The Gift of Educational Giving?

Even after all these years, everyone wants to get their products or ideas on Oprah.  Authors, community activists, actors, and the wannabes want to hear their names (and hopefully some praise) come out of the Queen of Television’s mouth.  And those in the education community are no different.

For those who have missed it, Sunday nights for the past month have been home for Oprah Winfrey’s Big Give.  The premise is simple.  They send a pack of volunteers to raise money or make a difference for an individual, a family, or a community.  Each week, the weakest philanthropist is sent home, with the remaining givers moving on to the next fundraising event.

Tonight, Oprah sent two teams to Houston to raise money for two low-income elementary schools.  Aided by sports phenoms Andre Agassi and Tony Hawk, the amateur philanthropists had a great impact on the two schools — and the two school communities — they were tasked with serving.

Among all the hoopla of tennis events and skateboarding and Santa Claus and new playgrounds, there was a lost PR opportunity for the education sector.  In the middle of the program, there was a visit from former President George H.W. Bush.  And a throwaway line thanking his son for giving curriculum to the school.

It is presumed that a tip of the hat should go to Neil Bush and Ignite! Learning.  We have to assume that Ignite! stepped up and provided one of these Houston schools with their computer-based curriculum.  After all, no other Bush children are in the curriculum business (unless you count the current president).

It isn’t unusual for a company to participate in such an act.  Typically, it is so it can get prime “advertising” space, having its name plastered across the screen or coming out of the mouths of the program’s host.  It’s a marketing tactic, designed to build name recognition and demonstrate the company is committed to the community.

But it is unusual to make a donation on a national television program, and not demand such recognition.  Maybe the applause for Ignite! was left on the cutting room floor.  Or maybe Bush and his company just wanted to give a little to a Houston school that can’t afford its software.  Regardless, Ignite! should get a little credit for its giving.  And maybe, just maybe, it is part of a larger corporate commitment to getting its learning platform into the schools that need it, even if they can’t pay for it today.

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