Friends, family, and others [must read] have had a lot to say about Oprah lately. My first response to Oprah’s Leadership Academy was that it appears to be focusing on some very high-level needs (esteem, self-actualization) when its not clear that the lower-level needs (physiological, safety) of those same children, and others in that region, are being met.
My wife said something tonight [last week…] (exactly what, I can’t remember; ironic since I was ranting about the Libby case) that made me think about the Leadership Academy another way:
Which is better (the calculations are generic so the net benefit to society is equal):
- to make 350 children’s lives 100 times better
(the Leadership Academy)
- to make 3,500 children’s lives 10 times better
(say, clean drinking water and irrigation for a community)
One potential outcome is that while society is equally better off under both options, the first option seems to create two social classes (or further divide classes if they already exist). Maybe the Leadership graduates become entrepreneurs that help their society become more productive and societal benefits compound year after year (yay!). Or maybe the Leadership grads become a ruling elite, not aiding their society as a whole but ensuring that they stay above the fray (and their offspring no doubt, who could very likely have ‘legacy’ status at the Academy; if not in official policy, at least in practice since they will be raised with the self-actualization rhetoric that the school officials look for in applicants [based on the TV interviews]).
Oh yeah, my wife’s response was “it is Oprah’s money and she should be able to do whatever she wants with it”. It’s hard for me to argue with that — it’s certainly what I defend in general. But maybe it addresses the other reason I have reservations — this seems to be more about Oprah than anything else. Maybe the Salon article jaded me. But if this was being built by an anonymous donor, do you think they would be as concerned about the asthetics — could anyone else build spa facilities into this pseudo-academic Academy and get it approved, other than Oprah? I’m guessing the students won’t use the spa much either, it’s probably only there to take care of Oprah when she visits and needs to unwind.
The rules at Oprah Winfrey’s ultra-posh school at Henley-on-Klip near Johannesburg are apparently so strict they make a reformatory look like a holiday resort.
That’s the word from upset parents, who say the school rules make it difficult for them to keep contact with their children. [Full Story]
They don’t seem to understand; these girls are no longer their children, they’re Oprah’s children, the world’s children.