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Identifying Hero Examples to Teach Values

According to Sociologist Morris Massey (1979 The People Puzzle, Understanding Yourself and Others) around the age of 10, “heroes” are identified, both real and fictional, that become models for our beliefs and views. Around age 14, Dr. Massey writes that this modeling of heroes brings about strong viewpoints that are resistant to change regarding personal beliefs of what is perceived as right/wrong, good/bad, or normal/not-normal.

The implications for this are at the same time both enormously encouraging, and frightening. On the one hand, those who would work with our young people between the ages of eight and thirteen to influence this process in the direction of a positive outcome can rest assured that their efforts with values and character education will indeed be positively rewarded. On the other hand, ignored and left to chance, the possibility exists for a negative outcome. This is especially true if the “heroes”, role models, or peers chosen by our youth to imitate are not Heroes at all, but instead poor role model examples, and representative of values, beliefs, and behaviors unworthy of emulation. When this happens, then sadly the adulation is misdirected, resulting in a values lesson failure in the best case, and a negative value taught at worst case, often with far reaching consequences.

The Importance of Selecting Worthy Heroes

The preceding are important points for reflection and appropriate action regarding values education in general and Leadership Values Training and emphasis in specific. Not all sports figures, entertainers, fictional “Super Heroes”, or for that matter, adults of any role or occupation are worthy of hero status. To help our youth to acquire appropriate leadership values, we must encourage the choice of heroes and role models, real or fictional, who exemplify the quintessential leadership values and principles. Done correctly and with appropriate adult encouragement that is neither intrusive nor laissez-faire, this process will open the door to developing the necessary leadership values for the “Youth of Today” as they mature and evolve into the “Leaders of Tomorrow”.

In summary, Tony Sanchez (1998) says it very well:

“Identifying and acknowledging the values of a true hero is to acknowledge our own potential. Heroes symbolize something greater than attaining wealth and fame, performing death-defying acts, or being comfortably shrouded in media-promoted status. They reflect our values, ideals, dreams, and making the right difference. Their qualities endure as the guide and inspiration for all of us to be heroes. It’s time for heroes again.”

IT'S TIME FOR HEROES, AGAIN: OR WERE THEY EVER GONE?
p. 17-18, ERIC #: ED426924 Sourced (12/22/06)
from: http://www.eric.ed.gov

You might ask, “Where can I find some real life Heroes who showcase the Leadership values of Integrity, Achievement, Responsibility, and Courage?” There is an army of them out there to help you illustrate these values – more than you might ever imagine, but at the same time not enough and not visible enough for all of our young people to see, to appreciate, and to emulate.

Please allow this modest suggestion: In looking for some real life Heroes, there is a place you can find a large number. The view through our window on life reveals a parade of unsung heroes who quietly go about their work. They are for the most part un-noticed, unheralded, and often unappreciated by those who have not seen the light of their halo. On the occasions where we actually notice and admire what they have done for others, we all too frequently file it as a mental note with the best of intentions of an appropriate follow-up involving appreciation and recognition.

Why not introduce the story of some of these real life everyday Heroes to your young people and young adults. Talk with them about why you admire these Heroes, and what they did to deserve our admiration and respect. You will be glad you did, and a life long values lesson will be taught in the process! And… please, let’s not miss the opportunity to also point out the importance of being someone’s else’s Hero. The good that goes around, should be passed on to come back around so that others might also benefit – over time that’s how Heroes and their fragile halos are made.