Oprah’s School

Why not in America?

Oprah Winfrey has learned that no good deed goes unpunished, said Carol Lloyd in Salon.com. Moved by the plight of impoverished and uneducated South African children, she has opened a namesake 'œLeadership Academy for Girls' outside Johannesburg. Oprah calls the $40 million school, which was five years in the making, 'œthe fulfillment of my work on Earth.' But the talk-show queen caused a storm when she explained why she didn't spend the money on needy inner-city U.S. schoolchildren. 'œThe sense that you need to learn just isn't there,' Oprah said. 'œIf 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.' Conservative critics quickly responded that any white person who made such remarks would be labeled a racist. 'œJust asking,' said Fox News' John Gibson, 'œbut can anybody else in America say that and get away with it?'

That's not the point, said Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post. Oprah's comments weren't true. 'œIf she checks out some rich suburbs,' she'll find that it's not just inner-city kids who lust for iPods, cell phones, and overpriced footwear. And in the inner-city schools I've visited, there are plenty of kids who 'œdesperately want to learn.' It's certainly strange to hear one of the world's richest women, 'œwhose TV show is built on advertising,' carping about materialism, said the Chicago Tribune in an editorial. Let us also not forget that Oprah has specialized in giving her audience members 'œarmloads of goodies,' including new cars. As for her South African school, it's hardly a monument to asceticism, with such plush amenities as 200-thread-count sheets on the beds, original works of art, and a beauty salon. What's any of that got to do with learning?

Karen Russell

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up


Clarence Page

Chicago Tribune

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.