Indeed, we mustn't ignore the capacity for nurturing that part of the mind that dominates in action and flourishes among the confusion of getting things done. The realm of theory and contemplation is rightly a space where doctores universales “savor that inner and almost mysterious bond between...classical philology and a lively loving eye for man's beauty and the dignity of his reason;” but, we must all at some point turn our thoughts to action.
I have little need to restate the fact that the models of antiquity will continue to help shape action in the modern world. I do, however, have responsibility to stress that the teachers in our community and of our children shoulder the onus to make their students aware of the kingdom of history's great characters.
Exempla are everywhere, ethically ambiguous at times, but present all the same for educators to present their students. What happens next depends much on the student's powers of discernment. As a single example, Alexander the Great had outsized ambition and an equally swollen ego. We hope our students emulate the former, mitigate the latter. But that is for them to decide through their own educational evolution. They must see their way to what is right often over the footpaths of selfishness, expressions of power, uncertainty, and even cruelty. A teacher informed by history and schooled in philology can offer guidance, but guidance only. In the end, students advance on their own: soli discipuli postremo progrediuntur.
What we must avoid at all costs are saccharine models of behavior—men and women stripped of their impulses, passions and modeled before our students solely for their goodness, grandeur, or magnanimity. This is deception, providing only one side of the coin of history's characters* and denying our children and students opportunity to exercise their own powers judgment.
Aristotle wrote in his Nichomachean Ethics that it is no easy task to find the middle ground between extremes of behavior, but this doesn't mean we shouldn't try. We may sometimes need to see Lycurgus justly leading men; other moments may demand of us to look critically at Cato the Elder's xenophobia. But we must always inquire, look deep, and investigate the vagaries of history with minds trained by the full spectrum of the humanities.
*a suitable metaphor here, as the original meaning of character, (< GR. χᾰρακτήρ) means something like “distinctive mark,” “stamped impression.” There are numismatic overtones.