It’s Terry Fox Run time again. Again I am on a campaign to reduce the disproportionate deification of Terry and put his extraordinary run in some kind of historical perspective.
The reason for this is quite simple. Ask any school child “Who is Terry Fox?” They can tell you almost everything about him.
Ask “Who was Sir John A. Macdonald?” and they will give you a blank look and say “Who?”
Ask a school teacher why this is so, and they will say that the teaching of Canadian history begins in Grade 4 and the kids will learn something about Sir John A. at that time. When you argue that if a child can learn about Fox at age six, they can also learn about Macdonald, you’ll be told that Fox is more interesting because he was young like them and he faced a challenge with courage.
Terry Fox, dying of cancer, only had a Canada to run across because Sir John A. Macdonald before him had a vision of a modern nation ‘from sea to shining sea’. Sir John A. Macdonald managed to rise above his own abundant personal tragedies – death of his first child, bedridden wife and her subsequent death, illness of the child of his second marriage, and a personal struggle with alcoholism. He worked long hours for little reward for 50 years in the service of Canada. What fortitude. What courage! What dedication to a cause!
Sir John A. Macdonald was once young too – about Terry’s age he started off his career in law and politics.
And he was just one of many ‘public servants’ whose thankless efforts make this country work.
Yet, the well-financed marketing efforts of the Terry Fox Foundation have made a young man with a desperate dream disproportionately more significant than the work of Sir John A. or the Famous Five Women or any Canadians who created a society of ‘peace, order and good government’.
‘Good government’? Does that make you laugh? I wonder how you think you get good government, if not by good people putting themselves into the harness? That only happens if children learn about our past leaders and history.
So what are we teaching our children with such a disproportionate emphasis on Terry’s short, ill-fated run.
To be media heroes? Dedicated to a personal dream of a desperate nature?
Why aren’t we teaching them about the long haul, the big dream, diplomacy, responsibility to society, or that great things grow from a job well done, every day, for decades?
Sir John gave Terry a country to run across. Terry gave millions hope to heal cancer. One’s effort was slow, meticulous and made a great nation. The other’s was short, sad and has risen to prominence thanks to a multi-million dollar foundation.
Who should have the greater emphasis in school? What are we thinking?