White-bowden Panel Gives Self-esteem Healthy Push

Committee Finds Plenty Of Programs Working In Schools, Few In Business Sector

September 04, 1991|By Cindy Parr | Cindy Parr,Contributing writer

FINKSBURG — A local writer and former TV journalist has sent the governor tips on how Marylanders can become more aware of the importance of a healthy self-esteem.

In March 1990, Susan White-Bowden was appointed by Gov. William Donald Schaefer to chair a 23-member task force on self-esteem.

The group's mission was broad and perhaps a bit nebulous: Chart the status of existing self-esteem programs in Maryland in society's preeminent institutions -- government, business, education, media, family, law enforcement, correctional facilities and volunteer non-profit organizations.

The committee also was asked to offer suggestionsfor new programs, and recommend ways state employees could improve self-esteem.

"Our findings in these specific areas showed us that there are a lot of people out there who are doing wonderfully well in promoting self-esteem, while in other areas, there needs to be improvement," she said.

The committee, which forwarded its recommendations in July, is waiting for Schaefer's reaction to the report.

One of the primary chores of the group was to define healthy self-esteem and distinguish it from an unhealthy or negative self-esteem.

"We defined healthy self-esteem as personal acceptance of one's value as a human being regardless of physical, mental, social or economic strengths or weaknesses," said White-Bowden, formerly a reporter and anchor for WMAR-TV in Baltimore and former columnist for The Carroll County Sun.

Other recommendations included:

* A permanent committeeto monitor the progress of existing programs.

* A database of existing programs.

* Training programs in self-esteem for state employees.

* Increased public awareness campaigns.

The task force studied existing practices and programs geared toward improving self-esteem. During an 18-month period, the group used surveys, questionnaires and personal interviews to examine successful programs and gauge the need for additional ones.

For example, the group found that in school systems across the state there are some 700 programs in place geared toward improving self-esteem.

"We found that there is certainly room for improvement, but there are also a lot of people out there who are doing a wonderful job of promoting healthy self-esteem," White-Bowden said.

But while education is experiencing success, thesame can't be said about business and corrections facilities, which were found to need the most help to improve programs, the group found.

"Business and corrections were on the bottom of the list," White-Bowden said. "Business is an area with the biggest need to show sensitivity toward self-esteem. There are companies who have numerous campaigns geared toward self-esteem, but the numbers are low.

"Corrections needs the most effort to improve programs on self-esteem. In this area there is a lot of frustration; giving of one's self with no rewards. Even though there are those success stories where criminals turn their lives around, we feel that no one is beyond the benefit of these types of efforts."

In spring 1990, Schaefer issued an executive order that outlined objectives regarding existing self-esteem programs in the state.

"People in Maryland thought, 'There we are pouring money into social programs that were not working. Maybe if we could help find ways to establish and maintain self-esteem throughout all walks of life, we could diminish teen pregnancy and drug abuse andincrease productivity in the workplace,' " White-Bowden said.

Appointed by the governor, the task force members came from across the state and represented the government, education and business communities.

The committee couldn't afford to publish its report, but hopesto do so in the future, White-Bowden said.

"I can't help but think that the information will filter through in one way or another, even if the report doesn't become published," she said.

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