Seeing Red over Girls’ Exclusion from “Red Tails” Field Trip

February 10, 2012

My daughter, Alex, and her friend, Eddie, at a recent trip to the College Park Aviation Museum.

My daughter, who is almost 6, recently told me a story about how her teacher addressed a situation where a classmate with a physical disability was excluded from an activity by her peers. After explaining that we are all “made differently” and face different challenges, she asked the class, “What makes you different?” My daughter responded, “I like boy stuff.”

She would love to see Red Tails, a new film about the World War II Tuskegee Airmen, planes, aeronautic “dog fights,” and war but also a story about discrimination, courage, friendship, and heroism.

So I find it especially bizarre that school officials in Dallas decided that thousands of fifth-grade girls would not appreciate this movie. According to the Dallas Morning News, the district spent $57,000 to send all of the boys to see the movie in theaters, both because World War II is part of the fifth-grade curriculum and in celebration of Black History Month. The girls stayed at school because, reportedly, there wasn’t room in the theaters for everyone and the boys would enjoy the film more than girls would.

Some girls had the option to watch another movie, Akeelah and the Bee, but only if their school principal approved. I suspect that the girls will get much less out of the instruction devoted to the Tuskegee Airmen because they have not seen Red Tails. Sadly, school administrators squandered the opportunity to discuss why there were no Tuskegee airwomen or to talk about the contributions of black American women to the war effort.

AAUW supports strong enforcement of Title IX, a federal law that prohibits schools that receive federal funds from gender-based discrimination in educational programs. Clearly, as AAUW Director of Public Policy and Government Relations Lisa Maatz said, this is “educational programming based on stereotypes,” and sends the harmful message that “boys get to go out and have an adventure, and girls stay at school and do what they are told.”

As a mom, I understand that the historic figures in Red Tails are men, but what I flatly refute is the assumption that this movie has a gender preference. In a way, I want to thank the Dallas school district for bringing this movie to my attention. Since my daughter loves planes and “boy stuff,” we will definitely see it together and learn more about the proud history of our country — something everyone can appreciate.

By:   |   February 10, 2012

6 Comments

  1. Mark Garrity says:

    They should have taken the girls and boys see “The Help” along with “Red Tails”.

  2. Nora Smith says:

    Maybe we haven’t come a long way, baby.

  3. Kim Christensen Gloede says:

    Unbelievable! In this day and age??!! That district owes its girls $57,000!

  4. Peggy Woods-Clark says:

    I appreciate that the movie tells the story of the overlooked role of African Americans in World War II. This interpretation fails to mention, though, that women including Mary McLeod Bethune, Eleanor Roosevelt, Willa Beatrice Brown, and Mildred Hemmons Carter were critical to the existence of the airmen.

    In this tight economic environment for schools, the outing was a commendable attempt to expose boys of color to positive media images. Sadly they were too short sighted to recognize the irony of their decision. The Tuskegee Airmen were not allowed to fight alongside their white counterparts due to segregation and discrimination. The school district basically did the same to the girls.

  5. Claudia Czeczyk says:

    The school district did a major disservice to its girls. Not all girls like the supposedly ‘girly’ stuff. A teachable moment was squandered. This is 2012 for crying out loud!

  6. Wendy Donner Harris says:

    Growing up in the 80s, I thought we were past all of this. It is so sad that this is still going on and people feel the need to try to force children into little boxes. People are all individuals. It is time to stop catagorizing.

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