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Temptress' Story
January 18

This is the world we live in.

I'm sure that as we speak, we'll be seeing lots of articles about American Idol. We'll be talking about the talent, or how the judges haven't been too mean, or how the ratings have dropped by a little, or how 30 million people are still watching the show. I'm here to talk about something else, though. Let's talk about this little thing called life.

Last week, I spoke about how money changes people's priorities. This week, let's talk about said priorities. On Idol, we had a singer called Temptress Browne. She is only 16. She came in to perform for the judges. She sang...not too great, but she sang. The judges, while calling her courageous, said that she wasn't good enough (which was the right call) and said that it was a no. Then Temptress, like any other dejected contestant, started to cry. But it wasn't normal tears. She cried like she failed to save someone's life.

And perhaps, she did.

What the judges didn't know is that her mom is on an oxygen tank. Her mom also weighs at least 300 pounds, which, unless you're an athlete in your prime, is not a good weight to be at. It's also fairly apparent that the family is not financially well off, and with good medical care, her mom may be taken care of. Maybe she can get help to lose the weight and be healthy. Any maybe, just maybe, she can prolong her life. The only way to get that much money? Win the lottery - or an album contract. The fate of your family and the people around you...all hinging on a 30 second song. Thus is the weight on Tempress's shoulders. Thus is the pressure that no 16 child should have. A 100,000 to 1 shot for you to come one step closer to saving your mother's life.

The problem isn't American Idol. The problem is society.

Why are we putting pressure on 16 year old kids to win a singing competition? Why do kids look up to be Athletes or Singers or Actors, when they have a better chance of getting hit by lightning 3 times than to make it to the big time? Because that's what's over-glorified and shown on tv. We don't emphasize how good it is to be a doctor, or teacher, or any other profession that's sorely needed in the U.S. No. We want to see the best dancer/singer/models. The good skinny people. The beautiful people. But not the necessary ones.

Do you realize that there is a massive teacher shortage in NYC? Do you know that education is getting cut out of schools on a daily basis? Do you know that college students have to pay their own way to take the LAST's or any other major test to get their degree? And yet, we don't emphasize intelligence. Maybe because the show The Scholar failed. Maybe because the powers that be in tv land feel that people don't want to see 'smart' shows. Now instead, we have no one that can answer 11 questions of 5th grade difficulty. Most of America is not smarter than a 5th grader. And that's why people would rather see the glamour instead of trying to actually get a foundation where they can make something of their lives.

I have nothing but admiration for those people who are struggling, yet are holding on to their own dreams of being a teacher, doctor, programmer, or anything that will benefit society. But yet, we have a society that has no universal health plan, no universal educational program (and no, No Child Left Behind is not nearly good enough) or more importantly, no system that allows people who struggle a fair chance to succeed. Instead, those people are left to try to make it big on a reality show. This is truly the stark 'reality' of American Idol. Not people like Taylor Hicks or Kelly Clarkson, but people like Temptress Browne and her mother. All too often, we focus on the people who advance through the audition. It's high time we start focusing on the people who don't.

Agree or disagree? Either way, e-mail Gordon Pepper at