Gratitude is essential
It's Not All About the iPods, Oprah
By Eugene Robinson
Tuesday, January 9, 2007; Page A15
There can't be more than a handful of people on Earth who are better at choosing their words than Oprah Winfrey. So I was stunned last week to read a quote from her that was so . . . so totally un-Oprah.My mother has been defending this fiasco for a week or so. I thought it was more about Oprah's need for being worshiped than reality.
She was talking about the new $40 million school for poor young girls she has built in South Africa and her awareness that some people would ask why she hadn't spent that money to benefit poor students at home. She already gives millions to educate underprivileged children in the United States, and anyway, she told Newsweek, the two situations are different. South Africa has desperate poverty and rudimentary infrastructure. The American educational system may have its faults, but "it does work."
Point made. But she wasn't done.
"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 said. "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."
Oh, no, she didn't.
It's hard to know where to start. I guess the most charitable spin is that Oprah should visit some different schools. If she checks out some rich suburbs, for example, she'll find that kids there also want iPods -- and, yes, that they lust after overpriced sneakers, too. It's possible to argue that young people in the United States are overly materialistic, but not that the problem is confined to inner-city youths or is even worse among inner-city youths.
And there's no way to put lipstick on the part about how "the sense that you need to learn just isn't there" among inner-city young people, who, by the way, tend to be African American and Hispanic. As a nation, we should be outraged that there are so many failing, dysfunctional schools in our inner cities. No one should make excuses for students who foolishly fail to understand how education can better their lives and who do their best to drag others down with them. But in the inner-city schools I've visited, most students desperately want to learn -- just as Oprah, growing up poor in inner-city Milwaukee, wanted desperately to learn.
People are so desperate for an education, they join the military. Kids want iPods and sneakers as a way to keep their dignity and not be constantly reminded that they're poor. When poor kids are motivated, as they were in LA last year, they can do damn near anything, including shut down the LA school system via facebook.
If Oprah think's an iPod is a toy, she's a fool. Only a person familiar with computers can use an iPod. These are computer literate kids. And they get younger every year. The use of an iPod teaches technology, as do cell phones and video games. These kids are comfortable in a computerized world and use that information to learn.
Wouldn't you ask a billionaire for an iPod.
Mr. Soros, can I have an iPod.
The South African government backed out of the project because it was too lavish. Oprah is completely unaware of the political consequences of creating an elite in another country. I would bet that most of these girls spend their lives as expats in the US or UK.
But what angers me is yet another attack, by a black person, on black and latino kids. She isn't an educator, she doesn't know what a drive to learn is.
When Jesse James had Monster Garage on Discovery, he would go to a poor school, white, latino, black, shitty neighborhoods. Like he grew up in. And he would teach them how to build a car. These kids wanted to learn. Even if James had to hunt down one kid at home. They were excited to learn this skill, which took little imagination to see what career it led to.
Every time some people want to make a point, they just whip out the canards and then attack black kids. Most of who graduate high school and then go to college. Oprah wanted people to be grateful, even if she slanders a few people in the process
posted by Steve @ 1:33:00 AM