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August 18, 2007



I will be very interested in hearing my students' responses to this question.

When I was very young, my heroes were the TV "good guys" - Hopalong Cassidy, Gene Autry, Davy Crockett. In elementary school, it was Helen Keller and Anne Frank.

Now? Maybe the quiet heroes, like my husband, who always put his family obligations before his artistic aspirations and is now, finally, getting to explore and experiment as he nears retirement.

Harold Jarche

I'm struggling, but I don't remember having a hero when I was young. As an adult, my hero has always been Winston S. Churchill.

Why? Churchill didn't like school. He was a damn fine Army officer and he was there when the nation needed him. On top of that, he liked good champagne (Pol Roger) and he was constantly fighting depression (the black dog). He also wrote some great books.

Matt Langdon

If you're going to ask your students I would recommend you have them write the answer down before answering out aloud. At the start of my Hero Workshop I ask the kids to tell me who their hero is to get the room thinking about the word and invariably the first one to answer sets the theme for the rest. So, although I do an exercise to get them thinking about who it is beforehand, they all change their answer based on the first answer because they think that's the type of answer I want. So if the first answer is "my dad" all of the following answers will be family members. If the first answer is Spiderman I will have a set of superheroes. If the first answer is LeBron James, I get sports stars. Not that their answers are wrong, they just lack variety.

This is what happens with 5th and 6th graders anyway. You might get different mileage with high schoolers. I haven't done any workshops with them yet. With camp counselors, the sky is the limit - there's no holding them back.


A Brittanica posting today
centers on the anniversary of Princess Diana's death and the idea of "celebrity". It might be interesting to have our students examine the similarities and differences between "heroes" and "celebrities".

Matt Langdon

That's a great point. Once I get started with the kids that's the first topic we cover so we can get rid of the celebrities from their heads. One definition I've heard that I like is that heroes leave something behind when they're gone and that celebrities don't.


Almost feeling like I should just sit on the sidelines with this conversation, given that it's evolving so nicely. At the same time, it has an unexpected connection to the classes I'll be teaching this year.

One of my under-the-table curriculum goals is to really push on the "hero" motif/archetype in literature, and why it is so vital to the literal existence of humans/societies on a literal and emotional and sociological level. In this day and age, hero has become in some respect a 'product' rather than a legend...and perhaps that has as much to do with media (rather than fire side storytelling and poets of centuries ago) and the addition of 'celebrity' in modern culture.

Going to be spending time with Jung and Bly this year with my kids -- thanks to a colleague's suggestion recently -- and really trying to drill down into the hero concept over time.

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