February 2018

Take a Lesson from Churchill

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I am often annoyed, even disgusted, by the movies promoted in the Coming Attractions at nearly every movie theater. The sound tracks are too loud, the visual stimuli often distressing, and the themes full of violence. The characterization is generally simplistic: the heroes are too good, and the villains too evil. I struggle to get through the Coming Attractions, and I avoid the movies they represent.

But when I see a movie like Darkest Hour, I am willing to put up with whatever precedes it. Winston Churchill has long been a hero of mine, partly of course because of his valor during World War I, but for another reason as well. Churchill did not have a life of consistent success. His achievements were gigantic, but his failures were also notable; the one that comes to mind first is the disaster at Gallipoli during World War I, but there were others.

At the outbreak of WWII, his reputation was hardly stellar. He was regarded by many in his own party, and to some degree by the royal family, as unstable, frivolous, and war-mongering. His excessive alcohol consumption is well-known. But Churchill was nothing if not resilient; he was always able to bounce back, to reinvent himself, to regain the stature that during the war stood him in such good stead. In the end he was, and is, considered by many to be the greatest hero of the twentieth century.

As an educator I have always wondered how we can instill the Churchill-like quality of resilience in children. How can we teach them to pick themselves up after a disappointment? How do they acquire the knack of learning from their mistakes? How do they resist distributing blame, and willingly accept responsibility when things go wrong? I suspect that over-protecting them from life’s small tragedies robs them of valuable opportunities to develop resilience. Let’s not cushion children on every side, but instead help them understand how to cope in times of disappointment and loss. It’s not an easy thing for parents to do, but the results will be helpful to our children as they face whatever life the future holds for them.


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