Field trips, Dallas-style. (Hey, little ladies, don’t you worry your purdy little heads about havin’ to see a war movie.)
When I was in grammar school, there was no such thing as a field trip.
With fifty kids in a class, how were we going to get anywhere?
Plus, our nuns were semi-cloistered and couldn’t really leave the confines of the church-school-convent compound. Dads worked; moms were home with the younger kids. So who was going to supervise?
And, of course, there was the real question. Who was going to pay for nonsense like a field trip?
So, unless you count the fact that, every other Friday, we trooped down the parking lot hill to church for confession, we never caught a break.
We did, occasionally, have a movie during school hours, to raise money for the missions.
If you didn’t bring your quarter, you had to stay in the classroom and do work. But everyone, other than bad boys in seventh and eighth grade brought their quarter in, even if it was just to watch a movie that was so boring that all you did was watch the reels turn. (In a rare act of grammar school rebellion, in the fifth grade, my friend Bernadette and I refused to pay up, and had to spend a couple of hours doing busy work in an unsupervised room with those bad-boy seventh and eighth graders, who ran around jack-assing, blowing spit-balls, and generally being ridiculous. The fact that Bernadette and I had succeeded in both infuriating our nemesis, Sister Saint Wilhelmina, and got to be entertained by a handful of goofy “older boys” for a an hour or two made this one of my best grammar school memories.)
The one and only event that even vaguely resembled a field trip during my eight years at Our Lady of the Angels occurred during the waning weeks of my grammar school career, when a carefully selected group of good-student girls and boys were permitted, during school hours, to take the bus into downtown Worcester for a screening of a completely dreadful Italian movie about the life of Maria Goretti, a child saint who had died while resisting rape and who, on her deathbed, forgave her attacker. She was canonized in 1950. (No, I didn’t remember this detail; I had to look it up.)
We were instructed that the girls were under no circumstances to sit near the boys, but as there was no one there to supervise us, we all clumped together and made fun of the badly-dubbed and poorly made film.
In Dallas these days, they are also selective about who they send on field trips to the movies.
As I saw on the Huff-Po the other day, the Dallas’ public schools recently packed all of the fifth-grade boys – all 5,700 of ‘em – off to see Red Tails, a new film about World War II’s Tuskegee Airmen, I’m guessing as part of Black History month. Now, this movie may be no great shakes – the one review I saw said that it was pretty retro, reminiscent of the corn-ball war films that were made during the war; kind of a make up call for the fact that war films made during the war didn’t show any black faces – but it had to be more fun to get bused to a real movie theater and see a real first-run movie, than it was the stay in school and watch Akeelah and the Bee. Inspiring as it may be, Akeelah was released in 2006. If they wanted to show gender-specific films featuring African-Americans, they could have at least been a bit more current and shown The Help. (If you’ve seen The Help, you will understand why, although the girls may have loved it, unlike the Tuskegee Airmen, there was no way that it was ever going to fly as a show for ten year olds.)
I’m not opposed to separating the sexes, but what’s the justification here?
Only boys would be interested in a film about WWII fliers? Boys get to be brave, courageous, and bold, while girls get to be spelling-bee nerds?
The school district justified it by saying that there wasn’t enough room for all the kids, and that “leaders of the district also thought boys would enjoy the movie more than girls.”
Maybe so, but here’s the message that comes through: the boys are worth spending on (the excursion cost $57K in federal funds earmarked for low-income kids), while the girls aren’t.
Meanwhile, the kicker is the one of the surviving Tuskegee airmen, Herbert Carter (age 94), was married to a woman who was a fly-girl:
Carter's wife of nearly 70 years, Mildred, who died in October, became the first black woman in Alabama to hold a private pilot's license, their son Kurt Carter said.
But while Herbert Carter trained at Alabama's Tuskegee Institute and went on to serve, Mildred Carter was barred by the military from flying, Kurt Carter said. She would go on to fly privately for decades after the war, he said.
"My wife would turn flip flops," Herbert Carter said. "She thought that all human beings were equal, regardless of sex, race, creed or color. She would take great offense to young women being denied this (opportunity)."
George Lucas’ company produced Red Tails, and he may want to set up a screening for the Dallas fifth-grade girls.
But you kind of have to asked yourself this question: haven’t we learned anything about separate and equal?