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Twenty-five percent of young American women would rather win America’s Next Top Model than the Nobel Peace Prize. Twenty-three percent would rather lose their ability to read than their figures. When I read that Oxygen Media survey, I tried to go to my happy place. But I couldn’t get there. Because I know we have a problem, one that I don’t hear anyone else talking about.

The problem is not just about that 25 percent of young women who would rather be hot than smart; rather, it’s about a culture that actually makes that a rational choice: rewarding girls for looks over brains.

As girls started seriously kicking ass at every level of education (girls now outperform boys in elementary, middle, and high schools; we graduate from college, professional, and graduate schools in greater numbers than males (go team!), our brains became devalued.

The situation gets worse. Grown-up women giggle into TV cameras that they don’t know how many sides a triangle has, nor can they venture a guess as to what country Mexico City might be in. I don’t know which is worse: that we are playing dumb or that we really are that clueless.

At all ages, we’ve become seduced by our shallow, self-absorbed celebutainment culture. You know: the one that breaks into regular network programming with Tiger Woods’s apology for extramarital schtupping. The one that treats Anna Nicole Smith’s or Michael Jackson’s prescription drug OD with the kind of breathless coverage once reserved for the assassinations of heads of state. We watch, dazzled and dazed by the shiny, shocking stories, while a little voice stirring within us peeps that somewhere, somehow, there must be more important issues.

But who can remember what they are? Who can find substance when we are fed an increasingly bloated, empty diet of reality shows, news segments on wrinkle fillers, and updates on drunken starlets? Network execs tell me they have to run these segments, as it’s the only way to capture the female audience.

Dear Lord. Let’s turn that ship around. In our personal lives, our mental flaccidity means we outsource most of what our mothers and grandmothers did themselves. They relied upon their wits to pull themselves up out of life’s challenges. We, however, have lost confidence in our ability to think for ourselves.

I want to jolt you into reclaiming your brain. You can still watch Real Housewives and read an issue of Us Weekly every once in a while, but not every day because I have bigger plans for you.

We’ve got to use our brains for more than filler in the space beneath our smooth, Botoxed foreheads. The generation before us fought like hell and won for us equality in education and employment. Let’s use that for a higher purpose than sending pictures of kittens on Facebook.

Your critical thinking skills are desperately needed right now for your own good as well as for the sake of your community, your country, and your planet. That nagging little voice? It’s your brain, and it’s telling you that it wants back in the game.

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