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Oprah’s School Troubles

November 2, 2007

I just read about Oprah’s troubles with the school she has launched, and the public relations surrounding it are a nightmare. Oprah’s investment in a school that is too far away for her to manage or keep up with is a dangerous job. Here is the problem: she can’t back out of this venture for fear of looking like she is giving up, and she can’t succeed in the current round of scandal without setting the school in a new light. It just looks back, and here is why: Oprah’s school is being run by others by financed by her, and she looks like the rich benefactor who just wants to make herself look good. Poor public relations move, but maybe a strategic feel-good move. For the woman who makes her living by getting the deepest secrets out of others, she can’t afford to have skeletons in the closet about her children’s-based projects.

Here is what she should do: investigate the allegations of abuse, but make a strong statement about how it happened to begin with. Oprah made a mistake somewhere in there, and she needs to own up to it. It is roundly believed that Americans love a person who admits a mistake and then apologizes profusely. You can be forgiven for just admitting a wrongdoing.

Oprah shouldn’t take responsibility for the abuse, but maybe a problem with hiring AND THEN… how she will prevent it from happening again. She may need to hire someone from the United States to run and supervise the school, someone with a good educational background. It does no good to start a “poor little-impoverished kids school” and fill it with leaders from impoverished areas who can’t help the children get out. After all, what is the purpose of this school? The purpose is to give the children a way out of the situation they have right now, but the only way to do that is to bring in people who know how to get them out. You can’t play local politically correct games and still have outside help brought in. The school needs outside help or the children wouldn’t be where they are now. Don’t be ashamed of bringing in outside and well-recognized help.

Oprah should dedicate a few shows to looking at the state of education in the U.S. and then a few to the state of education worldwide. Then, she should focus on how she is trying to work within the framework of difficulties. She can’t be an educator, but she can bring in educators who can speak to the difficulties of starting a school like this and act like she is taking their advice. Then, she looks like she is at least trying to educate herself about the problems her school is experiencing. Then, and here is the tough part, Oprah: you have to be willing to take advice. I know you have done this on a handful of occasions, but you really need to do this now.

Maybe you offer the key problems of the school to some large educational institutions and put their best minds on coming up with solutions. Make it a nationwide event. Get buy-in. Make the other universities look at you and offer opinions. Make it a contest, but for God’s sake, don’t stand out there and try to do it by yourself. You are currently all alone in this mess, but you don’t have to be. Just ask for some help.

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