My son informs me that Gedolim Album II is out (Gedolim Strike Back?), which has gotten some comment in the blogosphere. My 2 cents on the matter is that this is pure shtick , a waste, and sends the wrong message. I won't even discuss the choice of who is on the cards, but will just take as a given that these are really the "gedolim" we want kids to emulate. Even so, I don't see the value. The reason why these cards are put out is simple. Everyone knows boys like baseball cards. So why not redirect the collecting habit toward "gedolim" instead of the Yankees? The message is that our heroes are not Mariano Rivera or Derek Jeter, but R' Elyashiv and R' Shteinman. So where is the downside?
The reason a kid wants a Mariano Rivera or Derek Jeter card is because unless he has been living in a cave the past 5 years, he knows Mariano is the best closer is baseball and Jeter comes through with the 110% effort in the clutch. And if you need reminding, the back of the card gives you the stats year by year, and sometimes you get a bit of trivia too. What does my son know of R' Elyashiv or R' Shteineman other than that they have black hats and long beards? Can he say over any Torah from them? A chiddush that really impressed him? Absolutely not. He has a completely superficial non-appreciation of what a gadol is - a man in a long white beard and black hat.
I am not anti-gadol veneration. I revere R' Chaim Brisker even though I have seen maybe 1 or 2 pictures of him in my life and have none hanging on my wall. That veneration comes from being exposed to R' Chaim's thinking and developing an appreciation for it. When I am learning a sugya b'iyun, my thought process (hopefully!) seeks out an approach that I feel emulates R' Chaim on some level. It's not the same as just looking at the card of Mariano Rivera - it's like holding the ball like Mariano, trying to imitate the windup of Mariano, trying to learn a cutter to be like Mariano, etc. My BIL once wrote a humorous essay on the different darchei halimud of Brisk, Telz, etc. It's like knowing who is a power pitcher vs. a knuckleballer, etc. Each player is valuable because you appreciate the nuance each one brings to the game. It is true that I have a job and am not sitting in Bais Medrash all day, but my antenna have not picked up "torah" from R' Shteineman the way "torah" of the Brisker Rav has permeated every Bais Medrash. My son has cards, but he can't tell me a chiddush of any of these gedolim. He does not appreciate the thought process of any of them. All he sees is hats, beards, and frocks, and they all look the same. What is being reinforced? Conformity and superficiality.
On a different critical note, (perhaps my wife http://kallahmagazine.com/WordPress/ will do her own posting on this), what inspiration can my 3 daughters draw from gedolim cards? Are there any role models for women to look at and aspire to emulate???