I am now hard at work on that Teenage Heroes in Greek Myth course for 5th to 7th graders, and considering all the possibilities thereunto pertaining. The editor wants me to make sure there is a theoretical base for all the content, which will mean grouping lessons into units with universal titles, such as The Hero, Hope, and such like.
Photo: The goddess Iris pays a visit to suburbia.
So I have been kicking around universal titles for units, and one that popped out today was Choices and Responsibility.
Well, I thought. That might work.
The first lesson in that unit pairs Achilles and Paris, gigantic presences in the Trojan War, the former on the Greek side, the latter on the Trojan. They both play pivotal roles in the lives of many both in the Iliad and in the story of the Trojan War writ large. And they construct the conditions for those roles in their teenage years.
Achilles begins his life in the court of his father, King Peleus of Phthia (don't try to pronounce it). He is the son of Peleus and the sea-goddess Thetis. His mom knows that Achilles is destined to die in a great war, and so she hides him as a young teen in the women's quarters of a household. While in that household Achilles manages to have a son, Neoptolemus, so he isn't exactly playing the woman's role to the hilt. But he grows up in a situation that is just the opposite of a normal ancient Greek teen boy's life. And when he is given the choice (that word) as to whether he wants to live a long and quiet life or a short and glorious one, he chooses glory.
And that means not only death at Troy, but death for a huge number of people he kills, plus the death of his best friend Patroclus.
Paris, for his part, begins life without knowing who he is. His mother, Queen Hecuba of Troy, has a dream while pregnant with Paris that she gives birth to a torch that destroys the city. So she sends Paris away as a baby, and he is raised by a shepherd. As a young man, before he takes a wife and has any responsibility (that word) for a household, the god Hermes comes to him with a choice (the first word again).
Here's a golden apple. Give it to one of the three goddesses who appears most beautiful to you.
Paris' choice of Aphrodite, who rewards him with Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world, triggers a firestorm. All the hundreds of Greek chiefs who were after her before she was married to Menelaus agreed to go after any guy who took her away from Menny.
So the adolescent choices of these heroes affect the lives of thousands upon thousands.
That's the short version. So, okay. Will it be an exciting thing for gifted 5th to 7th graders to see that the choices one makes when young can radiate out with unimaginable consequences?
Or will it just seem like another preachy adult telling them to stay off drugs, booze, and sex?
I showed the summary of a lesson to my son, who has a level head on his shoulders about these things. He asked, "What grade level is this going to be for?"
"5th to 7th graders," I said, hoping against hope that he would say it was appropriate and would be interesting.
"Good," he said. "Seems like, once you get up to eighth or ninth grade, no one wants to read anymore. I mean, I know a guy who said he has one book in his room. One."
I would say God help the younger generation. But I think God needs to do something about the neurotic teachers first.