Why We Need High Schools to Teach Heroes
Heroes are people who possess supernatural powers and abilities above and beyond what the rest of us can reasonably achieve. The word ‘hero’ has its roots in Greek mythology and the hero of Homer’s Illiad and the Odyssey. In modern times the term is almost always associated with a type of action film. But heroes can also be ordinary people who do extraordinary things.
A hero is usually a normal human being or a superhuman main fictional character who, against insurmountable odds, successfully combats adversity by feats of strength, courage, or ingenuity. Just as other previously solely gender-defined terms, however, the hero has sometimes been used to describe any sex, although hero only seems to apply to women. Thus, one would have to say that the modern concept of hero has become significantly more flexible. So, just what exactly constitutes heroism?
The term ‘heroism’ is typically associated with acts of heroism in classical antiquity. For example, during the time of the classical hero Aeschylus, the Trojans repeatedly attempt to rape Helen, yet she remains determined to defend herself. During the time of Sophocles, the attempt to ambush the Achillies when she is wearing the engagement ring Aeneas gave to his bride; yet she manages to kill them all, thus being listed as a legendary hero.
Modern scholars disagree about the nature of true heroes. For some, modern society has conditioned us to see only acts of violence as heroic actions. According to this view, heroes are usually heroic individuals acting in self-defense, defending themselves or others. According to this view, heroes are only as good as the efforts they put forth, and as bad as the consequences of those efforts. However, while it is true that in many cases it would be unjustifiable for an individual to kill another in order to protect himself or herself, it would be wrong to label all acts of heroism as immoral.
One might argue that Aeschylus’ hero, Oedipus, did not deserve to die at the hands of one of the princess’ son, Antigone. On the other hand, Oedipus was a genuine hero. In a related case, the daughter of Agamemnon, Menelaus, is murdered by her own husband, Tyndareus. Yet, her act of self-defense does not justify her death. Likewise, when Hercules is thrown from the top of the stables, he manages to break free and kill Hector, thus earning himself a place as one of the greatest heroes of Greek history.
In summary, although most of us would define heroism differently, no universal definition can be drawn between acts of heroic actions and heroic behavior. We must, therefore, encourage students to view heroic actions and behavior in terms of personal responsibility, taking into consideration the special circumstances surrounding each event. When viewing heroic acts as virtuous, students should view themselves as role models for their fellow students.