With an ongoing debate about the dearth of quality role models for young girls, when the Bratz dolls dress more provocatively than the Pussycat Dolls and even Dora the Explorer required a Glamour Shots makeover, it’s a relief for parents knowing that a few women have emerged of late as bona fide mentors, poised to set positive examples for their daughters.

One girl who distinguished herself from the heap is Bristol Palin.

The daughter of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin begrudgingly entered into the spotlight last fall when her mom was running on the GOP presidential ticket with Sen. John McCain and it became apparent from her burgeoning belly that the boy Bristol had started dating while he was dating her best friend had knocked her up.

Bristol is now keeping busy in her new role as a teen mom and teen ambassador for Candies (the company best known for manufacturing shoes favored by prostitutes and tweens, and for employing other role models like twice-divorced, mentally incapacitated, single mother of two, Britney Spears; Ashlee Simpson, who, like Bristol, also got pregnant out of wedlock; “Heroes’” star Hayden Panettiere, who became famous when she was 17 by dating a co-star 12 years her senior; and Black Eyed Peas lead singer and former meth addict, Fergie).

She’s on a national tour talking about preventing teen pregnancy (perhaps forgetting she told Fox News a few months ago that abstinence is “not realistic at all” for teens, and that her now ex-boyfriend recently admitted to Larry King that they used protection a whopping “most of the time”). Her cup of admirers undoubtedly runneth over (not to mention her bra cups from nursing) after each speaking engagement.

An additional young leader with overflowing cups is Miss California. Carrie Prejean may not have won the coveted Miss USA title last month, but she still managed to capture the attention of America’s youth by explaining “opposite marriage” as being biblically incorrect and having the director of the Miss California pageant pay for her breast enlargements prior to the Miss USA competition so she’d have “the best possible confidence in order to present herself in the best possible light on a national stage.” For letting all the girls out there know that a small mind is good enough to be the runner-up, and that big boobs equal big confidence, Carrie is already a legend.

Vanessa Hudgens, 23, is another young woman whose role model credentials are on the rise. She made herself known to 5-year-old girls everywhere as the squeaky clean brainiac Gabriella Montez in the wildly popular “High School Musical” trilogy, in addition to roles in other Disney fare like “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody” and Nickelodeon’s “Drake and Josh.”

To the delight of the parents of those 5-year-old girls everywhere who have Vanessa’s face plastered on their walls, T-shirts and lunch boxes, she announced last week that she will show nudity in a film “when the time is right,” especially if it’s an “amazing movie.” Fortunately she’s already had some practice with indecent exposure. In 2007, sexy photos she shot of herself in her birthday suit hit the Internet to the delight of the older brothers of those 5-year-old girls everywhere.

Another shooting star not unaccustomed to viral images is Lindsay Lohan. Two years ago photos surfaced of her sticking a knife into her mouth while another girl pulled down Lindsay’s shirt and pointed a knife at her chest. And last week’s Life & Style magazine quoted Lindsay’s mother as saying that the thrice-rehabbed, convicted drunken driving starlet “is a good person to have watch over [her 15-year-old sister] right now.”

But it is Elizabeth Edwards who has surfaced in recent days as the true paragon of feminism. After publishing a book about her resilience in overcoming her husband’s betrayal with another woman and telling Oprah in the first of a series of media interviews — “There is no excuse for women to do this … women need to respect women”— she has succinctly taught girls everywhere that trust and fidelity in relationships are out of their control as long as loose women are out there lurking in dark corners waiting to pounce on their men.

Because surely if John Edwards hadn’t betrayed his cancer-stricken wife with Rielle Hunter, he would have remained faithful. Parents everywhere are reportedly snatching up copies of Elizabeth’s book for their daughters so they can teach them how to properly stand by their man, and that dignity, accountability and family privacy are highly overrated, especially when there’s a seven-figure book deal to be had.

E-mail questions or comments to meredithccarroll@hotmail.com.

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