He was an average student, but was a bold child

AitazazI am touched by the story of Aitazaz Hassan Bangash who sacrificed his life to prevent a terrorist attack at his school in Pakistan. Here is an excerpt from the story on CNN:

A 14-year-old boy is being hailed as a hero in Pakistan for tackling a suicide bomber — dying at the main gate of his school and saving schoolmates gathered for their morning assembly.

Ninth-grader Aitazaz Hassan Bangash was on his way to the Ibrahimzai School on Monday in the Hangu district of northern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province when the bomber, dressed in a school uniform, asked him where the school was, the teen’s cousin told CNN.

Aitazaz and his cousin, Musadiq Ali Bangash, became suspicious, Musadiq said. “The other students backed off, but Aitazaz challenged the bomber and tried to catch him. During the scuffle, the bomber panicked and detonated his bomb,” he said.

I find it interesting what Aitazaz’s teacher said of him:

He was an average student, but was a bold child.

Why must Aitazaz’s boldness be prefaced with the revelation that he was an average student? Are only above average students expected to be extraordinary? Let me clarify that I am not blaming his teacher; I am merely illustrating how ingrained academic achievement is in our assessment of people.

In the moment of crisis Aitazaz proved that he was not an average individual. Aitazaz was bold, and it was his boldness that saved the lives of over 400 of his peers.

As a society we are obsessed with smart people. In our love affair with being smart, have we overlooked other traits that are arguably more valuable than dominating a standardized test?

Perhaps part of the legacy of Aitazaz can be that it prompts us to reconsider the merit of using academic achievement to define and predict future success.