Taking Mirrors Out of Schools Won't Make Our Kids Smarter

mirrorI want to love the British school that's removed mirrors from its bathrooms to help teenage girls start focusing on their education rather than their looks. It sounds like one of those pro-smart girl, pro-self esteem moves that could really catch on. And with the recent flurry of icktastic t-shirts designed to make our girls feel like crap, I'm almost ready to grab fast to anything with a semblance of good values and hold on tight.

Almost. But not quite. Because there's something that really irks me about mirror bans as means to make girls focus on their education.

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Shelley College (which, despite the name, is a secondary school, not a university) is reporting girls are more closely following its "no makeup" rules for 16 and under, and they're paying more attention to their education. Sociology student Kjerstin Gruys is doing something similar, opting out on looking in a mirror for a full year to focus on body image over vanity.

All good, right?

But the move doesn't really address the underlying issue. Why are girls so obsessed with makeup and checking themselves out every 10 minutes to begin with? Sure, the mirror's gone, and they can't do it (nor can they see if they have oregano in their teeth from pizza served up on Fridays in the cafeteria) right now, but that doesn't mean their self-esteem is any better. They're still going to spend time asking their friends how they look, smoothing their shirts down over their hips to avoid belly bulges, and on and on. Trust me, they'll still be thinking about the size of that zit on their cheek (probably even more so now that they can't go pop it during lunch).

Making a problem go away is not the same as fixing the problem.

This is by no means a miraculous answer to the problem of getting girls to stop thinking about their looks. We are, by nature, a bit of a narcissistic species. We care what people think of us, and how we look is the first thing others see to judge us.

What girls need to know is that they're valuable regardless of what they look like. They need to be taught to embrace who they are and WHY education should be a priority over primping. Their brains are going to last them a lot longer than their looks.

Granted, I will say it's not a school's job to be focused entirely on building up girls' self-esteem. They should support self-esteem building, but their real focus is getting the girls to read, write, and do arithmetic. I don't blame them for this mirror ban one bit.

On the other hand, I would hate to see parents following suit because they think this is some magic pill. Denial doesn't work. Addressing our girls' obsession with their looks is really our best -- maybe our only -- chance at teaching them they're worth as much for their brains as their beauty.

Do you think banning mirrors can really help our girls?

 

Image via edgygrrrl/Flickr

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