Boy Boycotts Autry Museum Field Trip at Mt. Washington School

On this day of the passing of Pete Seeger it seems only fitting that I should discover our own little burgeoning rebel on the hill.  Activism seems to start early here in Mt. Washington.  At the young age of 10, we have a boy who has decided to boycott a school field trip to the Autry Museum.

For as long as my children have been attending Mt. Washington School, eight years in total, the Autry Museum has graciously provided free buses and free tours of their museum to our school.  Such has been the relationship between the school and the Autry, according to one of the teachers, for at least the last ten years.  I can’t speak to their motives for creating this educational opportunity.  Having chaperoned on a few of these field trips I admit I’ve learned much about the history of the West, albeit from a certain perspective.  The docents at the Autry have taught me and my children a lot about Westward Expansion, Manifest Destiny, and why a chuckwagon is called a chuckwagon.   

This year I was surprised to learn about a change in this long-standing relationship.  The Autry is now charging $2.00 per child, chaperone, as well as teacher for field trips.  The buses are still free.  But it will cost you to walk through the door.  This change did not escape my attention.  Apparently, I was not alone.

Our interviewee, who prefers to maintain his anonymity (and privacy), has asked to be called “5th Grade Boy.”  5th Grade Boy has decided not to go on the field trip because, as he explains, “they’re making you pay and they closed down the Southwest Museum, and that was the first museum in Los Angeles.”  Quite a statement “from of the mouths of babes,” as they say.    

While on the subject of the Southwest Museum I asked him if he’s been there lately. He told me he toured the Southwest Museum while it has been open on Saturdays.  The Autry’s website states that it is free to visit their Southwest Museum campus.  When I asked 5th Grade Boy if he remembers ever visiting the Southwest Museum on a field trip at Mt. Washington, he could not recall.  The Southwest Museum is approximately one mile from the school.  It would take less than twenty minutes to walk to the museum from the school, going downhill, although you may want to give yourself a little more time going uphill.     

When asked why the Southwest Museum was so special to him, he explained how much he enjoyed the old-fashioned feel of the Southwest Museum and  he especially liked visiting their outdoor gardens.  He could not recall seeing any outdoor gardens at the Autry.  He also could not remember any exhibits on the Native American culture at the Autry.  So how do you learn about Native American culture and history in school, I asked.  “I look at books,” he replied.      

While his fellow students will be off on their field trip Wednesday, 5th Grade Boy will remain in Mt. Washington.  I asked him if his teacher told him what he’d been learning if he went on the field trip.  His reply, “No, I don’t think so.  But I’ve been there so many times I think I’ll know.”  Just as my child has been on more than a few field trips to the Autry, he has been on these field trips ever year up until this one.  Apparently, he drew the line when they started to charge for admission. 

Jon Pareles in a New York Times article from today wrote, “where he [Seeger] saw a community, he saw the possibility of political action.”  I can only hope that Mr. Seeger is smiling down on 5th Grade Boy from Mt. Washington.  And that together, the spirit of Seeger and the conviction of one 5th Grade Boy will help motivate us all to create the social change so needed in this world.

About the author:  Nina Zippay is a local Mt. Washington resident and founder of Radical Cooks, offering cooking classes for kids and adults, private consults, and more.  She blogs regularly at www.radicalcooks/blog/

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nonoise January 30, 2014 at 11:09 AM
I doubt if $2 makes a difference for anyone living in Mt. Washington. Maybe the school has a buget for those that can not afford to attend. But I doubt that this family has a problem coming up with the $2. Seeing that this family has visited this museum on several occassions I doubt that money is an issue for them. This story is really an embarassing one. It really says we can not afford to go to the field trip. I bet that this family is one of at least upper middle class because mom's usually can not afford to stay home and take their kids on field trips. The Southwest museum is free to everyone on certain days. And, so is the Autry. So, if you can not afford their $2 fee just go on their free days. Just let the patch know if you can not afford the $2. I am sure someone will volunteer to provide it. And, the school itself is pretty good on their fundraising. Maybe money could be provided out of their fundraising fund.
Rob Schraff January 30, 2014 at 12:55 PM
I get the impression from this story that the anonymous boy is "standing tall" so his parents can hide behind him.
Olga Hall January 30, 2014 at 01:34 PM
I don’t believe this child cannot pay two dollars, but maybe children from other schools can’t pay. And why is the rich Autry charging anything after coming to our neighborhood and plundering the assets of the Southwest Museum? Isn’t that enough? It is shameful that people that think they are so intelligent can fall for the tall tales of the Autry. Or maybe they believe that been a millionaire makes you right. It is sad to see how people sell their soul (ethics) for their own benefit, as I have seen with certain a school which should be standing up for the SWM, do not want to do it because that would jeopardize their students having the Autry facilitate a docent class for their students. So where is the morality in accepting what benefits only one group and disregards the harm that they are causing to others and future generations. If they were more activists as this child, this country would not be in the situation it is. Now lies are truths and truths are lies. Must people prefer to take the passive side, the non controversial and easy way and what will bring them personal gain. Thank you for standing up for what is right, young man.
Nimby pimp January 30, 2014 at 04:11 PM
Poor kid. He is being raised by fools. And the Pete Seeger references were cloying and stupid. Some the folks on the hill need a good scalping.


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