As a member of the California Task Force on Self-Esteem and Personal and Social Responsibility, I have been following with some amusement the series of Doonesbury cartoons by Garry Trudeau.
While I am perfectly able and willing to be the subject of good-natured humor, I worry that this one-sided point of view obscures the intent of the legislation.
This is not just another crazy California idea. It is, in fact, a very serious attempt to understand personal and social responsibility as it is shaped by factors of self-esteem. The lack of personal responsibility (somebody made me do it) and/or social responsibility (less than 50% of population voting) can in many cases be tied directly to the way individuals feel about themselves.
The problems of society generally are viewed from the symptom point of view. We have too many teen-agers taking drugs (a symptom). We have too many teen-agers pregnant (a symptom). We have too many schoolchildren dropping out of school (a symptom). We have too many children unable to find gainful employment (a symptom). The goal of the task force will be to examine the relationship between these symptoms and self-esteem.
I am hopeful that the task force will focus upon the issue of prevention. By identifying ways that citizens can develop a positive view of themselves; see themselves as being integrated into society; and understand the American work ethic, the task force will be able to influence policy and, hopefully, contribute to greater productivity in America.
While I find Trudeau's depiction of the task force as humorous, I would like to suggest that all is not so funny when facing the very serious problems of undercrowded schools because of dropouts and overcrowded prisons because of dropouts--a symptom of low self-esteem.
We need to address self-esteem as a social issue and address it seriously. I personally welcome the opportunity to be involved in this very important task!
B. DAVID BROOKS