"He is my god!"
"She is my role model. I would do anything to get her autograph."
"I saw XYZ celebrity at the mall. He walked right past me." followed by shrieking in delight.
These kind of statements are not uncommon and they give me the hebee-jeebees. If you are impressed by someone's work, study it. But, why are we so quick to jump from I admire his ability to play cricket, or her acting, to I admire him/her? Even weirder is to mimic a celebrities personal choices, that have nothing to do with their work. Ad agencies really cash in on this. But I don't understand it. Just because I admire the ingenuity that went behind developing the theory of relativity, does not mean I would use the same clothing brand or deodorant Einstein did.
What kids take away from such talk is: "The person is great, and therefore he/she did great things."
While I would want them to think is: "The person did great things, and that made him/her great."
Okay so you blinked twice reading that. If you did please humor me and read it again. The difference between the two sentences is subtle, but very important in the message it sends our kids.
The first way to put it says, only great people can achieve great things. So we should mimic the great people in every way, and may be we will achieve something great too. Believe it or not even those who have accomplished great things are just people and have flaws. Worshipping the person, often implies, even his flaws are acceptable and are to be embraced and that is exactly what many adolescents do. The first way to put it, might also make kids think they will never be great because, being great is requires super human qualities. They may think one is born great, rather than one can become great.
The second way to put it says, have the courage to do something creative and original and you could easily be great too. This makes our kids feel empowered. Original is the keyword here. Most people who have achieved greatness have done so, not by imitating others, but by doing something, new, original, path breaking. So in my opinion, we should encourage our kids to be confident, courageous, creative and original.
Similarly when we quote people like Kalam or Gandhi, it is important to explain the importance of the quote itself. The quote is not valuable because Kalam or Gandhi came up with it. But expressing inspiring, ideas as a result of original thought, is a part of what made them great.
Respect without thought is feeble and meaningless. In my opinion, we should, by example, teach our kids to respect great people for their great work, but not blindly worship them.
Our kids should be brought up to believe that greatness is well with in their reach, if only they will be creative, and stretch a little.