Friday, October 14, 2005

Mrs. Huntsman's Great Self-Esteem Campaign

For those who don't live in Utah and haven't seen these billboards, there have been lots of billboards put up, which depict a clothing label boldly emblazoned with a single derogatory word such as "Freak" or "Failure". This week the labels are being torn away to reveal billboards encouraging people, particularly teens, not to label others or themselves.

This whole thing is the brainchild of Mary Kay Huntsman, the wife of Utah governor Jon Huntsman, who wants the ad campaign to boost the self-esteem of our youth. And while the Deseret News speaks of it in glowing terms, I can't help but wonder: isn't there anything better for Utah's First Lady to be doing?

I mean, self-esteem is nice and all, but I've found that I get much more personal growth from learning how to keep my chin up in the face of the names others call me than I do from being coddled and told how wonderful I am. Sure, we all need that kind of stroking from time to time. But is it really the obligation of everybody around us to provide that for us?

This seems especially wasteful at a time when Utah schools are, as always, looking for more funds. Contrary to popular belief, increased self-esteem does not boost academic performance-- that's why U.S. students suck eggs at math and can scarcely speak their own native tongue, but rank highest in the world in inflated self-image. If Mrs. Huntsman wants to help the youth of our state to succeed, maybe she should start by, you know, actually getting them an education.

Aren't there more pressing issues in our state that are more deserving the First Lady's attention? Isn't there real child abuse out there? Aren't there diseases going undiagnosed? How about that staple of First Lady Issues, literacy? If literacy is just too jejune or doesn't currently need any help, may I suggest numeracy? As far as I know, no First Lady has ever taken up the banner of math education, and believe me, it is desperately needed.

Mrs. Huntsman isn't doing any harm with her silly ad campaign, but she could sure as hell do better.