The purpose of this blog is to know and understand the teacher's perspective concerning current issues on education reform and the teaching profession. Inputs from the ones who probably knows what is best for students academically -- the teachers -- are rarely considered in decision making of policies. Yet, these so-called education experts and lawmakers dictate how we do our jobs and what we should teach. That's not right!

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Oprah Effect on Education

While I am not a die-hard fan of The Oprah Winfrey Show, I have always admired her for her philanthropist and humanitarian work, as well as her rise-to-the-top success story to become one of the most influential figures of our time. Perhaps that explains why recently I was disheartened when Oprah became one of the advocates of the current education reform movement. Earlier this fall, she used her show to promote Waiting For Superman and the ed deformers' propagandized message. That episode sparked so much outrage from supporters and opponents of education reform, she devoted another episode a few days later to further push the ed deformers' brand of reform. Her influence and support were a big asset to the ed deformers and a major blow to us teachers and public education supporters. A prime example of how powerful her meddling is was her recent endorsement of her magazine's publisher, Cathie Black, as the next school chancellor of New York City public schools. She lives in Chicago; what do NYC schools have to do with you, Oprah?

From a recent conversation I had with one of my friends, I was reminded of something she said about American urban schoolchildren nearly four years ago. In response to possible criticism for opening a lavish, all-girl school in Africa instead of in America, in a candid interview with Newsweek, Oprah implied American urban students are spoiled and materialistic. This is an except of the interview:

Oprah also knows that some people will complain that charity should begin at home, even though she has provided millions of dollars to educate poor children in the United States, especially via her Oprah Winfrey Scholars Program. But she sees the two situations as entirely different. "Say what you will about the American educational system--it does work," she says. "If you are a child in the United States, you can get an education." And she doesn't think that American students--who, unlike Africans, go to school free of charge--appreciate what they have. "I became so frustrated with visiting inner-city schools that I just stopped going. The sense that you need to learn just isn't there," she says. "If you ask the kids what they want or need, they will say an iPod or some sneakers. In South Africa, they don't ask for money or toys. They ask for uniforms so they can go to school."

While she is entitled to spend her money as she pleases, is it fair to call her out on her hypocrisy? I would think that, nearly four years later, her induction as an ed deformer would spark her to create a charter school or better yet, a private academy on American soil. With her clout and money, why not? Oprah, you don't think American urban youth are deserving of that type of charity from you; yet you will ignorantly support education reform tactics that are not research-sounded and will be detrimental to student learning.

I always thought of Oprah as a successful woman of integrity and strong convictions who never forgotten where she came from. Well, change is good...even a change of mind.

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