I wrote yesterday about our open house at the English Department at West Point every fall during the Plebe-Parent Weekend.  During the open house, the plebes (freshmen) would bring their parents by to meet their instructors in each of the academic departments.  As I noted yesterday, most of the visits were  pleasant, but every once in a while, there would be the indignant parent who would want to argue with an instructor over why the cadet was receiving such low or mediocre grades.  The answer to that question in any department would have been easy to provide by simply asking the cadet to produce their error-ridden papers or tests, and going point-by-point over the problems with the student’s work.  In the English Department, especially, most or all of us would make copious amounts of very specific comments based on our four areas of writing evaluation:  substance, organization, style, and correctness.  Most of us would even list the specific page numbers in one of our course textbooks, the Little-Brown Handbook, where that particular error was discussed in detail along with exercises to teach the student how to identify and correct those errors. 

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), however, we were not permitted to respond to the misguided parent in kind.  As per department policy, we would merely take the brief abuse patiently, listening respectfully, then immediately and politely direct that parent to discuss the subject with our department head.  Our department head was very capable in dealing with such encounters.  He was a full colonel with over 30 years in the Army, a Ph.D. from a top university, at least a couple of decades teaching English to thousands of cadets, and he was well-versed in dealing with difficult, misguided, or even delusional people.  Of course, after we had directed the parent to our boss, that was always the last we would hear about the subject.  We would not hear from the parent again, and we would not hear from the department head who did not take the situation seriously, recognizing that this was merely the sign of an overprotective, perhaps excessively prideful, parent who was not willing to relinquish control of a child and let him or her grow up.

Such occasionally delusional parents or cadets mentioned previously, just like the delusional American Idol contestants, were victims of their own excessive pride.  The Greeks had a word for it:  hubris.  Hubris is extreme pride or arrogance and “often indicates a loss of contact with reality and an overestimation of one's own competence, accomplishments, or capabilities…” (from Wikipedia).  In the Greek tragedies, a person with hubris is always in for a big, dramatic, and tragic fall.  That was Achilles’ main flaw in the Iliad, if you’ve read Homer’s Iliad, written in 800 B.C., or seen the 2004 movie Troy, starring Brad Pitt as the legendary warrior Achilles.  While Achilles would be permitted in ancient Greek culture to take revenge on Hector for the killing of his beloved cousin Patroclus, he went way beyond revenge by afterwards dragging Hector’s dead body behind his chariot across the Trojan plain in front of the city walls.  He committed this despicable crime, the repeated desecration of Hector’s dead body, apparently, for the impact that it would have on the horrified Trojan people as they viewed this gruesome display from the walls of Troy. 


We continue with this topic tomorrow.  I pray that God would bless your day with His Truth, Love, Joy, Power, and Wisdom.


 


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I often follow your blogs. The themes you select for writing are always inspiring. Keep inspiring and sharing the articles as usual.

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    I'm a retired soldier, having spent 23 years of my life serving our country, actually 30 years when you count the reserve and National Guard time as well.  I believe in servant leaders, following the example of our Lord, and I believe in giving back to the troops once one has attained a certain status or level of success in life.  But I also believe in fighting back against corruption and incompetence wherever you find it if it hurts people.  Our national values were worth dying for.  They are also worth living for.  A man or woman can actually live a life by these principles of humility, service, love, duty, and honor, and have a significant impact on the world around them...if you have the dedication to see it through. 

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