Friday, March 20, 2009

A Case of Cherry Picking?

By Pilar Oberwetter

The moment has come where I feel that I need to (gasp) criticize Obama. For the faint of heart, rest assured—it is not Barack that I take issue with, but rather Michelle.

While the major headlines focus on positives and negatives of Barack’s maneuvers since taking office in January, Michelle has been doing less-showy, yet very effective work in raising local morale and national awareness. She has paid visits to federal agencies, served food to the homeless, and, most recently, recruited powerful women in government, entertainment, sports and business to visit the area’s public schools in honor of Women’s History Month.

So what is my beef?

Well, when Michelle and her gang of power-gals, which included the likes of singer Alicia Keys and gymnast Dominique Dawes, went to the schools, they spoke to less than 20 students at each school who were “picked for their academic and athletic achievements.” Translation: they spoke to the successful students at each school, and provided them with examples of further success, encouraging them in words and by example to push themselves in that direction.

However, in DC’s public schools, the prevailing trend is that students do not succeed. More students drop out of school than graduate. More students fail classes than get A’s. More students get pregnant than star on sport’s teams. So why was Michelle not bringing her insight, wisdom, and inspiration to the students who are on probable paths to failure? Why was her visit treated as a reward for students who were doing well instead of an intervention strategy for students who are at-risk? Why were the students who are most in need of this type of motivation not given consideration when DCPS staff were hand-picking the attendees?

Next time, Michelle, be an advocate for those who are educationally most at-risk. Speak up for those who need more than just a path to success—who, in essence, need the whole map.


Tamara said...

I have to kindly disagree. My first instincts were the same as yours. However, I then thought to myself that the "successful" kids are doing well in the same school system as their peers. In an AIG-era where just showing up earns you a mind-blowing bonus, shouldn't we encourage a system where success is rewarded?

JARRIN said...

Privilege is privilege no matter what form it takes and it's always at the exclusion of others. If it's due to merit, so be it - I get that. But when public celebrities engage in capricious preferential treatment, it wreaks of unfairness.

These kids were not donors or some other privileged protected political class that needed such a "benefit". On the contrary, such an event should serve as an opportunity for those less talented and struggling to be exposed to the kind of celebrity they can relate to...and hopefully, as a result, be inspired to aspire.


Berna said...

I think that these sort of situations have little to do with Michelle herself, but rather the schools. Sure her people could have said, "Give us the most troubled students." However, they probably simply said, "We're coming to your school. Get psyched." In a tizzy of deadlines, they selected those who showed the best face. It's unfortunate, I agree, but I don't think that you can squarely pin it on MO and her power gals.

Tonie said...

I definitely agree with Berna. I don't believe Michelle Obama chooses her audiences at all. In fact, when she came to Howard University, only a select group of people were informed about the panel discussion and were able to attend. Attendees were top-notch undergraduates...I'm sure Michelle and her folks don't automatically assume that schools are creaming or pruning their audiences like they have been...Then again, who--what school wants to be responsible for an inappropriate comment or question most likely to come from the less pruned etc.? Not that I agree but...something to consider.