Friday, February 10, 2012

Red Tails, Red Faces

The Dallas school district (DISD) sent 5,700 fifth-grade boys to see "Red Tails," a movie about the WWII African-American fighter pilots known as the Tuskegee Airmen. Noble subject. Talented executive producer (George Lucas of "Star Wars").

So, what's wrong with this field trip? After the jump, let's count the ways.

I won't even count against the field trip the criticisms of the movie as being historically inaccurate. That can be covered in the class lesson plans. That still leaves plenty to wonder, just what was the DISD thinking when they conceived of and approved this field trip?

  1. Education experts are forever telling parents to quit using the television as a babysitter. They get enough of that at school. Maybe DISD believes that replacing the boob tube with a 90 foot movie screen transforms the experience into an educational one. Turn off the TV. Read to your kids. Send them outside for some physical exercise. Good advice for the home. Good advice for the school.

  2. Let's hypothesize that this movie is exceptionally educational. It's really worth showing fifth graders during the school day. Is it really worth $57,000 to do it? How about saving the cost of buses and theater tickets? Wait a few months, buy some DVDs and show the movie in school. I don't know what the licensing restrictions are for showing copyrighted movies in classrooms these days, but word of mouth tells me that it's done frequently enough (see criticism #1) that cost can't be an issue.

  3. Let's hypothesize that this movie about overcoming racism in the 1940s is worth the cost. What better way to drive home the pernicious effects of racism than to send only the boys to the movie, leaving the girls back at school? The lesson plans can include discussions about what the girls felt like being discriminated against like that. Compare and contrast with what the African-American airmen felt like in the 1940s.
Last week, the DISD school board taught us a lesson on how not to behave when school board members walked out on a public hearing and conducted their deliberations and vote about school closures in a private room, streaming the proceedings back to the public. This week, the DISD again teaches us a lesson on how to give a school district a black eye. Advice to the Richardson school district (RISD): watch the DISD closely, then do the opposite.

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