For Ernest Becker and Confucius,

Respect + Cultural Heroism leads to Excellence.

For example, if a cultural community highly esteems through symbols and action those who do a particular activity well (e.g., throwing balls through hoops), then hoop-ball-thrower-throughers will become cultural heroes. Their art will be practiced and supported (people will put up hoops on their homes; schools will organize teams, children will practice long hours at ball-hoop-throwing), and that culture is likely to produce the best hoop-ball-thrower-throughers in theworld.

So, if you want excellence in an activity like education, the culture needs to respect those involved in the activity (students and teachers).

For more expanation and longer presentations of this see Ernest Becker's Birth and Death of Meaning (and my Educating Heroes).

Michael Kagan, Le Moyne College (, [last edited, November 9, 2017]

Group work:  Break up into small groups. Delegate one or more members of your group to prepare an oral and written summary of your group's discussion. Make sure every member of your group has a copy of the responses.  If you were not present in class for this exercise, I recommend you complete it (in less than 1 page) as a typed assignment.

What, in your experience, are the kinds of excellence that are supported and demonstrated in your community/communities/culture(s)?

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