Oprah is on the mind

The new prime minister is struggling with the biggest government scandal in recent memory. The B.C. government has just announced its new budget. But the number one topic of coffee shop chitchat on the Coast this week is Oprah.

In case you missed it, Sechelt hit the big time Feb. 13 when former Chatelech teacher Heather Ingram and her former student, Dusty Dickeson, appeared on Oprah, giggling and holding hands as they reminisced about their secret classroom affair. Oprah gave lip service to the concept that sleeping with students is a bad idea, but spent more time titillating her mostly female audience with nudge-wink comments about the sexual readiness of 17-year-old boys and finished by encouraging the women to grab a younger man when they get a chance.

The show was kind to Dickeson and Ingram: they were presented sympathetically as a couple whose hearts overruled their heads. While avoiding outright falsehoods, the show was very selective in its presentation of the facts. There was no mention, for example, that Ingram slept with at least one other male student while she was teaching at Chat or that Dickeson has a criminal record which includes assault causing bodily harm and sexual interference with a 13-year-old girl and is now charged with cocaine trafficking.

The Oprah show was billed as being about people who made life-changing mistakes, and Ingram was appropriately contrite as she admitted having sex with a student was a serious mistake (not to mention a crime) and said she does not deserve to teach again. But the pay-off for that mistake was the opportunity to promote her book to an enormous TV audience.

One might well wonder why Oprah was so interested, now, in this five-year-old scandal. The answer to that question came mid-way through the interview when Oprah revealed, with stagey drama, that Ingram recently gave birth to Dickeson's baby, eliciting cries of "ooh" from the audience. Clearly, the baby was the deal-maker that gained the couple their 15 minutes of TV fame. That child was three months old when his picture hit the airwaves in the unsavoury context of a kiss-and-tell scandal show about "the biggest mistake of my life."

Perhaps Ingram may come to realize that using her newborn son as a publicity tool is also a mistake - a mistake that could, sadly, be life-changing for him as well as for her.

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