Friday, January 05, 2007

No Good Deed

....goes unpunished. Or at least that's what an old friend of ours used to say. I thought he was just being cynical, but every so often events occur which cause his words to flood back to my memory.

The criticism of Oprah Winfrey is one such case. Oprah has lavishly built and outfitted a school for extremely underprivileged but potential-filled girls in South Africa, spending $40 million of her own money. So what's to criticize? Apparently some in the peanut gallery don't like her extravagance or her decision to help girls in another country.

Hellooo?? It's her money. To her naysayers, I say: when you become that rich, feel free to build a school anywhere you like.

Her critics have especially pounced on a statement she made in Newsweek.

"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."
Is her statement untrue? Granted, it's a generalization, but this is her experience with kids in the U.S. and quite frankly it's been the experience of many teachers and volunteers also. Of course there are exceptions, but Oprah has already given to many poor in the U.S. to help them receive an education through scholarship funds. If she wants to help poor people elsewhere also, what business is that of anyone else?

Way to go, Oprah.

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At 1/05/2007 8:42 AM, Blogger AnonymousOpinion said...

I read in Parade magazine that she did try to help girls in the inner city - creating a finishing school of sorts for girls to build their confidence so that they could find the strength to move out of the city via education. They were taunted by their peers and sometimes beaten by their parents because of resentment that they were acting all "uppity" - i.e.forgetting where they came from, who they were, or acting as if they were better than their families.

She considered the outcome a failure, then she tried fostering children remotely w/teleconferences and stuff and giving them all the advantages that her money could buy, and they clearly did not respect her and were more interested in texting or bieng on their cell phones than paying any mind to her. Again, failure.

Then she decided to focus on Africa because these children didn't have to be told that education can allow one to better their situation in life.

She found that no amount of her money could change a person's attitude or make a family take interest in their child's education and because it was her money, she took it to those she thought could make the most of it, rewarding those that would work hardest for it.

If think it's a pity that she wasn't able to succeed with her efforts in inner city neighborhoods, but it's not as if she didn't try.

Oprah is already a captialist whether she knows it or not, perhaps she's on her way to becoming a conservative as well?

At 1/05/2007 8:52 AM, Blogger Paul Smith Jr. said...

Plus, as Anna pointed out, quoting Oprah, there are many people in foreign countries much worse off than the worst well-off Americans. If we truly want to focus our money where it will do the most good, we'll focus on the poor in other nations.

At 1/05/2007 6:13 PM, Blogger Anna Venger said...

Yes, Oprah has done a lot with her money to try to reach out to the poor in our country too. I just find it aggravating when people criticize those giving of their time and resources when they aren't doing much themselves.


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