    Concepts are only understood in light of the terms which describe them.

    I’ve left a few comments to this effect over at Mystie’s.

  • Reply Cindy February 25, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    I am not really thinking of ‘hero’ as a term but rather as a concept. Maybe that is where the distinction is.

  • Reply Go quickly and tell February 24, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    I think it is interesting to note that the word *hero* is not a Biblical term…..

    in all of Cindy’s examples I think some other word (greek or hebrew) was used, especially since we know the etymology of the word hero.

    Paul in Hebrews 12 references witnesses. In other epistles the word *saints* is used and never in the singular.

    Greeks/Romans called these *special* people *gods*.

    The word heroism does not come into use until the early 17th century.

  • Reply Cindy February 24, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    I guess I am the lone wolf who has not struggled with his definition of heroism. Heroism in books is something like a fairy tale but it is also a good influence on a child. I am not sure it is a good idea to lower the bar on heroism.

    My father-in-law detonated bombs on Iwo Jima during the attack and lived to tell the tale. He was given a Purple Heart which no one knew about until late in his life when his wife spilled the beans. Of course to his grandchildren he was a real hero but to himself he was nothing of the kind. I am suspecting he saw a lot of heroism on Iwo.

    David expected the army of Israel to all be heroes when challenged by Goliath but they weren’t. He didn’t think of his own actions as extraordinary but they were.

    In the parable of the talents the person who hid his talent, didn’t lose it, was condemned. Sometimes that is hard to read.

    Or how about the vineyard workers who were hired early in the day and got the same pay as the ones who were hired later. Were they heroes?

    Those are galling stories to me personally sometimes but they illustrate how easy it is to set the bar low.

  • Reply Anonymous February 24, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    I think you hit the nail on the head. Just bc there are many in our society who are lazy, doesn’t mean we are heroic for doing the right thing day in and day out. It just means that some people are lazy.

    On the other hand, I wonder if someone who is able to do the right thing day in and out for a lifetime, maybe that is heroic. I look at my grandmother for example. The woman survived the Great Depression and has had many challenges in life. She knows the definition of working her fingers to the bone, mostly for the good of others. I look at her as my hero in the day to day, nitty gritty things of life. She had great courage in the hardships of life and did not look for someone else to take her place. I think for most, just looking at a snapshot of her life (like all of us), she doesn’t seem so unique, but when a person is able to keep up the fight for 90 some years and still get up with a smile and thank the Lord for a new day, even then? I don’t care if s/he did live a fairly ‘normal’ life compared to most standards. Life takes it’s toll on all of us, and someone who keeps up the fight w/ a good attitude and trusting in the Lord the whole way, this person to me is a hero, whoever they are.

  • Reply Silvia February 23, 2011 at 11:40 pm

    I can´t comment from the book perspective because I am not reading it, but on heroism and your conversation there is something I would like to share.
    Heroism can be attributed to people and actions. Those who make a one time heroic act are by all means heroes, such as the case of the guy who jumps in the subway to save the life of another person. That heroism is also called altruism, and atheist have a hard time explaining that, by the way… but I´m digressing.
    Back to heroism, there are HEROES, and I think a life of sacrifice in the mundane, such as our husbands who wake up day after day after day, or we moms who prepare meals, take care of the children, etc. are somehow heroic, though that wouldn’t make us HEROES because the acts are not exceptional, it is the constancy and diligence without precisely seeing ourselves as anything above the ordinary. I don’t know if that makes sense.
    On the other hand, that can be simply actions from men and women of character and honor, without maybe the heroic adjective.
    In any case, I take heed of the warnings of making this a water down term, and the caution of labeling everything as heroic. Maybe one of the keys it is not to abuse the adjective heroic, or the name hero, but to guide our children into the notions and signs that will help us see something as heroic or someone as a hero, and let them connect the dots themselves.

  • Reply Go quickly and tell February 23, 2011 at 11:34 pm

    Hope y’all enjoy *Unstoppable* sometime soon


  • Reply Go quickly and tell February 23, 2011 at 11:33 pm

    I’m thinking that one criterion is that a true hero does not feel like s/he needs to be thanked or given a medal.

  • Reply sara February 23, 2011 at 10:34 pm

    “A woman of valor who can find?” I like that translation.

    I think maybe there are folks who are ready and equipped to be heroes but are not yet tested.

    I’ve been thinking about what role humility plays in heroism. Nearly every time a man jumps onto the subway tracks to rescue someone who has fallen or jumped, he is smart enough to say, “Nah, I’m no hero. I was just at the right place at the right time. Anyone would have done the same.” It’s not true than anyone would have done the same, but we like the guy better for not thinking too highly of himself. Besides, it’s not up to the man to award himself, but for others to give him the name “hero.”

  • Reply Ellen February 23, 2011 at 10:16 pm

    And I sure as heck am a “woman of brave spirit” when I single parent for weeks on end and the baby has a cold. And so are you! =)

  • Reply Ellen February 23, 2011 at 10:15 pm

    Being heroic sounds like an awfully high standard by that definition. If our kids are going to really be able to see heroism in action in everyday life and be inspired by it, don’t we have to lower the bar a little?

    Personally, I think it takes heroism to be a good parent when you are sick or exhausted. I NEED to feel heroic on some days! =) My husband is a hero to me every day because he works so hard at his job. I want the boys to see what he does as heroic. That’s the kind of heroism they are probably going to be called to… and if they can get there, it’ll be easier to rush into a burning building one day if need be…

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