"If we're all the same, why do we hate being average?"

This just in: more than half of all people are average. Contrary to popular American opinion, that's a very good thing.


Practically from birth, modern American society conditions us to be special, different, distinguished. All new parents think their child is the smartest, most beautiful, most above-average tot that has ever figured out a Fisher Price farm animal puzzle. They buy ""The Happiest Baby On The Block"" books, enroll their kid in Sanskrit for Toddlers classes and imbue the poor kid's young life with the harmful delusion that to be normal is to be a failure.

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This modern notion is harmful and dishonest. To be average and ordinary isn't bad. To be average is to be, literally, in the middle. You are not better or worse than anyone else. Modern American society could improve by putting less emphasis on the superiority of superlatives.


To want your child to be ""The Happiest Baby on The Block"" is to want all other babies to be less happy. What kind of a society wants other people's babies to be unhappy? It's brilliant marketing on the part of the book company — no one would buy ""The Baby on the Block Who is About As Happy As All the Other Babies.""


In an honest, altruistic society, this book should be called ""The Happy Baby"" and pass no description on all the other babies. We should not try to build ourselves up by cutting everyone else down. We should want all babies to be as happy as possible. It is the emphasis on the superlative that makes every baby on every block less happy, less healthy and less normal. It makes them all less average.


Even the ubiquitous Baby Einstein turned out to be not helpful, but harmful to young babies (""No Einstein in Your Crib? Get a Refund,"" the New York Times, Oct. 23).  Parents and society need to learn that it is detrimental to your child and to all children to want your child to be the best. It distances, downgrades and demeans everyone. You can't build up yourself by tearing everyone else down — why do we tell out children they should?


We always search for class equality, yet there is a social stigma against being average. To be average is to be like the greatest number of people, which is, of course, the goal of equality. The societal desire to be ""above average"" is a selfish attempt to distance oneself from the rest of the people in the world. To think you are ""above average"" is to think others are beneath you.


It is mathematically impossible for everyone to be above average. However, we can use being average to elevate society. Rather than viewing being like the greatest number of people in any category as a bad thing, we should embrace it. If an elected official had an average income, it could better help them understand the implications of tax policy on the greatest number of his or her constituents. The average opinion wins an election.


To think you are or to want to be anything other than average is dishonest to yourself and to everyone else. America was built on the philosophical theory that all people are created equal. People have tried throughout history to assign distinctions to make us different from one another, everything from race, to religion, to size, to gender, to IQ, to school from which one earned one's undergraduate degree.


If we as a society really believed that we are all equal, that we should strive for equality in all things for all people, the very word ""average"" would cease to exist. It is counterproductive to the collective and individual pursuit of liberty to try to distance oneself by being something other than average.


We are, in fact, all just people. No one person is purely a superlative, and all such labels are selfish delusions. By taking the emphasis off being ""happiest,"" ""smartest,"" and ""best,"" we would all be happier, smarter, and better, as individuals and as a society.



— Anna Swenson is a sophomore majoring in English. She can be reached at

letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.


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