An Oprah-inspired program in public schools described by critics as an intrusive, emotionally manipulative effort with the laudable goal of ending bullying, cliques, gossip and other such behaviors, has been presented to a million students in 400 cities in 47 states.
Challenge Day, the subject of the 2010 MTV series, “If You Really Knew Me,” promises to provide schools and communities with “experiential programs that demonstrate the possibility of love and connection through the celebration of diversity, truth, and full expression.”
But critics contend Challenge Day, an independent, nonprofit program, can do more harm than good and pose a danger to emotionally fragile students, lacking privacy safeguards normally expected in counseling programs.
Schools pay $3,200, plus travel expenses, to bring Challenge Day to their students.
Focusing heavily on self-esteem and positive thinking, it regulates the environment, confining participants to a room for six half-hour periods during the school day. Everything from the room size, to the temperature of the room, to the windows (must be covered), to the chairs (no arm rests) is controlled. Challenge Day even dictates the number and size of tissue boxes schools must provide.