Who are you selling as role models?

We are firmly in the age of the “I”. It is a time of the individual, with rhetoric that anyone can be the next leader of their country, make millions of dollars and have the house, nice car and a boat thrown in for good measure. The secret is that you just have to work hard.

Where did this myth eventuate? I am surrounded by lots of hard working people who are not the Prime Minister, CEO of a major corporation or get away on their launch for a jaunt around the harbour.

Yet we hear stories of people who have risen from challenging backgrounds and situations, overcome huge obstacles and achieved at the highest levels. But aren’t these the exceptions to the rule? Isn’t the norm absolute mediocrity or are we missing the point on what constitutes success?

I have no¬†doubt that the ‘success stories’ have worked hard for their achievements, but when we use these figures as role models for our kids are we leaving out a crucial part of the story, that of blind luck or chance? Are we omitting the impact of significant others in an individual’s success? Do we underplay the idea of right time right place?

Schools are very good at determining and teaching the skills for success but do we oversell the ‘the world will be your oyster’ tag line? I was at conference where the speaker said that one of us in the audience could be teaching a future Prime Minister. That sort of rhetoric at that time in my career did give me a boost. But looking back would it have been more inspiring if the speaker had said “You are teaching the mothers and fathers of our future.”

Our kids have a lot to learn from the extraordinary lives of ordinary people. How are we including these role models in our¬†efforts to instil key competencies, values and civics in today’s classrooms?

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