Monday, March 12, 2007

Oprah's school too strict?

Since I wrote in praise of Oprah Winfrey's efforts to establish a leadership school for girls in South Africa not long ago, it seems only fair to note this story, which is critical of the school. Parents are saying the rules at the boarding school are too strict, especially when it comes to visits from parents and relatives. The girls are allowed to receive visitors only once a month (previously it was once every two weeks), and cellphones and e-mail correspondence are not allowed during the week. They are also not allowed sugary treats -- the fare from the cafeterias is fruit, yogurt and sandwiches -- so one mother predicts that when they're on holiday for a month in April "they'll be stuffing themselves with sweets and chocolates."

I don't have a way to assess this independently, obviously. I can see strict rules; they're trying to give girls who before the school may have had potential but not opportunity the best chance to succeed and make something important of their lives. And judging by Oprah's show about the school, one of the advantages of the school is precisely that it takes the girls out of less-than-ideal, even tragic environments.

On the other hand, perhaps they have gone overboard in the rules department. There's always a temptation to substitute rules for more natural kinds of discipline, e.g., if you don't work hard you're likely to fail.

No comments: