Training Young Heroes in the Present Crisis


I just finished teaching military history in a homeschool co-op. The last day was devoted to the topic of masculinity: what it is and how it relates to war. At the last minute, I tore up my notes and rewrote my class plan in response to some reading I found.

The students were 11 boys, ages 13-17.

The old plan started with a discussion of courage based on a reading from Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield, which gives a fictional account of the Battle of Thermopylae. We had previously covered Christian just war theory and I thought a bit of pagan philosophy would be an interesting contrast.

In the revised plan, I covered Gates of Fire just enough to plant the word “courage” in my students’ brains. Then I pivoted to a blog post from Scientific American about the innate tendencies in male and female personalities. Notably, men tend to be more assertive and risk-tolerant. This should be a mundane observation but of course, it is not in today’s world.

Then I pivoted to Richard Hanania’s article “Why Is Everything Liberal?” He answers the question by showing the extreme imbalance between liberal and conservative political engagement.  Basically, liberals are vocal and eager to spend money on political causes. He said that conservatives are either apathetic (the unflattering view) or simply saner (since political action correlates with poor mental health). I’d add that conservatives devote their time and treasure to religion whereas for liberals politics is their religion.

I was reluctant to introduce partisan political considerations into the class, so I asked the boys to think of “liberal” as meaning “woke.” I should mention I am, almost certainly, the most liberal (heh) person in that class. All these boys are extremely comfortable sharing the opinions on politics (and on every other conceivable topic, but never mind) and the dominant political attitude is semi-ironic pro-Trumpism. It is what one mom described as a “lively” class. I much prefer that to its opposite.

Then, speaking quickly as my 65 minutes ran out, I pivoted once again to Strauss-Howe Generational Theory.

That squeaking noise I hear is many of you rolling your eyes. But I believe SHGT, at least in its broad outline of rise and fall, is undeniably true. SHGT says each up and down cycle of history is divided into four “turnings” of 20-25 years each. Significantly, a cohort is most shaped by the turning in which they come of age, i.e., are young adults. The four turnings are:

The HIGH: Society is unified and confident. Institutions are strong. Individualists are marginalized. The young adults in this turning are ARTISTS.

The AWAKENING: Prominent voices are dissatisfied and look to new philosophies and religious experiences. The young adults are PROPHETS.

The UNRAVELING: Society fragments. Institutions are weak and individualists push society in a multitude of directions. The young adults are NOMADS.

The CRISIS: War, revolution, and natural disasters destroy the order established in the previous High. A new High gestates amid the chaos. The young adults are HEROES.

Even if you don’t know SHGT, you hardly need to be told that the last High was the 1950s and that we are presently deep into the Crisis foretold. Okay, but what does that have to do with military history and masculinity?

My modest contribution to SHGT is to describe each turning in terms of its neglected virtue:




A CRISIS needs ____________

In the class handout, I left the last virtue blank, just as you see here. Based on what we had discussed, and to my great satisfaction, my boys had no trouble filling in the blank: Today’s CRISIS needs young warriors willing to engage a chaotic, hostile culture as HEROES possessing the virtue COURAGE.

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There are 8 comments.

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  1. Stina Member

    I want your lesson plan!!! Is it written out anywhere? I’d love to use it and pass it to another homeschooling group.

    • #1
  2. Fredösphere Inactive

    Stina (View Comment):

    I want your lesson plan!!! Is it written out anywhere? I’d love to use it and pass it to another homeschooling group.

    I’d be glad to share it. Let me assemble my materials, and I’ll post links in a later comment.

    • #2
  3. JoelB Member

    I would have said that we are still in the unravelling, but on the brink of the crisis. May the boys of today become the heroes with the courage that will be needed in the time of crisis. It sounds like you got your point across well.

    • #3
  4. Fredösphere Inactive

    Those who want to see my class plan can start by logging into Google classroom and joining the class. Then, you should go to the class’ Google Docs folder for full access to the documents. The folder would let you copy and adapt all the assignments, which are Google Forms. You will also see the answers to the questions, which you won’t get by joining the class. There you can also see two other important documents, the Class Plan, which contains my plans for the discussion in each session, and the Weekly Lesson Plans 2020, a spreadsheet that shows all the external links used.

    As you might imagine, all notes were written solely for myself, so some things will be cryptic. Expect a fair amount of work for anyone adapting the class for their own use. However, I will say the class is extremely popular with students and one of the most profoundly satisfying experiences of my life.

    A few more things: the class is created for two semesters of 12 weeks, plus a January break where the older students wrote papers.

    I’ve taught the class twice now to a total of 17 students. My students were guided by high-commitment parents and generally way above average in alertness and conscientiousness. The class was aimed for high school but I had some 7th and 8th graders who did well. I’ve never been a professional teacher and I honestly have no idea how it compares in difficulty to classes in public or private high schools.

    I never had a girl who expressed interest in the class. The entire dynamic of the class was strongly influenced by the all-male dynamic.

    Much of the class is designed around “May Madness”, a tournament of the 16 most consequential battles in history. Studying those battles takes up maybe two thirds of the class. Students vote on the winners and this prompts the most lively class debates. The male love of assertive arguing finds its full flower (heh, stupid metaphor) in these discussions. My greatest triumph as a teacher were those times where the students would take off, arguing fiercely among themselves on the relevant topic and I just sat back and watched. A glorious experience, and one I suspect many public school teachers never experience.

    The other major subjects of the class are a reading of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War and a study of Christian just war theory. (Update: I should also add: select readings from John Keegan’s A History of Warfare.)

    Anyone who wants to adapt my class will have plenty of questions and I’d be happy to answer them as they come up.

    • #4
  5. CACrabtree Coolidge

    Fantastic concept and I take my boonie hat off to you, your students and especially your students’ parents.

    With the dumbed down curriculum in today’s high schools, it’s refreshing to see kids who are being challenged with some unvarnished history.

    My congratulations, Sir!  Well done!

    • #5
  6. Stina Member

    Thank you for the link. I joined the class :)

    • #6
  7. David Foster Member
    David Foster

    “The CRISIS: War, revolution, and natural disasters destroy the order established in the previous High. A new High gestates amid the chaos. The young adults are HEROES.”

    That formulation seems to suggest that the Crisis will be resolved (by those young adult Heroes) in a single generation….but aren’t very long timespans, both for the Unraveling and for the Crisis, more typical?


    • #7
  8. navyjag Coolidge

    Good work. Sounds like some ROTC classes I took 54 years ago.

    • #8
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