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Miss America's restrained brain

This time, Miss America judges didn't pick the one with the prettiest face, the curviest curves or even the most impressive talent.

This year they went for brains. They awarded the crown to Harvard Law School-bound Erika Harold, a Phi Beta Kappa grad from the University of Illinois, her home state. Wasn't that the logical thing for a "scholarship pageant" to do?

Apparently not, because Ms. Harold's mind _ or rather her determination to speak it _ has ruffled pageant officials. . . .

. . . To the disgruntlement of pageant officials, Ms. Harold has become the new darling of the pro-abstinence movement _ touting the word "no" as the best and safest kind of birth control. . . .

Of course, the whole situation just drips with irony. Isn't this the same Miss America Organization that gets in a tizzy when contestants get caught photographed in various sexy poses? And aren't its contestants assumed to be virginal _ or at least expected to act that way? So, yes, how refreshing to hear an outspoken Miss America say she is indeed a virgin _ and that other young people should avoid the early sexual contact that harms so many. . . .

Pageant officials and Ms. Harold have reached a compromise: She talks about youth violence but also is free to work in comments about sexual abstinence as something she believes in personally.

But the woman who is supposed to embody the ideal of young American womanhood still can't speak, act or look like a woman whose brain is really her own. It may be a long time before the pageant is grown up enough to let a real Miss America wear the crown.