US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Make me a super role model

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What young teen-aged girl wouldn’t love to have the 24-year-old Rhys Uhlich as their gym teacher? He’s the stuff that daydreams are made of. He is gorgeous enough to compete on the Australian version of the reality TV show “Make Me a Supermodel.” On the show, Uhlich recently posed with Heather, an emaciated 19-year-old contestant, and neither of them is wearing much clothing at all.

No worries, say those at Sacred Heart Primary School in Melbourne, where Uhlich teaches physical education, The Herald-Son reports. Students have been following the show and cheering him on though the TV channel’s website and the principal released a statement of support, saying they “can’t wait to have him back at school."

But Australian family groups are speaking out against the show and Uhlich’s participation."This whole genre of model programs sends a very strong message to young people that your main capacity for success in this world is to market yourself sexually," said Australian Family Association’s Angela Conway. "Instead of being part of the solution, this teacher is part of the problem.”  

Fully clothed or not, junior high girls are going to draw hearts around the name “Mr. Uhlich” while bored in class whether he likes it or not. Girls will be girls and gossip and laugh about the cute teacher wherever they are.

But I agree with the family association. Teachers are role models and as a gym teacher, Uhlich is a model for how you should treat your body. He looks fairly fit (see the pose), but Heather, is scarily, anorexic-ly thin. It’s not a stretch to say that a girl seeing this thinks that the way that she gets a Mr. Uhlich-type guy is to be that thin. What great physical education that is!

Still, I know countless teachers (mostly young ones) who worry about how their personal lives, especially in the age of Facebook. Can a teacher go out with friends without worrying that a student will find pictures of them having a beer online? Can Uhlich model and teach without worrying about what his students will see?

Should Uhlich’s job as a teacher—and especially a Catholic school teacher—make him any more responsible for the ridiculous body image promoted by the fashion industry than any of the other models on the show? Or should he be a better role model than a fashion model?