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Oprah’s Tough Love?

March 12, 2007


070107_oprah_hmed5p.jpgAccording to’s Gavin Prins, family members are unhappy with the strict rules imposed upon students attending the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls (located near Johannesburg, South Africa.)  What the hell are they bitching about?

If I am not mistaken, the whole thrust of this endeavour was to bring opportunities to a generation of girls (mainly in Africa) who have next to none.  Most of the students that attend the academy come from families with one or more members dealing with HIV/AIDS.   Many live in abject poverty and have little to look forward to on a continent still reeling from hundreds of years of European ‘intervention.’

I am no Oprah fluffer.  She was absolutely wonderful in The Color Purple and has done some great things on her TV show (like getting adults to read and destroying Tom Cruise’s career), but she can also come across like a cult leader at times, and a majority of her audience is mentally deficient.  That does not mean her heart is not in the right place.  You cannot argue that Oprah did not earn every bit of her influence and power the hard way.  For that, she will continue to have my undying respect.  She is just not my cup of tea. 

Even before the doors of her leadership academy were opened, lots of criticism was thrown her way.  Obviously the idea of bringing a school of this magnitude to a part of the world that can barely feed and protect its citizens is controversial.  The last people you would expect to look the old gift horse in the mouth would be the ones that have benefited from this entire undertaking.

Forgive me if I am not moved by family members who complain about their child’s inability to email or use a cell phone during the week.  How needy are these kids if they come from homes that expect daily phone calls and emails?  Mad because you can’t just walk up to the school and see your kid? Too freakin’ bad.  Easy access for parents would mean easy access for militias (or any other radical group) that may want to use an attack on a high-profile school like this to further its political cause.

Others have complained that the students are not allowed any junk food or snacks lest they face punishment.  Hey geniuses, I live in the USA, land of plenty, and the only thing those amenities have brought to our children is an increased likelihood of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.  Let your little girl spend a little time outside the academy walls, drinking polluted water and living in fear of being raped by an HIV positive thug.  Pretty sweet, huh?

You want opportunities for your daughters?  Give them tough love and discipline.  They have earned a chance to make something of themselves, not a trip to Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.  Lower your expectations but raise up your goals, its worth the extra effort.  Drill into their young minds a mantra that will deliver them from the hell Africa offers its women, not a sense of entitlement to the distractions that are destroying a country like the USA.  Only good things can come from empowered women in Africa.

It’s too bad Oprah couldn’t spring for a school to set these families straight. 

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