Building Up and Tearing Down

This post has been provoked by curiosity. So please if you can help quell my curiosity, do offer a comment.

A couple of hours ago I did a review of a pre-school book based on the life of Mahatma Gandhi. I then went to Goodreads and read some of the reviews, which were scathing, suggesting that the author should have painted Gandhi as less than saintly because he had evidently been racist and abusive (I know nothing of this; I’m in the ignorance is bliss camp). Huh. But this is a children’s book, I thought. It’s for pre-school kids. Should we be telling them that a great man also had a bad side? Shouldn’t that wait until they are at least a few years older when they can understand the complexity of being human? Am I being silly, stupid, blithely ignorant?

In recent years it seems that “heroes” have been targeted. Someone has decided that we need to see their bad side. Thomas Jefferson. John Kennedy. Martin Luther King, Jr. Just a few names, there are more.

This seems to be a slippery slope. Without Thomas Jefferson, would America still be a colony of Britain? Without Martin Luther King, Jr. would civil rights have progressed at the rate it did. although still not satisfactory? Without Mahatma Gandhi, would India have gained freedom as quickly as it did? Without John Kennedy, what would have happened during the Cuban Missile Crisis?

If we look hard enough at any individual, will they stand up to a moral compass?

Maybe we do need to see the bad side of heroes to know that they are completely human but should that take away from the good they did?

Is for the greater good acceptable?

Let me know.



17 thoughts on “Building Up and Tearing Down

  1. It’s a complicated question, and I don’t think it has an easy answer, but it’s worth discussing. Is there a way to give little kids information without making someone appear saintly or having to point out all their flaws? What if we are only trying to present a few facts at a time? There is no one who is going to pass a purity test. That said, I understand why it’s problematic to have statues of Civil War generals looming over a public park. Not sure what MLK did wrong. Hard to keep up with all the things!

    1. MLK, like JFK, was accused of having numerous affairs.
      I agree. No one is going to pass the purity test…I may have hopes for Mother Theresa, but who knows. 🙂

  2. They make up lies about St Theresa of Kolkotta, “Mother Theresa”, Christopher Hitchens eviscerated her. The idea is to promote nihilism, starting early. Thus is why so many parents are putting as much distance between their children and the Education Establishment as they can. When the Education Bullies are defunded, only then will things change. But remember “education” is a budgetary sacred cow. No politician is going to court the ire of the teachers’ unions, or text book publishers, building contractors, Aople, Microsoft.

    1. Interesting pov. I’m not a huge fan of homeschooling as I like the exchanging of ideas which can’t be done if there are no fresh ideas. I’ve also observed that many products of homeschooling tend to be closed-minded. Admittedly, I work at a university so I thrive on the exchange of thoughts and ideas. 🙂

      1. Are the people who try to keep Jordan Peterson, Ben Shapiro, and others, from speaking on a college campus, the products of home schooling? Add to that the current brouhaha over Camille Paglia. I’m wondering about just who is close-minded.

      2. I’m not trying to point fingers and say that one particular group is closed-minded. I would say that freedom of speech and the flow of ideas should exist whether we agree with the ideas or not. I do think that some individuals take things too far whether it’s fanaticism regarding political correctness or belligerence regarding how other individuals live their private lives.

  3. There was a clergyman, Parson Weems, who wrote a “morally uplifting” biography of George Washington. It contained the famous “cherry tree chop down” legend. It inspired countless historians to go in the “debunking” business, the source of much of our cultural cynicism today. I think we can write honest biography, even for small children, but they don’t need to know what their young minds can’t grasp.

  4. I think the point is that everyone makes choices every day.. of whether to do the right thing or its opposite. The thing about heroes is that they choose more right things to do than wrong things. I think the mark you leave on the world is the most important thing. Did you leave it better off or worse off? Were your deeds prompted primarily to better things for yourself? Did you consider the effect of what you did on others?
    I think in terms of world fame, the point is not that you were perfect but that you tried to be in most of your dealings.

  5. I’m in the camp of everyone is human and imperfect and we learn more by understanding who a person is as a whole rather than only focusing on the shiny, positive things about them as that tends to give people an unrealistic, rose colored glasses kind of view. Especially when it comes to historical figures. Understanding those things, I think gives a better context from which we can work to become a better society as a whole.

    1. Yup. I don’t think there’s a perfect person out there (how would we even measure? hmmm). At what age, I wonder, do children stop understanding that things are not black and white?

      1. I think that depends on the kid and how they were raised. I have tried really hard to show my kids from the very beginning that nothing and no one is perfect, that mistakes get made and those things are okay. They tend to not be stunned when they see those things, but I hear them talk about friends struggling with this concept.

      2. That does seem to be an excellent way to raise kids. Maybe if kids are shown that no one is perfect early on then they will have a more reasonable view of the world.

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