Role Models?

8 02 2009

Earlier this week I heard a couple of kids speaking about their role models and what I heard got me thinking.  There’s not really any unifying thread to these incidents or a single moral to this post but what I heard just made me think and made me concerned a little bit about the role models available to the youth of our nation.

phelpsbongSo the first incident… you may have heard about Michael Phelps’s pot-smoking photo op this last week.  Well, the incident came up in conversation at work one day.  If you don’t know, I work with teenage foster kids.  So one of my coworkers mentions the Phelps incident within earshot of one of the kids.  The kid hears this and immediately pipes up and says that that’s impossible, that Michael Phelps would never do drugs.  The conviction with which this teen defended Phelps’s innocence struck me.  It reminded me how impressionable youth can be and how they can have tunnel vision when it comes to their heroes.

For me, hearing that Michael Phelps smokes pot wasn’t all that shocking.  It doesn’t erase the fact that he had to be enormously disciplined to become a record-breaking olympian.  Despite the pot, Michael Phelps still is, in many ways, an excellent role model.  But when every school across America teaches that drugs are bad and that Michael Phelps is someone to emulate, it creates some confusing contradictions for the up and coming generation.  It’s sobering how impedimentary a picture with a bong can be to the healthy moral development of our children.  What it makes me think about role models is that in teaching our children we need to clearly demarcate the difference between right and wrong, emphasize the fallibility of humans (especially famous ones) and make sure that we don’t mistakenly leave the moral education of our children in the hands of celebrities.

jamie-lynn-spears-pregnantThe other incident was part of an episode of the Tyra Banks Show (my cousin watches it and I happened to be in the room during this one, I swear!).  Tyra’s guest was a 15 year old girl who wanted to get married to her 18 year old boyfriend, was already living with her boyfriend in her mom’s house, having sex twice a day and taking internet fertility drugs to get pregnant and was totally clueless about real life and parenthood.  So at one point during the interview Tyra asks this girl who her idols are.  This girl replies that her idol is… Jamie Lynn Spears.  Wonderful.  And why is she her idol?  Because she got pregnant at 16.  To be fair, I don’t know much about Jamie Lynn, apparently she’s an accomplished children’s TV actress.  I don’t really have any follow up thoughts to this one, I just thought it was ridiculous.  Thankfully, this 15 year old girl is not your typical teenager and hopefully her peers have better selection criteria for their role models.

So like I said, there’s not really a unifying theme behind these examples other than role models.  They just both got me thinking at the same time and get to share a post.  But I was also thinking about trying to get some reader participation in response to this post.  One thing that I got to thinking while I was writing this was whether I ever became disillusioned with any of my childhood heroes because of something stupid they did.  I’m sure there are several, but for the life of me I couldn’t think of any while I was writing this.

300pxwaynegretzkyoilersAs a child I had my geeky heroes like Marie Curie and Thomas Edison, but I also had my cool heroes like Wayne Gretzky, Michael Jordan, Hulk Hogan and Indiana Jones.  But none of them did anything (that I can remember) to ruin their image in my mind.  So what I want to know is: Who were your childhood heroes?  Did you ever do any crazy things trying to imitate them?  Did you ever become disillusioned with any of them?  If I think of any more of my own I’ll add them.

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5 responses

8 02 2009
flora

wow that really did get me thinking. Who were my idols growing up? for the life of me I can’t think of one right now.

9 02 2009
Fred

Hurray for Madam Curie.

10 02 2009
Ben

its all about the ninja turtles!!!

10 02 2009
Aunt Lisa

So I’ve been out of the loop and didn’t hear about Michael Phelps – how disappointing! I too was watching that Tyra Banks show and was appalled and shocked at how these girls thought it was okay. I also couldn’t believe what the one Mother allowed in her home. I was impressed with how Tyra Banks on more than one occasion pointed out how this was wrong etc. etc. The show definitely gave us something to talk about with the kids. What’s really disturbing is that this is not just an isolated group of people on the Tyra Banks show. Two of my kids know someone at their high school who purposely slept around trying to get pregnant. That was her goal – she wanted a baby and she got what she wanted. It would be interesting for these high school kids to talk to her now to see if it’s all she thought it would be and if her life is going in the direction she had hoped. I’m positive it’s not!

My childhood heroes were my great-grandparents. I know it’s weird but they really were. I idolized them not only for their Scottish accent which I thought was very cool but for the type of people they were. I knew they loved me unconditionally and they were so good to everyone around them. They also made me laugh. I LOVED spending time with them and always looked forward to when my next visit would be.

I will admit that I’ve always liked Wayne Gretzky and cried the day he left the Oilers. I even called Uncle Fred at work crying to tell him about it as I was watching the “breaking” news conference on t.v. But I would say that Wayne Gretzky was more of a favourite athlete not an idol.

10 02 2009
Aunt Lisa

So I am thoroughly cleaning out the fridge and was thinking about my great-grandparents and remembered something I wanted to share in my first post. They had such a powerful impact on my life that I always knew I wanted to name a girl and a boy after them and I did!!! Kira’s middle name Anne and Brandon’s middle name James are after them. :D

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