Rethinking your local Idol contest

Posted 04.24.07

WEST QUEBEC | The Lord Aylmer Idol contest, a well-organized and well-received show, featured ten very talented young people and remains popular with most students, parents and teachers. However it's worth looking at the event, its purpose, value, and the message it sends to children who are at a vulnerable age. There are Idol contests across our region.

Eight of the ten Lord Aylmer finalists were girls -- ten and eleven year-olds who are already bombarded with messages that their value lies in their beauty and sexuality.

These girls already judge each other constantly on everything about themselves, much of it things they can't control - the colour of their hair, eyes, their weight, height, clothes, popularity and "coolness."

The Idol competition distills this incessant appraising and puts it on display for the entire school to see. Are these children mature enough to handle this?

And what does it say about adults that we ask them to endure this?

Kids of that age worry about fitting in, about being popular. While a teacher urged kids to vote not for their friends, but for the best singer, many kids undoubtedly cast votes for friends.

And what about the topic of the songs?

Should eleven year-old girls be singing about love and adult relationships? In today's society, they're pushed to grow up ever faster. What about letting girls and boys of that age be what they are - girls and boys, not younger versions of Eva Avila or Michael Bublé?

There is an strong current of sexuality in Idol competitions - performers who strike a pose or wiggle their hips make points with the audience. Aren't eleven year-olds a little young for this?

Our job as adults and parents is to make sure that young girls (and boys) know that their sense of self-worth should never be tied to beauty, popularity, and sex - the exact opposite of an Idol competition's implicit message.

Children should learn about competition and good sportsmanship. In music, this can be in an orchestra or band, where performers vie for first, second, and third chairs; the group, however, performs as a whole and everyone gets credit for a good performance.

Aren't sports a better way to learn about individual competition? A stopwatch doesn't change its time depending on whether or not it likes the runner. A high jump bar is not subjective.

The students may love the contest, but we're the adults here. When our children were small, we didn't give them ice cream every time they asked.

An Idol competition is like a sweet confection - it looks good and everyone loves it, but it's empty calories. The contest is fun and exciting, but doesn't it send a powerful message about looks, popularity, superficiality, and sexuality that we shouldn't be sending to children of this age?

Maybe we should think about what we're doing to our children with these show-competitions.

Maybe it's time for some changes.

Copyright © 2007 Julie Murray/Log Cabin Chronicles/04.24