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"Get Schooled": LeBron James, Viacom, and the Gates Foundation Team Up to Talk Education

I have to commend Viacom, the Gates Foundation, LeBron James, and Kelly Clarkson for taking an interest in the deep educational disparities that exist in the U.S.

Viacom has apparently decided to do some image management by producing an upcoming 30-minute special entitled featuring LeBron James and Kelly Clarkson entitled, "Get Schooled: You Have the Right".

An excerpt from the press release posted on Slam Online:
"Today, in America, far too many young people enter adulthood unprepared for college, career and life," said Allan Golston, President of the U.S. Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "Changing this reality requires the full engagement of the corporate and nonprofit communities, working harder to support students, families and schools to create an expectation in every community that a college education is possible for all young people. Through the creativity of Viacom’s team and the strong connections its networks cultivate with their audiences, we have a unique ability to reach young people and their families on this critical issue."
I sent this out over a listserv that I’m on and a friend sent back the following response:
This made me read James' bio (one of the first sports bios I've read). James experienced an extraordinary amount of support from outside his family. My question to the producers of this show would be, how could we structure social affordances for "all kids" who have this "right to access to college," so that those (millions of kids) who come from "less-than-adequate" households can be taken in by an elementary school sports team coach to live in a "stable" home?

Or am I missing the point?
Nope. He’s not missing the point…but he might have missed the most glaring irony of the whole thing.

Last I checked, LeBron James decided to go to the NBA instead of college…and according to Wikipedia, Kelly Clarkson skipped college for American idol…

So…

What exactly is the message of this program if neither of the stars they have chosen even went to college?

James in particular is an exceptional individual who has led an exceptional life – anybody remember his high school games being broadcast on ESPN? – in a professional sports universe full of exceptional people. What exactly are we supposed to learn about education from these examples?

Hmmm…maybe I’m missing something.

Just to be clear – I have no problem with an athlete like James deciding not to go to college when he was quite clearly the best 18 year old basketball player in this solar system. It just seems like he’s…well…off message for this particular effort.

But where could we find a relatively popular athlete who did go to college and has risen to the top of their game?

Los Angeles Sparks forward Candace Parker maybe? WNBA star, Olympian, and former NCAA Academic All-American?

Doesn’t she better represent the spirit of the program?

I understand she is not nearly as popular as LeBron James -- it would be ridiculous to even think of saying something that absurd -- and I’m not suggesting they made a mistake.

But Parker is a young rising star who succeeded in college and in sports…and it’s worth celebrating that. It would have been an interesting way to spotlight a female role model.

Transition Points:

In other news, recently signed Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick is also contributing to the development of our youth by speaking about dogfighting...


"He's a big influential person and what he says matters," said one of the youth.