Ch. 6: Cut All Heroes Down to Size
In Chapter 6 of Anthony Esolen's guide to destroying imagination we continue our consideration of the heroic. This is one of his more provocative moments . . . What do you think?
"What shall we do to ensure that the fire of heroism never kindles in the hearts of our children? I suggest the following easy steps. First, since the likeliest place for a hero to show forth his courage is a battlefield, cast aspersions on the military ideal. this you can do by belittling the intelligence of the soldier, by preaching an easy and self-serving pacifism, and by reducing the military to a career option open for everyone, regardless of physical prowess or even sex. Second, since the hero will often do what is foolish in the eyes of the world - sailing to Molokai to minister to lepers whom all the world had shunned, or enduring the contempt of former associates while preaching against their trade in slaves, or taking a small contingent of half-starved men across the icy Delaware on a night-attack against professional soldiers at Trenton -- instill in your children an easy contempt for the more difficult and fantastic virtues. Encourage the snigger rather than the cheer; the knowing smirk, rather than the flush of adoration. Lead them in laughing at what you do not understand. Finally, since the hero stretches our minds and hearts by being so strikingly different from the rest of us, even superior in some way to the rest of us, teach your children to hate and suspect excellence. This you can do in two ways.
You can attack excellence itself; a risky enterprise, since if you are going to bring the heroic genius of Michelangelo down to the level of, say, special effects in video games, you actually have to show your children the work of Michelangelo. One never knows what might happen then. The opposite strategy seems surer. You call everything and everything excellent. You democratize heroism. Everybody is a hero, and simply for doing (and often not well at that) the ordinary tasks of living as a half-decent person. Does your mother fix your breakfast? She is a hero. Does your father visit you every weekend without fail? A hero. Does your teacher mark your papers faithfully when you make a mistake? Unexampled heroism, that. If everyone is a hero, no one is a hero; and genuine heroes will go unnoticed in all the mindless self-congratulation."
Now this is certainly a view that will raise hackles on many today but I think this is actually one thing that makes the Imago School stand out from the crowd. Everyone doesn't get a prize. This is not because each child is not valued but because we really believe in excellence in all realms of life and we want our students to strive for it. All people are valued infinitely as bearers of God's image but we are are called to strive for an excellence that does not come easily or naturally. Some do truly rise to heroic levels and they should be held up as models and heroes that we should strive to be like.
Who are your child's heroes, and why? Do you think it is heroic to drive your kid to school every day?