I Need a Hero
School is back in session and already the tension is mounting with the first of many projects already looming large. The first assignment?
Famous American Biography Assignment
Read a biography of a famous American. The book must be at least 100 pgs. The subject must be someone who has made a significant contribution and is no longer living. Complete the Biography Notes worksheet thoroughly and neatly.
Draw a portrait of the famous American and label with five adjectives describing him/her. Thoughtful consideration should go into choosing the adjectives and you must be able to give good reasons for your choices. This part will be done in class.
Write a full page (minimum) tribute about this individual, including specific accomplishments, admirable personal qualities, obstacles overcome, etc. This tribute should be typed or written in your best cursive, and be free of grammatical and spelling errors.
Give an oral presentation about the life of this famous American. Pretend you are the person you read about. Tell about “your” contributions, and about “your” life. You will need to rehearse at home and be very prepared. You will only have five minutes for your presentation.
Beernut hands me the instructions for this assignment and excitedly announced his choice for a famous American who had made a “significant contribution”: Sandy Koufax.
FrumeSarah: “Sandy Koufax? Really, Beernut? What did Sandy Koufax do?”
Beernut: “Mo-om! Everyone in the whole world knows that Sandy Koufax didn’t play on Yom Kippur.”
The poor kid has no idea that Sandy Koufax’s athletic accomplishments, such as the speed of his pitches, are what catapulted him to fame. It’s only within our community that he is known first and foremost for taking himself out of the lineup of Game 1 of the 1965 World Series.
FS: “Good news, Beernut. I’ve ordered a 106-page biography on Sandy Koufax and it will be here on Thursday.”
BN: “Uh Mom…I can’t do it on Sandy Koufax. He’s still alive.”
FS: “Are you sure? I really thought he’d died.”
BN: “Yep, I’m sure. Mr. Nakamura told me.”
FS: “It’s OK. We can come up with someone else.”
BN: “Mom, I’ve already done that. I’m going to do my report on…Louis Brandeis.”
FS: “Louis Brandeis?”
BN: “You know…the first Jewish Supreme Court judge.”
FS: “I. Know. Who. He. Is. But Beernut, where the hell did you learn about LOUIS BRANDEIS???”
BN (with eyes rolling): “Religious school.”
FS: “Bad news, Beernut. I can’t seem to find an age-appropriate book on Louis Brandeis. But I know we can come up with someone else. Hey…I have a book that I got as a Chanukah gift when I was just about your age and it’s about a fellow named Haym Solomon.”
BN: “Who was he?”
FS: “Well, he came to America when he was thirty-five years old and was instrumental in helping America gain her freedom from England.”
BN: “He wasn’t born here. He wasn’t American.”
FS: “I think that a good arguement could be made for him given there was no America at the time AND he was responsbile for getting the money the Colonists needed to pay for the war.”
BN: “I’m not sure. How about Papa? He fought in TWO wars.”
FS: “Yes, he did. But I’m not sure Mr. Nakamura would consider that a significant contribution given the thousands and thousands of young men who served in those times.”
BN: “How about King David? He’s definitely dead.”
FS: “He’s not American.”
FS: “You know, Beernut, you don’t have to pick someone Jewish.”
BN: “Yeah, Mom, I do.”
And then I remembered. Remembered what it was like to sit through history classes as a youngster and wonder where I fit into the story. Learning about California state history was like studying a foreign country. My family was still in the shtetls of Eastern Europe. They weren’t anywhere near the El Camino Real, which runs from San Diego up to Sonoma. So to do a report on someone like Levi Strauss writes us back into the story.
For children of ethnic, religious, and cultural minorities, pointing to heroes that look, sound, and act like them is empowering. It send the message of inclusion and belonging. And it sends the message that they too can make significant contributions to our world.
Incidentally, anyone know how Mr. Koufax’s health is these days??