Close Up Can’t Teach You History; They Can’t Teach You Life Lessons, Either


Lisa Wallace

The Class of 2024 poses infant of the White House after their visit to the Capitol.

Marshall Lehman, Perspectives Editor

The arrival of American Airlines Flight 1360 to the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport marked the end of the FWCD 2022 Washington, D.C. trip. After taking a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19, the trip was reinstated for the sophomore class. I had the pleasure of attending this trip. Sitting in my bed at two in the morning, just hours after I arrived home, I have found the perfect time to reflect on what I have learned during my expedition.

Apart from the great history lessons, lectures, debates, and monuments, I gained some wisdom on this trip, about life. A lot of valuable information was learned during the whole D.C. and policy paper semester of American Government and Civics. For those current seniors and juniors who sadly will never experience the socialistic regime of “up time” and for the current freshmen who are anxiously bracing for the 3000-word paper that they will have to write, here are the top five things that you either missed or have to look forward to on FWCD’s Washington, D.C. trip.

1.) Who Even is Mike Wallace?

The sophomore class congregated in a church to listen to a lecture by Charles Lewis, an investigative journalist. After explaining a little about himself and his life, the floor was open to questions for Mr. Lewis. For a man who built his profession on asking questions, he wasn’t very good at answering them. He had three answers programmed into his motherboard, and they were: “You know, I worked at ‘60 Minutes’ with that piece-of-work Mike Wallace,” “Mike Wallace had a lot of problems,” or “I can’t say this because we are in a church, but I just love catching those bastards.” I remember leaving that church in astonishment, because I realized that he never told us what horrible things Mike Wallace did, just that he had done them.

2.) If Close Up Gives You $40 Per Diem, And You Spend A Combined $12 On Both Lunch And Dinner, How Much Money Do You Have To Embezzle?

Close Up, the organization which led our trip, taught me more about D.C. food courts than I ever wanted to know. I think the ratio of malls that we went to in comparison to the amount of times we saw the National Mall was 1:1. They also scheduled it so that seemingly every student in a 10-mile radius was eating at the exact same Philly Cheesesteak stand at the exact same time. And before anyone says “Oh, maybe they were locals who spent their free time in malls like teenagers from movies in 2001,” I know for a fact that they were tourists because at least four of every five kids wore a “TRUMP 2024” bucket hat.

3.) The Old, White Man Loves Attention

On the Los Angeles Journalism trip, I discovered that I can waste weeks in museums because I spent 45 minutes in a 20 by 20 foot room dedicated to Spike Lee. The National Museum of African American History and Culture was a highlight for everyone on the trip. Almost every student that I have talked to has said that their favorite part of the trip was the Jim Crow section of the museum, an exhibit that I didn’t get to see because I was too busy reading in the first room. The museum begins by detailing the Middle Passage, the slave trade which transported over 12 million slaves across the Atlantic. After walking through these dark, mournful rooms, you emerge to a big, open room, and the first thing to greet you is a massive statue of Thomas Jefferson. I was taken aback, because why would an old, white slave owner have a giant statue in the museum dedicated to the history and culture of African Americans? To be fair, he was juxtaposed by a mountain of bricks behind him, with the names of all 609 humans that he owned during his lifetime, but it automatically loses that credit because there are four other statues to former slaves, who are staples in the battle for equality, facing the wall behind Jefferon. To top it all off, a Jefferson quote, preaching equality, is engraved into the stone wall. I know it is supposed to be a symbol of the duality of good and bad in those which our country honors as great men, but to me, I see it as some curator having a white savior complex.

4.) Private School Kids Finally Learned That The World Doesn’t Revolve Around Them

We were scheduled to see the White House on the morning of Wednesday, May 4, but our plans were thwarted by the United States Paralympic team, who was invited to visit. “No worries,” the Close Up guides said, “we can just come back tonight.” Night came and we once again were told that we would have to reschedule our excursion to the White House. The next day, we were finally standing in front of the executive mansion. It was a spectacle; dozens of Texas private school children recreated the famous Pablo Escobar photo, street dancers busted a move to a remix of Ms. Jackson by Outkast, and radical evangelists announced their bid for presidency. Our time was cut short, however, because the Secret Service were clearing Pennsylvania Avenue for the arrival of the First Lady of Mexico, who was invited to dine at the White House in celebration of Cinco de Mayo. FWCD, within its wrought iron fence, creates a bubble of privilege, where students are the first priority. It’s an amazing environment, which benefits the students greatly, but it takes away our grip on reality, our understanding of how the world really functions. Honestly, this might have been the first time in our very short lives that we had to change plans around the needs of others. Hypocritical slander, I know.

5.) D.C. Is The Best And Only Grade-Wide Trip That You Will Take In Upper School

Truly, the opportunity to visit our nation’s capitol with FWCD has been an experience of a lifetime. That being said, the class of 2024 still needs to go to Big Bend. As a grade, we have dedicated sophomore year to learning about the ridiculous inner-workings of American government and politics. Looking back, we have accomplished a tremendous feat. I had the pleasure of sitting in on multiple policy presentations, and each one perfectly demonstrates how much time and effort we have put into our work this year. Gavin Spikes ‘24 taught me more about border security than even Greg Abbott knows, Laura Marques ‘24 taught me to never eat at Chipotle, and Hannah Cheng ‘24 taught me to not be a gullible teenager in America.

Of course, none of this could have been possible without the expert leadership of US history teachers Sara Teegarden and Bill Arnold ‘86, who we owe the utmost gratitude. A big thank you also goes out to each of the faculty and staff members of FWCD who organized, led small groups, and found Dabin Lee ‘24, wherever she was, when it was time to get back on the bus. And really, the class of 2024 deserves a round of applause for not doing anything extremely illegal, well, except for taking pictures inside the National Archives.