“Dragons and Giants” from Frog an..
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What does it mean to be brave?
Frog and Toad have been reading stories about brave people who fight dragons and giants. To prove that they are brave, Frog and Toad set off to climb a mountain. On their climb, they encounter many dangers: a snake, a hawk, and an avalanche. As they run back to Toad’s house, they keep saying that they are not scared. But are they? And would being scared mean they weren’t brave? Address these questions and more with Frog and Toad!
Stop-animation film of the story
Read aloud video by The Reading Booth
Guidelines for Philosophical Discussion
Our society puts tremendous value on any number of given characteristics. Courage and bravery are two of these values that are often emphasized as positive traits: we are told that they lead to strength and success. However, courage and bravery are not clear-cut, and can be defined in several ways. Multiple definitions can lead to confusion, a sense of failure, and poor decision-making. We need to examine our definitions of courage and bravery in order to explore the multitude of ways that one can exhibit these qualities. By doing this, we can gain a sense of contribution and achievement.
The first set of questions deals with the appearance of someone who is brave. Some people may attribute certain characteristics to someone who is brave – for instance, muscles or other signs of physical strength. Other people may focus on the individual’s stance – for instance, straight posture, strong eye contact, confident gait, or anything that indicates that the person feels self-assured. Some people, however, may argue that one can be brave without looking any different, and may even look less confident! These people may put greater emphasis on the individual’s actions, words, and behavior rather than appearance.
The second set of questions deals with how we define bravery and courage. Some people believe that to be brave means to never back down or to be fearless and ready to do anything. Others disagree and argue that such a mindset can be reckless and unproductive. They may insist that being brave and courageous means to not let others dictate your actions or define your values. Instead, being brave might be choosing for yourself how you want to live, which battles you want to fight, or how you will react to various situations. These people consider blatant daredevilry and unquestioned recklessness to actually indicate a level of weakness. It is much easier to go with the crowd than it is to stand up for yourself and stick to your own decisions. Furthermore, some may insist that bravery is not something you can go out and find. Rather, we display courage by handling situations to the best of our ability, remaining true to ourselves, and making decisions that are both thoughtful and right for us.
The last three sets of questions explore additional qualities of bravery. Some people believe that we can only be brave if others identify us as such. Others place emphasis on an individual’s self-perception. Furthermore, some people feel that to be brave, we must not exhibit any signs of fear. Still others argue that feeling fear does not detract from bravery. Instead, it could even make the person braver, showing just how hard being brave can be. It also may be necessary for someone to take a moment to regather their nerves.
It is important to explore the notion of bravery and courage, and it is useful to see how there can be several variations and aspects to the definition. We all want to be contributing members of society and lead meaningful lives. It is important to instill in people a feeling of self-worth and value. By gaining a deeper understanding of our own thinking and the thinking of others, we can become stronger individuals and a stronger community, valuing the bravery of every member, regardless of what form that bravery takes.
Questions for Philosophical Discussion
Frog and Toad look in a mirror to see if they are brave. Frog says they look brave. Toad asks if they really are brave.
- How do you look when you are brave?
- Do you stand or walk in a special way?
- Do some people look brave all the time?
- Do some people look brave some of the time?
- Do you have to be doing something frightening to look brave?
- So, how could Frog and Toad tell whether they looked brave?
The nature of bravery
Frog says that trying to climb a mountain should tell him and Toad whether or not they are brave.
- Does doing something that is hard show that you are brave?
- Are there other ways to show that you are brave?
- Does doing something that is dangerous show that you are brave? What if someone makes you do it?
- What if you’re doing something dangerous and you don’t know that it is dangerous?
- Can you be brave while doing something easy or safe?
Perception of bravery
In the story, Toad says that he is not afraid.
- How does Toad know this?
- How do you know when you’re being brave?
- Can you be brave and not recognize it until somebody points it out?
- Can other people tell if you are being brave?
- Is it possible that you might think you are brave and be wrong?
- Can you be brave and not look brave to others?
- Can you look brave to other people and not be brave?
Bravery and fear
When the snake tries to eat Frog and Toad, they jump away and Toad starts shaking.
- Were Frog and Toad being brave even though they jumped away?
- What else could they have done?
- Is it ever brave to run away from something dangerous?
- Was Toad brave even though he was shaking with fear?
- Does being scared when you face danger show that you aren’t really brave?
- Is it possible to be brave and afraid at the same time?
Understanding bravery and time
When Frog and Toad get back to Toad’s house, Toad jumps into bed and pulls the cover up over his head. Frog jumps into the closet and shuts the door.
- Does hiding under the covers or in the closet show that you were not brave?
- Do even very brave people need some time to recover from the feelings involved in doing something scary?
- Does a brave person have to be brave all of the time?
- What does it mean to be brave?
Original questions and guidelines for philosophical discussion by Gareth B. Matthews archived here. Revised by Marissa Saltzman. Edited June 2020 by The Janet Prindle Institute for Ethics.
Find tips for leading a philosophical discussion on our Resources page.
Ask the students to draw someone they think is brave and/or describe why the person is brave.
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