Courage: (noun) mental or moral strength to venture, persevere and withstand danger, fear or difficulty.
Today, the blog features the next one of our core values: courage. As a way of beginning, I’ll share this video clip from one of my favorite movies, The Wizard of Oz.
If the Cowardly Lion from this classic movie doesn’t speak to each of us about this elusive element of character, I don’t know who can. For those of us who respond better to the written word, here’s a transcript of what he says in the clip:
Courage. What makes a King out of a slave? Courage. What makes the flag on the mast to wave? Courage. What makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist or the dusky dusk? What makes the muskrat guard his musk? Courage. What makes the Sphinx the 7th Wonder? Courage. What makes the dawn come up like THUNDER?! Courage. What makes the Hottentot so hot? What puts the "ape" in ape-ricot? What do they got that I ain't got? Courage.
To be sure, we have elevated courage to be something akin to what our friend the Lion speaks about . . . it’s something mammoth, something huge, something almost unattainable. Courage, we seem to believe, is reserved for those among us who are super-human. Being courageous is for “big” people in even “bigger” situations. Lesser lions need not apply.
Maybe not. If the video clip above and the text from the Lion’s speech show and articulate one version of courage, then this famous quote from Mark Twain offers a very different perspective: “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.” As much as I like my friend the Cowardly Lion (and as much as I identify with him!), I think I like Twain’s definition better.
If courage is really about resisting fear, then as a Kindergartener I can demonstrate that value every day when I’m trying to learn to read; as a fifth grader I can show it when I walk down the middle school hallway among bigger and more experienced kids; and as an eighth grader I can embody it during this season of high school admissions.
If courage is really about mastery of fear, then I can show it on the playground when someone is being unkind to me or one of my friends; I can show it as a member of the 8th grade musical when I’m asked to sing a solo on stage for the first time in my life; and I can surely show it as a member of an Odyssey of the Mind team when I’m given a problem to solve that I’ve never seen before.
When our faculty team brought back the core values this summer with courage among them, I was really excited because at its heart this core value is the best combination of Confidence in every Child (our institutional theme), developmentally appropriate risk taking (one of our founding objectives), and critical and creative thinking skills (our emerging focus in the classroom).
Maybe those are the differences between a cowardly lion and a courageous Panther . . .
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