Thursday, January 04, 2007

Oprah: Right on Public Education

Oddly enough, some folks have been criticizing Oprah Winfrey for spending over 40 million dollars on a school for girls in South Africa, because she is not spending the money here in the States. It is apparently acceptable to help the world, only when your definition of the world ends at the United State’s boarders. Oprah also made some “controversial” statements about the state of education here in America.

“Oprah Winfrey is firing back at critics of her decision to build a $40 million school complex in South Africa - saying she didn't build it in the U.S. because inner-city kids here don't appreciate the value of a free education.

"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," the TV talk-show maven says in the current issue of Newsweek.

"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."

The tough talk comes as the famously philanthropic Winfrey unveils her Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa - a sprawling, 28-building complex for impoverished teens that features a yoga studio and beauty salon, among other luxuries.

The 22-acre complex has taken more than five years to build and has raised eyebrows in the U.S. and abroad.”

The fact that these comments were controversial shows the sad state of affairs America currently finds itself in. Any single individual who doubts the lack of effort most American students put into their studies is in extreme denial or a downright liar.

I have recently been blessed with the opportunity to teach at a Jr. High School in the greater Napa area. Working in a public school has allowed me to see first hand how little effort many students put into their studies. There is a good chunk of the student body that is simply that: a body sitting in a classroom, doing as little as possible to get by. And forget about failing those students or showing them that there are consequences for their actions; social promotion will push them on into the next grade as if they deserved it. They will receive a diploma in another 4 years, and it will mean absolutely nothing.

Oh, and please don’t tell me it is because our Public Schools don’t receive enough funding (which is true however). These students would apply themselves the same way they are now if they were sitting in a million dollar classroom with the best teachers money can buy. The fact that a lot of students, and the families they have grown up in, do not value the free education they are given. This is a cultural problem that spans every ethnic group in our country, and something we all have to address. Oprah may have singled out inner city public schools, but the same can be said of the rural (& predominantly white) student body that I deal with.

We as a society do not respect education. I challenge any of you to go sit in a public school at the post-grade level. You will be shocked to see how much time a teacher spends controlling a few individuals that have no interest in learning the lesson and only wish to disrupt the class. Will these students be removed from the class? Will they be expelled or suspended? No frickin way! That would hurt their pride and self esteem, and we can’t have that.

I wish that the parents of the well behaved students would make a bigger fit of this blatant nonsense our public schools engage in. Our teachers are forced to spend an exuberant amount of time with students who have no intention of learning, and end up only taking time away from the students who do. Everyone gets screwed in our current system.

American’s have been living in a fantasy world where they will always be rich and rarely have to work hard to stay on top. There is always some poor country and its poor people who will do the “work we don’t want to do”. Well I have some surprising news for folks who have not yet realized it: most of the world has caught on to the fact that to be a player on the world stage, you society and its people must become educated, and that will create wealth. India and China clearly recognize this, and that is why their people struggle to such a degree to come to the states and get an education in our schools and universities. They know damn well that an education is the only way to guarantee a future for themselves and their country. I truly believe that Americans have lost a grip on this very basic concept that had previously made us a powerhouse.

I commend Oprah for telling it like it is, and I commend her for putting her money where her mouth is and helping children in a country that aren’t bestowed with such opportunities.


Anonymous said...

Very true. It is unfortunate that so many Americans have lost sight of what is really important.

mullet said...

i don't think that's an american trait

Roland Dodds said...

It may not be specifically an American thing, but it is a western thing. Not that folks outside the west value education to a greater degree, but that they don’t pander to folks who do nothing but waste the schools time. We do, because it is politically unpopular to say anything is wrong with our society, and the families that send kids to school.

Roland Dodds said...

And thanks for posting “Mullet” and “Anonymous”. It is always appreciated.

There is some irony in me complaining about public education with my spelling and grammar as it is.