Claim: The best way to understand the character of a society is to examine the character of the men and women that the society chooses as its heroes or its role models.

Reason: Heroes and role models reveal a society’s highest ideals.

Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the claim and the reason on which that claim is based.

The speaker claims that heroes and role models are the best tools for studying a society’s ideals. The claim is based on the assumption that the heroes and role models chosen by a society’s highest-ranking authorities are representative of the ideas held by that society. However, this statement has many flaws.

First, it isn’t easy to define what constitutes a hero. What characteristics should a hero have? Social status? Assertiveness? Morality? Beliefs? The speaker states that heroes are selected by a society that admires their virtues, but what constitutes a virtue? Should a large number of people uphold society’s ideal? The hero’s virtues may change over time as society changes, making the heroes or role models chosen by that society.

Second, it is unclear how heroes and role models are preferred. Does a public vote elect them? Did a dictator create them? Who has the final say? The answer to this question is of the utmost importance, as heroes that are chosen improperly may lead society in the wrong direction.

Third, many heroes and role models are not role models at all. Some of the greatest heroes of history were notorious criminals. There are legitimate explanations for this, such as their defiance of the law or their heroic efforts to save the lives of others. However, they are still criminals, and one cannot compare a fictional hero with a criminal. Heroes, by definition, must lead moral lives. As such, criminals do not have what it takes to teach others. Finally, it isn’t easy to know whether a hero or role model is faithful to his duties. Even if the hero or role model is morally upstanding, there will inevitably come a time when he must make a choice that will affect the lives of others. Should society recognize this? Should the community ever forgive him? These questions are tough to answer, so the hero and role model was chosen may not be the best representatives of society as a whole.

The statement’s assumption appears to be correct at first glance. However, if one were to examine society’s heroes and role models, many of these heroes and role models are likely flawed. The hero must be strong, but is he strong-willed enough to stand up to authority? The hero must be intelligent, but he may not make the most rational decisions. The hero may have faith in God, but he may not believe in the same gods as the rest of the population. The hero must be brave, but does he have the courage to make tough decisions? The hero may be strong, intelligent, and courageous, but is he willing to sacrifice his very life to save another person? The answers to these questions are not easy to find, but they exist. Society’s heroes and role models do not always exemplify the highest ideals of that society. In many cultures, the hero may not be as strong as he needs to be, may not make the most rational decisions, may not believe in God, may not have the courage to face danger, or may not give up his life for others. What society chooses to admire may not necessarily be what it expects from its leaders.

The speaker’s conclusion is correct because one can understand a society by examining the characters of its heroes and role models. However, this statement is overly simplistic. Heroes and role models are chosen, so the heroes and role models chosen may not present the best representation of society as a whole. Society’s heroes and role models may be flawed, so the conclusions one draws from one’s studies may be faulty.