Gibbon, Peter H(azen) 1942-
GIBBON, Peter H(azen) 1942-
ADDRESSES: Offıce—Harvard Graduate School of Education, Appian Way, Cambridge, MA 02138.
CAREER: Teacher, educational administrator, and writer. Hackley School, Tarrytown, NY, headmaster; Harvard University Graduate School of Education, Cambridge, MA, research associate.
AWARDS, HONORS: Recipient of grants from Japan Foundation, Council on International Education, German Marshall Fund, and National Endowment for the Humanities, all to study the educational systems of Japan, China, and Germany.
SIDELIGHTS: Peter H. Gibbon has spent his entire life devoted to education as a teacher, administrator, and researcher. In addition to the many articles he has written in popular periodicals and professional journals, he has spoken to students, teachers, and general audiences on the passion which is at the heart of his book A Call to Heroism: Renewing the American Vision of Greatness. In preparing this volume, Gibbon interviewed approximately sixty educators, historians, scientists, politicians, and journalists.
As Gibbon toured, he discussed with students the attributes that would raise a person to the status of hero. Among Gibbon's heroes is the usual list of presidents, civil rights activists, and historical figures, but also a number who are unexpected, including educators like Horace Mann and Martha Berry, and artists such as Lucretia Mott. He readily admits that his heroes are not perfect, but he notes that they all are persons "of extraordinary achievement, courage, and greatness of soul." A Publishers Weekly reviewer praised Gibbon's "enthusiasm" for encouraging the idea of heroism, but said his definitions "are subjective and depend on the unlikely chance of our returning to a society like Emerson's in which values are commonly shared."
Ken Gewertz noted in Harvard Gazette that when Charles William Eliot died in 1926, his death was followed the next day by that of silent screen star Rudolph Valentino, the coverage of which totally eclipsed the news that Harvard's longest-serving president had passed away. Gewertz wrote that Gibbon "sees the moment when Valentino's death upstaged Eliot's as a significant one. For him it marks the end of America's reverence for traditional leaders and the beginning of its love affair with celebrities, the point at which the belief took hold 'that to be young and beautiful is better than to be old and wise.'"
Vital Speeches published an address delivered by Gibbon at Hillsdale College on February 8, 1999. Here Gibbon talked about the decline of heroes in film and sports and said that "revisionist historians present an unforgiving, skewed picture of the past. Biographers are increasingly hostile toward their subjects. Social scientists stridently assert that human beings are not autonomous but are conditioned by genes and environment. Hovering in the background is secularism, a complex artistic and literary movement that repudiates structure, form, and conventional values. Finally, in an age of instant communication, in which there is little time for reflection, accuracy, balance, or integrity—the media creates the impression that sleaze is everywhere, that nothing is sacred, that no one is noble, and that there are no heroes."
In a Christian Science Monitor review of A Call to Heroism, Marilyn Gardner reflected on the biographies she and her friends read as a child, from which she learned "the value of persevering against daunting odds in the midst of ridicule, suffering, or failure. About the importance of sincerity, humility, and boldness. In the process, we learned about heroes. Today, heroes have fallen on hard times. . . . 'Hero,' once a silver-dollar word, has been increasingly devalued to nickel-and-dime status."
Gibbon began writing A Call to Heroism long before the World Trade Center catastrophe of September 11, 2001, but the fact that heroes emerged from that disaster emphasizes our need for such men and women. Mark F. Lewis wrote in Tampa Tribune Gibbon's "is a very thought-provoking book. . . . There is no time like the present for all of us to evaluate who our heroes are."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
America, October 28, 2002, Tom O'Brien, review of ACall to Heroism: Renewing the American Vision of Greatness, p. 25.
Christian Science Monitor, July 18, 2002, Marilyn Gardner, review of A Call to Heroism.
Harvard Gazette, August 22, 2002, Ken Gewertz, review of A Call to Heroism.
Publishers Weekly, May 20, 2002, review of A Call toHeroism, p. 56.
Rocky Mountain News (Denver, CO), October 3, 2002, Stephen Millin, review of A Call to Heroism, p. 14D.
Tampa Tribune, August 4, 2002, Mark F. Lewis, review of A Call to Heroism, p. 4.
Vital Speeches, June 15, 1999, Peter H. Gibbon, "The Media and the Loss of Heroes," p. 523.
Winston-Salem Journal (Winston-Salem, NC), May 17, 1999, "The Media and Heroes," p. A8.
Harvard University,http://www.gse.harvard.edu/ (April 25, 2003), "Peter Gibbon."*