Because of so-called reality shows that promote sex and selfishness and because of moronic pop stars like, Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, and the Kardashians, I began to wonder, are youth today under the impression that these VIP impersonators are good role models? Could our sweet students discern the difference between true role models—hardworking parents, heroic firefighters, and our men and women in uniform—and the phony media-made caricatures that we are venerated on social media.
I decided to conduct my own, very limited and informal research. I asked 30 eighth graders who they thought were good role models and I delightfully discovered that these kids got it. They know these false icons are not representative of their world. When asked who they look up to, not one tween chose a pretentious personality. Most chose their mom, dad or a sibling. All chose outstanding individuals with traits such as athleticism, helpfulness, and kindness. For example:
Kyle’s role model is his mom. “She is a preschool teacher and also has an engineering degree. I admire her for finding ways to solve problems that no one else can solve. She has managed to support us by herself. She is self-sacrificing, kind and brave.”
Brittany has a number of role models but she “…aspires to be like Kate. Kate is in high school. She is an amazing soccer player, a great friend, and goes to church regularly.”
AnneMarie’s role model is Jenny Finch. “She was a softball player at Arizona State and went on to play for Team USA and she won many medals…I also admire her because she tries to be the best athlete she can be. She spends a lot of time helping children who can’t always afford to play softball.”
A young man of few words, Dominic, chose Albert Einstein. “He was a scientist. He was very smart. He helped us win World War II.”
James selected his basketball coach. “He is extra special because he doesn’t do anything bad, like steal, smoke, or get into fights.”
Justin wrote pages about his brother Jason. “He has received athletic honors in basketball and track…He is also a very talented artist…He is very modest about the things he does. Besides being an athlete, he’s a great brother. He is kind and very soft spoken. Even though we fight a lot, there are more good times than bad. And at the end of the day, he is still my hero and role model.”
These young scholars have the sagacity to distinguish between true heroes and anti-ones. They remain optimistic and conscientious. Perhaps the media’s next reality star should not be an undernourished model or an immature washout from Jersey Shore. Perhaps the next reality show should be based on real heroes like Jason’s brother, Kyle’s mom or any number of hardworking parents who toil daily to make ends meet while reaming exemplars for their children.
Contact Margaret Lavin at firstname.lastname@example.org.