Why Dallas ISD Shouldn’t Have Taken Any Students to See Red Tails For Black History Month

The Tuskegee Airmen in 'Red Tails.'
Some of the Tuskegee Airmen in 'Red Tails.'

The Morning News is all over a breaking story that today Dallas ISD took about 5,000 fifth-graders to see the movie Red Tails, about the exploits of the famed Tuskegee Airmen – the first black American combat pilots – during World War II. Reporter Matthew Haag’s blog post is right to ask why only boys were taken to the show. (The DISD spokesman says there was only so much space available at the theater, so the girls were left at school, with principals given the option of showing them Akeelah and the Bee.)

I am less concerned with the differing treatment of the genders in this situation than I am with the fact that any kids at all were taken, by our public school system, to see Red Tails.  I gave it a so-so, better-than-a-kick-to-the-teeth review on FrontRow. The movie’s not very good. More importantly, it’s not a history lesson. It’s more like propaganda.

George Lucas, who produced the film and had championed a project about the Tuskegee Airmen for decades before Red Tails got made, basically says as much in this appearance on the Daily Show. He wanted to make a flag-waving, patriotic pean to wartime bravery, in the spirit of some old mindless John Wayne film.  While there’s no doubt that these pilots achieved some heroic feats during WWII, the movie makes it seem as though they did so while suffering almost no losses.

I realize our elementary school history lessons often teach us nonsense anyway. We lead kids to believe that George Washington chopped down a cherry tree. That Paul Revere deserves full credit for warning Lexington and Concord that the British were coming. That Ronald Reagan single-handedly defeated the Soviet Union (Kidding, of course. Everyone knows it was Pope John Paul II who brought down the Iron Curtain.)

But if we’re going to show children overly romanticized portraits of our history, can’t they at least be in better films? What happened to watching Glory – the edited-for-schools version – during Black History Month?

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