Imagine for a moment a picture of your greatest hero. Who is it? Why is this person your hero? How does their life relate to yours? How has she influenced you?
Our heroes are important: they guide us to where we can go (if we dare) and save us from our own limiting beliefs about ourselves. How do we guide our children to find role models who will empower them?
Every woman I know who took Women’s Studies in college talks about how their whole world sort of opened up with their first class. Why do we deprive our girls of this experience throughout most of their education? Is it possible more children would love going to school if it related back to them directly?
How can they have heroes that don’t reflect who they are?
The highlight of my son’s second grade class was a “Hero Speech”. The kids researched various heroes, picked one that they identified with most strongly, continued to research that person more thoroughly, and finally wrote and presented a speech (in costume) to the entire second grade community, including parents and grandparents.
It was a wonderful project, and I was thrilled to see my son so engaged with his research on Benjamin Franklin. When he finally took the stage, he was Ben Franklin.
However, when I went into his classroom a few months before to celebrate his birthday, I was dismayed. The kids were allowed to ask anything of me about my son’s very early years. The questions they came up with were both creative and fun to answer. I decided to ask a few questions of my own.
I was only hearing about research on male heroes.
I asked if the kids could name some female heroes.
No one could name even one.
This essay first appeared in Elephant Journal http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/06/failing-girls-trista-hendren/ edited by Carolyn Gilligan.