Albert Einstein or Bob Roepke? Condi Rice or Virma Behnke?

In history class, children see and learn about the most famous people in modern history.

  • Albert Einstein
  • Eleanor Roosevelt
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Henry Ford
  • etc.

So the children’s imaginations of what it means to grow up and make a difference in the world are sculpted to envision success and impact of cosmic proportions.

Maybe 0.001% of the kids who learn about all these famous history figures will ever become as famous and important as them.

The rest of them (us) (ME) get to be 25, realize they haven’t and never will live up to that bloated sense of what it means to do good, then face a quarter-life crisis, their ideals erode, depression, whining, and all other sorts of first-world-problems ensue.

What if we spent 25-50% of our history classes teaching kids about women and men in their local and state communities? People like:

  • Bob Roepke, former mayor of Chaska, board member of every local nonprofit ever, who has devoted his life to things like education & anti-homelessness / affordable housing, etc., making Chaska a great place to live and raise a family no matter what your income level.
  • Virma Behnke, a cultural liaison for Chaska middle schools who helps struggling minority students to get the support they need at home to succeed in school by working with organizations like Love INC to make sure students have things like beds to sleep in and their parents can find some employment. (Oh, and she’s a mom, too!)

Methinks that perhaps, without robbing our youth of the notion that Abe and Ghandi scale impact is possible, we could also be showing them that even Virma and Bob scale impact is also incredible and powerful and worthy to be the stuff of one’s life.


Disclaimers / Clarification:

  • I — not my elementary school — am responsible for my (bloated) outlook on life and what it means to succeed / meaningfully contribute. I’m not intending to shirk responsibility for this.
  • I am fully aware that I, like so so many, am spewing my opinionated thoughts about how education should work. Dear every teacher/administrator I ever have known: You probably know better than me about how to teach kids to dream well. I’m just thinking out loud, that’s all.
  • “Local” itself isn’t really the point. “Medium scale” is the point. “Attainable by more than 5% of people” is the point. I should probably have added some person who went abroad and did small/medium-scale helpful things too. Meh. You get the point.

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