Deseret News

Jessica Simpson's visit to Weber High School this week came about because of the students. They were the ones who organized a mass texting effort in response to a radio station promotion connected with the singer's new album.

But educators at the school seem to have missed an opportunity to teach about the power — often a destructive one — of popular culture.

Students are no doubt well-familiar with Simpson's suggestive video to her hit song "These boots are made for walkin"' They may be less familiar with the culture of celebrity worship and how it can distort women's self-image and the images men have of them. They probably haven't read author Carol Platt Liebau's book "Prude," which argues that modern culture exalts sexiness over intelligence as the most important attribute of a woman.

They may not be familiar with how a poor self-image has led millions of young girls into eating disorders. They may not fully realize that Simpson's decision to pursue a music career over school is one that won't succeed for the vast majority of young people.

What they do understand is how some of their teachers encouraged them to send text messages during class in order to lure Simpson to their school. Weber students sent 571,795 text messages, beating out Fremont High students by more than 200,000. It was a stunt to promote her new country single, "Come on Over."

There is nothing unusual or alarming about young people being dazzled by celebrity. Athletes and singers, in particular, have always been the envy of their peers.

But that is why it is up to the adults to teach that success and self-worth can be defined in many ways, and that beauty doesn't come in only one size and shape. It's up to adults to show that education and learning are more worthy of adulation than celebrity and fame.

We're encouraged that students at Weber intend to auction two pairs of shoes Simpson autographed to raise money for the needy. That at least brings some sort of noble purpose to a visit that otherwise seems unrelated to the mission of a school.

But we are left to wonder whether the school would expend similar energy to attract a Nobel Prize winner, a Supreme Court justice or a business leader. We hope teachers will at least take a portion of the same time used for texting in recent weeks to help their students put things in perspective.