Pretty People Make It

I picked up this week’s issue of Maclean’s magazine and was drawn in by an article on boy children called How to Fix Boys. There was one quote in there while interviewing Leonard Sax that really stuck out to me on how pretty girls end up being better off.

The fact is, the coed school does not reflect the real world. It’s a very peculiar environment where what really counts is who’s cute, who likes whom, and who’s wearing nice clothes. The focus is relentlessly on how you look and who likes you, which is very different than the real world. An interesting study conducted by two American researches looked at a cohort of girls, all from the same neighbourhood in Belfast who’d been randomly assigned to single-sex or coed schools. For those at coed schools, you only needed to ask one question to know a girl’s self-esteem: “Are you pretty?” If a girl was pretty, her self-esteem was very high, even she had terrible grades or was bad at sports. At a coed school, if you’re pretty, you’re royalty: everyone’s fascinated by you, it doesn’t matter if your flunking all your classes. The dark side of that is that if you walk down the hall and some boy says, “There goes the whale! Her face looks like a pizza,” it lowers your status in front of the other girls, even if you loathe and detest that boy. At coed schools it doesn’t matter if you’re a straight-A student or good at sports, only being pretty matters. At girl’s schools the researches found this was not the case. Self-esteem was a complex product of many factors: grades, getting along with parents, being good at sports, and yes being pretty, but that wasn’t even in the top three.

It’s disheartening to know that this is the case, its even more so that I see it even in my own life. If i see a clean cut good looking child (or adult) I naturally gravitate to be impressed more than a kid who’s a little rougher with crooked teeth. I’d expect more from the better looking kid and would probably get irritated faster at the uglier one. If two people came into theStory’s building, and one was better looking and better kept than the other, I probably would have a much easier time taking seriously and engaging with the better looking one. I’m a part of a culture that somehow good looks elevates people to the top. I hate this about myself.

Maybe this can be a reminder to be a little more intentional about not choosing/judging based on outward appearances, because we all default to that. Looks drive so much of what we value and appreciate in our culture. Beauty pagents, models, magazine covers, actors, Photoshop are all part of the equation of what drives are consciousness to be more inclined to the better looking individual. Hopefully we will be able to be more like our Saviour in seeing people’s hearts and not their outside appearance; something our culture tells us everyday is inaccurate and uncool.

6 Comments

  • This is just one of the reasons my wife and I have chosen to home school. People talk about the “socialization” of government/public schools as if it were such a great thing. As this article suggests, the kind of socialization that happens in such schools can be more damaging than beneficial.

  • if you can read through that article, it was excellent, this guy would lean more towards splitting up the sexes in school which seems to change a lot. I think homeschooling helps a lot too, I was semi-home schooled in my earlier years and my closest friends homeschool and if done right it can be amazing…unfortunately so many people do it so wrong.

  • Nathan,

    This was something I’ve had fun with for years. Given that the way I dress tends to make people confuse me for a crack dealer (or user), most people assume that I do very poorly in school and so on and so forth. I’ve had fun reversing those expectations (in both my peers and my profs) ever since I started college.

    Pistolpete,

    I was homeschooled for four years. It took me away from my peers and ruined my social skills, so that I had to learn everything from scratch once I got out into ‘the real world’ (it also created some other very negative things in me — on the one hand, a great deal of fear; on the other hand, a feeling that I had to go further than others in order to be accepted or prove myself or whatever [hence, once I got over my fear I turned into a bit of a wild party kid]). Hopefully you’re doing something to ensure that your kids get some sort of regularly peer interaction.

  • I tend I do that too Dan, dress specifically in my ‘less attractive’ types of clothes knowing that I’ll get a specific reaction, then I wonder if its only cause I know the reaction I’ll get because I’d give it.

    I amaze myself sometimes at how quick i can pinpoint someone and put them in a box of exactly what i think about them….

  • I’m anti girls school, I am in a dance class at York and during the lecture I just want to tell some of them to shut up! Girls are so competative and cliqueish.
    I can remember being a counselor at Forest Cliff Camp for the girls week and realized I only liked camp when boys are around.

    Beauty…..Will anyone ever truly understand they’re true beauty.

  • I thought the observations recorded in the study were in-accurate.

    Looks can assist but acquiring power is where its at for everyone; any grade, any school, any sex.

    I went to a public school that homed the majority of our aboriginal kids and found that they were respected and liked not for their beauty but on their ability to kicks ones ass.

    Competition, it appears to me is what reflects the real world. Do you think we would have Microsoft if Bill Gates wasn’t stuffed into his locker during high school? He wanted to be the best, looks weren’t his thing so he excelled else where.

    I have seen girls operate and they are very competitive. If one girl is pretty, that will work only until some butch comes along and makes her life a living hell.

    Being good at sports is away for someone to have power. Being good at school is another way. Only thing is, you have to be the best.

    If anything, Home schooling would make that person less competitive and less able to operate in “the real world.”

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