Today's children are constantly being questioned. If I were in charge, I'd worry far more about that than if they are being 'over-tested'. Because children are liars, and because questions, especially those asked by adults to children, are simply insidious tests in and of themselves. And every child knows that. Which is why, from the seemingly innocuous 'what did you do at school today?' to 'who is someone you look up to?', no intelligent child is going to tell the truth. David Gallahue* has been asking children aged 8-11 years old who their hero is since 1993. (Not the same children. That would really reduce the sample size of his survey enormously). His results show that 50% of children surveyed chose sportsmen as their 'hero'. However, when the results were broken down by gender, 43% of girls placed a 'my life' figure as their number 1 hero. (A 'my life' figure is someone who the child actually knows). "The girls were on balance of where I would like to see children be," said Gallahue. Of course they were! They're little girls! Little girls are the most deceptive, manipulative, convincing people around. Even when asked the most innocent of questions, little girls are working the angles. 'What would you like for dinner?' Their Mother asks them. 'Anything,' They reply sweetly. 'All your food is so delicious.' It's the little boys we need to worry about- they're the ones who are naive enough to risk telling the truth. Which is something that David Gallahue is bothered by.
He is upset that "Mom and Dad, plugging away at the daily business of raising a family, seem unappreciated, especially by boys." Look, no matter how much an 8 year old likes their Mother, there's no way 'the daily business of raising a family' counts as an 'heroic activity'. Think of any hero, super or Greek- I can absolutely guarantee that 'putting dinner on the table and supervising teeth-brushing' is nowhere on their list of heroic attributes. The fact that 43% of the little girls gibly told David Gallaghue that either of their parents was their 'Number 1 hero' merely serves to validate my point. Little girls are liars. And tremendously good ones at that.
Of course, Gallaghue reminds us that a paucity of highly-visible female sports figures might also be to blame. (It 'might', but I'm pretty sure these little girls are smart enough to realise that 'anonymous' doesn't apply to children. And that although she's a dab hand with a tennis racket, Maria Sharapova is not the person in charge of pushing back bedtimes to reward good behaviour). However, even lying little suck-up 8 year old girls need heroes. And I don't mean their Mothers. I'd like to suggest Felicity Aston. Felicity is the first (and currently only) woman to ski solo across the Antarctic. She undertook The Kaspersky ONE Trans-Antarctic Expedition this year, a 59 day expedition that covered 1744km. That's nearly 2 months of being completely alone, in one of the world's most inhospitable environments. Nearly 2 months of endless white and silence, skiing without the aid of kites or machines. That's the kind of hero little girls ought to be talking about. They can put their Mother in 2nd place. (And pretend they didn't realise they could use a 'my life' figure to answer the question).
*David Gallahue, Professor of kinesiology and associate dean of academic affairs and research at the Indiana University School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation in Bloomington*