10/1/10

Goddess of the Week: Athena

Helmeted Athena holding the snake Erichthonios...Image via WikipediaPattiwag wants a goddess for teachers. What a good idea! If you're going for anything having to do with education, you're going to have to recken with Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom.

Athena was born in full adult form. She just popped out of her father Zeus's head. That's why she is so smart: it was all that in utero brain action.

All the really smart heroes looked to Athena for guidance: She helped Perseus beat Medusa. She helped Odysseus beat the Cyclops. She rewards cleverness with success and sheer brute strength with contempt. So she's definitely a gal a teacher would want on her side.

But to be honest with you, I wouldn't want her for a teacher. You know she'd play favorites. She'd always give what my younger daughter calls "the usual geniuses" all the perks. They'd get to listen to the Sirens sing. They'd get to relax at feasts. Which is all very good when you're a usual genius. But if fate -- or an absurdly discriminatory GATE policy-- has declared that you are not a usual genius, it's like eating slops, which is exactly what Odysseus's men had to do when they were turned into pigs. If you are not a usual genius, your name won't be called at the quarterly "Usual Genius" assembly, you will not be given a "usual genius" discount card that you can use at local businesses, you will not be invited to join the Knowledge Bowl or the Geography Bowl or the "Usual Genius" club. If you are not a usual genius, you will not get accolades or proud smiles from Athena. You will not be asked to collect her homework or read her epic poems aloud in class. You will definitely not get advice on beating the Minatour. And good look with Medusa-- the woman will turn you to stone with just one look.

So yes, teachers may do well by channeling a little Athena-- and so might usual geniuses. But the rest of us might do better to just avert our eyes from snake-haired women. Also, it never hurts to study.

Channel this goddess: if you are a teacher. You'll want wisdom to mold those fresh, young minds. But remember, use your power for good, not evil. One doesn't have to be declared a usual genius to become one.

Need a goddess: I got goddesses! Post a comment and I will see what I can find.
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20 comments:

Desiree said...

Too many thoughts crowd the feeble mind here! A perfect choice, because a teacher MUST be wise, and just, and a warrior! A Bodhisattva warrior. And if she plays favorites, well, dammit, she's neither wise nor just.

I love that Tony Danza's going to perform as a teacher for a year. Thousands of people already are doing it, and he gets his series.
Bitter? Is there something about Athena that promotes bitterness?

Deb said...

Hooray. A post by Margaret in my Google Reader...

Super cool story, and I love that you used your daughter's coined phrase. I for one was NOT a usual genius so I can relate. ;o)

Jean Spitzer said...

A wise choice. and I too love the phrase "usual geniuses."

(Strangely, being teacher's pet isn't all that great, either.)

Joanne said...

Well you know, they say we should never stop learning in life. So Athena seems like a good goddess to channel from time to time for a bit of wisdom in our days. Our life teacher maybe.

altadenahiker said...

I won't tell anyone you're an ordinary genius. Our secret.

Petrea said...

I think (at least I hope), once we're grown, the "usual genius" problem goes away and we're all on the same level. But when we're kids it's a terrible injustice. Some teachers, parents, other kids, etc. play favorites and it's hard on those chosen as well as those not chosen. "Usual genius" kids get a false picture of what their future's going to be.

I love that you mentioned this subject, Margaret. I think it's fascinating.

And I finally, finally have the best word verification ever: "hydra."

Shell Sherree said...

The harder I study, the luckier I get. Or something like that...

... daisy... said...

Whoa... every time I hear about Athena I have to think of her birth... it must have been a quite painful birth... ;-)
I'm sure no hangover in the entire world would match the pain... well... :-D
Seriously now. Too much intelligence is likely to turn into arrogance and ostentation... or maybe it's because they only think that they're intelligent that they become arrogant? Well... tricky business... I think I wouldn't like to know everything... it would be boring... nothing to learn, no curiosity... mmm... true what you say in the end... it never hurts to study!

Pasadena Adjacent said...

My favorite

TheChieftess said...

I think I like Athena!!!

Linda Dove said...

'The usual geniuses' is so much better than 'the beautiful people' from my school days. I might have to put it in a poem. With credit, of course. :)

phoebat said...

do the 'usual geniuses' get rewarded so we'll all want to emulate them? or is it just out of spite? anyway... excellent read... genius really :)

Margaret said...

Dez: You are right, naturally. Tony Danza: I have to say, I'm kind of curious.

Petrea: You do have the best WV!

Linda: Go ahead and use it in a poem. I've already used it in a story.

Phoebat: You really have me thinking. I'm not sure why they do it. What do you think?

Cafe Pasadena said...

Maybe eye missed it but who is this Goddess of Wisdom for, MF? I know it's not for me since I already have wisdom. I'm still waiting for the Macaron Goddess.

phoebat said...

re: to margaret. just my 2 cents, not necessarily comprehensive or accurate. some possibilities for reasons why the spoils continually go to those who've already been rewarded in the game of life: it's easier to call attention to and like a 'winner'; being correct in school is socially acceptable and that is usually what's rewarded in school; a student who is thriving reflects success back at the teacher even if simply the result of genetic intelligence; the [perhaps misguided} notion that by praising the successful kids those who aren't will want to emulate them.

TheChieftess said...

A good teacher recognizes the successes of all his/her students...

Patrizzi Intergalactica said...

"She just popped out of her father Zeus's head."

I'll never get over that.

I always thought I was the dumbest kid in class. My mind was always wandering.

Do you have a goddess for that?

Petrea Burchard said...

A guy I knew once told me this story: he was flunking in his junior year at a catholic high school. He had always been told wasn't smart.

One of the nuns took him aside one day and said, "I don't know who ever told you you weren't intelligent, but they're wrong. You're smart enough to get A's in every class."

For some reason, he believed her. He started to ace his classes.

I knew him in college, where he was an engineering student. He went on to do well in business. (His personal life is another story. But then again, he never asked for a goddess.)

Margaret said...

Phoebat: I think you are probably right. It's so hard to be a teacher and to know what will motivate people. I know most teachers are just doing their best, but it frustrating to see this sort of in-class tracking.

Patrizzi: I'll get you one.

Jessica: I saw this movie a week ago. I thought it was very true and very sad. I hope it sparks a movement.

gaelikaa said...

She's quite the feminist icon, Athene. The wise, warrior goddess. I prefer her to Aphrodite any day!