Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Monday, September 20, 2010

Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey ran 48 minutes of straight teacher bashing today with her Waiting for Superman show - giving director Davis Guggenheim, Bill Gates and Michelle Rhee free rein to sling lies, distortions and half-truths about the "education crisis" in the country.

Jim Horn at Schools Matter responded:

Oprah looks and sounds the corporate parrot that she is, sadly. So much disinformation, where to start? You guys need to look up tenure to see what it is. Clue: it is not guaranteed employment for life, but, rather, is a due process protection to employees with collective bargaining agreements--something I know that Bill and Oprah and Michelle do not abide by. If you had had the balls to put Randi Weingarten on stage with your corporate cheerleaders, instead of the dark canned clip of her, she could have calmed Oprah down, perhaps, and offered some light to go with the heat. Perhaps.

The same people who voted down the hedge-funded charterites in NY and the oligarch-owned Fenty/Rhee machine have more votes waiting. The biggest vote your crony capitalist, Oprah, has to worry about is if everyone votes to switch channels before she makes her grand exit.

The only thing I disagree with in those statements is that Randi Weingarten was the person to put up against the propaganda-meisters.

I don't think that is so (though to be fair, Jim isn't so sure either.)

I think Diane Ravitch would have been a better choice.

There is a reason why Ravitch is not invited to these things, however.

They KNOW that.

Otherwise, I think Mr. Horn got everything right about that show.

As for Oprah, I wrote her a letter noting the CREDO study shows 37% of charters do worse than traditional public schools while 46% perform the same, that states with the lowest performing students have right to work laws and no teachers unions or weakened unions, and parents, not teachers, are the biggest influence on a student's life.

You know, they never mentioned parents on that show.

I guess kids are taken from their parents at birth and raised by teachers?

No, not in America they're not.

But in South Africa at Oprah's school, they are. That's actually part of the curriculum. Here's a partial description of the school:

Spanning 21 hectares (52 acres), the Academy’s 28-building campus offers a safe, nurturing and beautiful educational and residential environment for learners. All buildings are designed with learners in mind and built with natural material, to maintain the architectural integrity of the surrounding community.

Learners live in modern dormitory facilities along the Street of Living. Down the Street of Learning are 21 state-of-the-art classrooms and six labs, including art, science, computer and design technology. All classrooms have an outdoor study area, as well as SMART Board™ technology.

To support learning beyond the classroom, the Academy offers a computer lab, a 10,000-volume library, a more than 600-seat theatre and a multifunctional stage, music practice rooms, an outdoor amphitheatre, sports fields, a gymnasium and a wellness centre.


Learning is continuously encouraged in the Academy's boarding school environment. Teachers, staff and outside instructors lead the girls in a variety of extra-curricular activities, allowing learners to excel in their own unique ways.

Girls can participate in sports such as netball, tennis and track and field, while yoga, dance, choir and musical groups provide other outlets for the girls to express their creative and physical energy.

Gee, that sounds like a wonderful place for children to go for their schooling.

Like one big, beautiful charter school for underprivileged girls in South Africa.

Except that it isn't so wonderful:

The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy in South Africa has suspended seven girls for sexual misconduct and the harassment of other pupils. The suspensions, first reported by the Afrikaans on Sunday newspaper, are the second sex controversy to plague the school, which opened with much fanfare in early 2007. According to the Telegraph:

According to the Afrikaans on Sunday newspaper, one 15-year-old "preyed" on a schoolmate and coerced others into lying to officials investigating the alleged incidents. Six other pupils have been excluded from the $46 million (£32 million) girls-only boarding school after being alleged to have touched each other intimately, or "intimidating others into partaking of inappropriate behaviours".

A letter sent to one of the suspended girls' parents is said to have read: "You have been found guilty of physical contact of a sexual nature with another pupil on campus, harassment, bullying other girls on campus and of being dishonest by not telling investigators the whole truth".

A prior scandal came just ten months after the Academy's January 2007 opening when dorm matron Virginia Tiny Makgobo was arrested for "indecent assault and soliciting under-age girls to perform indecent acts". From AFP (November 2007):

An emotional Oprah Winfrey said she was "shaken to the core" by sexual abuse claims at her elite girls' school in South Africa.

"This has been one of the most devastating, if not the most devastating experience of my life," the US talk show host told journalists in Johannesburg via a live satellite link from Chicago.

"When I heard the news I spent about a half-hour crying ... I couldn't wrap my mind around it."

Police aren't allowed onto the grounds of the Oprah school, btw, so who knows what else happens there:

Local police claim they are not welcome at the academy. John Samuel, CEO of the academy, states, "Yes, the police are required to patrol, but at public schools. We are not a regular private school. Ours is a unique school and we are working out what is in the girls' best interests." [Lumka Oliphant, The STAR,, March 27, 2007]

It's interesting that Oprah's school, which has had two sex scandals in the three years it has been in existence, isn't under the same Oprahesque scrutiny that traditional public schools here in America are.

Heck, can you imagine what would happen to a school like that here in America, especially if it were, uh, unionized?

Yeah, I think that kind of school would probably wind up on some kind of Oprah special on the Oxygen network as a horror movie of the week.

But I get why Oprah seems to believe that parents have little-to-no influence on their children's schooling - because at the Oprah school, that is just so:

The school rules are quite strict. Students may visit with parents once a month for two hours. Some parents compare the academy to a prison and not a girls' school. The girls are not to use cell phones or email during the school week, only on weekends. And, one girl was not allowed to attend a funeral of a relative because it was not "immediate family".

Wow - couldn't go to a family member's funeral because the relative wasn't "immediate family."

And parents only get to visit their children once a month for two hours.

What kind of deluded person would create that kind of school system and think it was healthy or right?

Seriously, between the sex crimes at the school and the policies on family visits, this is clearly the work of somebody with some serious, serious issues.

Maybe Oprah needs to get out of the education business, out of the education reform propaganda business too, and get some therapy from somebody other than Dr. Phil.

Because the travesty of Oprah calling out "bad educators" today on her show was a disgrace.

Seriously, Oprah, if you want to point a finger at "bad educators" who have harmed the children in their keep, take a look in the mirror.


  1. I was unable to watch most of the Oprah Show but caught the last 20 minutes or so. What scares me so much is the "demagogue" factor. It is downright irresponsible, extremely arrogant and patronizing that these mega rich personalities like Oprah and Gates delve into matters that they know nothing about with seeming "authority". A Ted Koppel style "Nightline-like" format with both sides speaking out would have been responsible. I would have liked to see Diane Ravitch go head to head with Gates! Instead, it was a completely one-sided presentation. Oprah needs to get off her ill informed pedestal. I find it ultimately ironic that Oprah supports Race To The Top and all this corporatization of education when as a teacher I see first hand how it harms black students from disadvantaged backgrounds!

  2. I really admire you for having the tenacity to sit through this pukefest. Having heard everything they could possibly say, I spared myself and took a nap instead. The most I ever watch Oprah is never, and this show was not precisely the thing to motivate me otherwise.

    Diane Ravitch would do it, though. There's a Facebook campaign with a petition to get her an invitation. Oprah probably doesn't know who she is.

  3. Did you see the shit Oprah was doing prior to the ed deform orgy she had yesterday. Valerie Strauss had it:

    09/14/2010 Exclusive - How Wynonna Judd Survived the Ultimate Betrayal
    09/13/2010 Oprah’s Farewell Season Premiere with Special Guest John Travolta
    09/08/2010 Harpo Hookups - Cher, Justin Timberlake,, Usher
    09/07/2010 Women Who Claim They Were Child Brides in the USA
    09/06/2010 Stars of Reality TV: Fantasia’s Comeback and Ruby’s Revelations
    09/02/2010 Oprah’s Make Over My Man Crew Strikes Again
    09/01/2010 The Most Talented Kids with Justin Bieber and Charice
    08/31/2010 Oprah Says Goodbye to Nate Berkus: The Grand Finale
    08/30/2010 Oprah and Simon Cowell: The Farewell Interview
    08/25/2010 Inside Sex Addiction Rehab

    What crap -the same Geraldo Rivera shit she has always done.