RE: School and Cosmetics
Wed, 23 Oct 1996 18:12:16 -0400

As a fellow middle school teacher, I would like to express that I too have
observed this phenomenon. I agree that it is societally linked, and it is a
classroom management problem; however, I was also a teenager obsessed with
how I looked (how many are not?), yet I managed to achieved in Math and
Science, even sleeping in rollers every night. There were days I threatened
to stay home if my hair didn't work out, yet I still won Best of Fair in the
State Science Fair and competed at the International Science and Engineering

However, I think I obssessed about hair, make-up, and dress so much because
"smarts" wasn't something that I had esteem issues about--I had (and to be
honest still have) huge esteem issues about looks. I always wonder how I
would have grown up if people always told me how pretty I was rather than how
smart I was? Would I have worked as hard at being smart? I don't think so
because looks are what is valued--which is why, even satisfied with my
intelligence, I still felt inadequate.

I am an average-looking person, and luckily I photograph well, but at almost
thirty I still have issues about appearance. Teachers focusing on how
intelligent I was didn't make them go away--I really think society is the
only thing that can. Could we see a day when the Homecoming King and Queen
are the students with the highest GPA? Or would that be just as destructive?

I guess what I's saying is it is extremely beneficial to honor and encourage
young women's achievement in academics, but I'm not really so sure if it will
do away with hair, make-up, and clothing obsession in adolescence. Our
society is just too judgemental in these regards for boosted esteem in one
area to make up for low esteem in another. Perhaps we need to focus instead
on teaching all of our students about individual beauty as well as the value
of intelligence.

Gwynne Ellen Ash

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