The Book of Heroes: Great Men and Women in American History

Article excerpt

The Book of Heroes: Great Men and Women in American History by George Roche, with Lissa Roche Regnery Publishing, Inc. * 1998 * 239 pages $24.95

Reviewed by Burton Folsom

George Roche, the president of Hillsdale College, and his daughter-in-law, Lissa Roche, have crafted The Book of Heroes, which includes biographies of George Washington, Daniel Boone, Louisa May Alcott, George Washington Carver, Robert E. Lee, and Andrew Carnegie. These six biographical sketches, about 40 pages each, are fascinating life stories of courage, perseverance, and achievement.

The Roches' target audience is high-school students, but I learned from this book and other adults will, too. It is well written and the stories are dramatic and uplifting.

Some will think it odd that George Roche-college president, history Ph.D., and expert on Frederic Bastiat and on trends in higher education-is writing biographies for high-school students. But this book goes to the core of our national debate on what to teach and how best to teach it. Education is not merely the accumulation of facts. It also includes training in values and moralitywhat is right and wrong, and how to do what is right when the pressure is on.

Our Western ancestors, the ancient Greeks and Romans, took moral training seriously. They concluded that well-chosen stories were the best way to teach right and wrong-and also the best way to instill wisdom and courage, so that their young people would have the will to keep their societies strong, just, and prosperous. The Iliad and "Horatius at the Bridge" are two examples of stories that modeled courage, loyalty, and wisdom for youths in the ancient world. Jesus, in spreading the gospel message, also chose stories and parables to illustrate his teaching.

In the United States, for much of our history, we have followed the Greek and Roman pattern. The New England Primer and especially McGuffey's Readers helped train generations of children with stories of how people under pressure acted with courage and virtue. Public education in the last 30 years has failed, in part at least, because it has removed moral training through storytelling. …