Working World: Careers in International Education, Exchange, and Development

By Sherry L. Muller; Mark Overmann | Go to book overview

Chapter 3
The Value of Mentors
Several stories regarding the origins of the word mentor exist. The two most common have elements familiar to many people:
1. In Greek mythology, when Odysseus left to fight in the Trojan War, he entrusted his son, Telemachus, to his friend and adviser, Mentor. In looking after Telemachus in Odysseus' absence, Mentor's duties required that he be a role model, a father figure, an adviser, a guardian, a counselor, and an encourager; in other words, a “mentor.”
2. In 1689 the French writer Francois Fénelon was appointed royal tutor to Louis XIV's grandson, the duke of Burgundy. In 1699 Fénelon wrote his most famous work, Les Adventures de Telemaque, which was both a continuation of the story of The Odyssey and a thinly veiled attack on the absolutism of Louis XIV. Using Les Adventures de Telemaque, with its main character named Mentor, as a primary text, Fénelon “mentored” his young pupil to grow up to become a just and fair ruler, unlike his grandfather.

A third tale regarding the origins of the word, perhaps more farfetched but certainly intriguing, also exists:

3. “La Grotte de Niaux is a prehistoric cave located high in the Pyrenees in southern France. After walking through silent and womblike stillness, a visitor emerges into a large, domed space filled with paintings estimated to have been created somewhere between 12,000 and 9,000 BC. While most of the paintings depict horses and bison, there is one theme that is repeated in many places. These paintings show a group of men taking children to what, at that time, was considered the edge or end of their physical world. The men exhort the children to be brave and expand their reach beyond the

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