Friday, May 14, 2004

Finally, He Says Something With Which I Can Agree

'All great teachers are outlaws.'
--former Secretary of Education William Bennett

In fact, I would add, that's pretty well true of high achievers in just about every area of human pursuit you might imagine. Think about every genius you know--and come on, we all know at least a handful of minor geniuses--and ask yourself if they're not really rebels and outlaws by their very nature. But through that rule-breaking, path-blazing, egg-cracking activity they create something new, and perhaps useful, interesting and challenging as well.

At the same time, an innate refusal to blindly conform to the norms of groups--another hallmark of the strong creative personality--can come in handy in certain situations. A story in today's Times delves into the issue of the psychology behind the three brave Army soldiers (one of whose official complaints touched off the military's investigation) who refused to be pressured by the mob mentality of the Abu Ghraib prison and join in the torture and humiliation of detainees. They are the inspiring heroes of this otherwise tawdry saga, and the half-full glass on which I hope we might begin focusing just a bit. The Times rightly understands that their bravery provides some deep and abiding lessons for the rest of us.

And for parents, it immediately summons the question: are we somehow providing our kids, through our own example and in the things we say, with the psychic tools and inner resources they would need to do the right thing in similarly difficult circumstances. We can only hope so. But then, there's no time like the present in which to begin.


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