Are Good Manners Racist?


First published on May 12, 2015.

I’ll probably be accused of racism for what I’m about to say.  Accusations of racism are now so common, it’s going to be like the little boy who cried wolf.  After awhile, no one is going to pay attention to it.  Racism is a horrible thing.  Not only is it intended to destroy the object of hatred, but it also degrades our society.  When a person is treated horribly it stains their life, it hurts, emotionally, and all too often, physically.  But, the are times when racism just isn’t what it seems to be.  Take the recent incident at the Guggenheim Museum.  A group of 80 students from a Brooklyn high school were allowed into the museum, even though the high school did not send an adult for every 10 kids.  When the kids were allowed to basically go around, unchaperoned, causing havoc, and disturbing the peace to the point where at least one person asked for their money back, they were literally kicked out, and told never to come back, or that’s what the story is.  The kids were spitting over the balconies.  One of them threw a coin which hit a security guard.  No one was there to baby sit them.  I would have kicked them out, too, and told the school not to return.

Okay, so, the problem it that it is a predominantly minority high school.  Most of the kids were minority.  They were also unsupervised. That alone would be a deal-breaker if I were running the museum.  The museum was at fault for even allowing the group inside, without the proper number of supervisors, and the high school was at fault for breaking the rules.

Guggenheim Museum
Guggenheim Museum

When high school kids are unsupervised, on a field trip, they are going to get in trouble.  It is the nature of the beast.  Countless movies and books have been written about what happens when high school kids are in that situation.  They break things.  They do things they shouldn’t do, and they make a general nuisance of themselves. No, it isn’t because they are minorities, but because they are high school kids on a field trip and know they can get away with it. Frankly, I suspect if my sister and her friend Patti had the opportunity to do so, they would have tried spitting over the upper balcony railings of something.  Okay, I’ve seen them do it.  I have cousins who were kicked out of five star resorts for water balloon battles off balconies. It happens.  Someone dares someone to do something.  If they aren’t hog-tied and frog-marching with some completely anal supervisor who is making their lives a living hell, they’re going to try it.  After all, this is the museum where one protest saw the release of colored paper from the balconies.  It was cool.

But manners also, along with museum rules, state that people are to be quiet and try to be respectful.  I agree.  I don’t want a visit to a beautiful museum like that ruined by a bunch of out-of-control snotty nosed high school kids who are going to be just what they are, annoying little snotty nosed high school kids. That’s their job. It’s about bragging rights twenty years into the future.  It is the job of the high school to realize that kids will be kids, and prevent them from doing something that will make the front page news.

Dear Educator
In order to ensure that you and your students have a safe and positive experience at our Museum, we have created a set of guidelines designed to provide you with logistical information and museum rules pertaining to self guided groups. We encourage you to read this document carefully and provide a copy of it to chaperones joining your group.

Before Your Visit

 Use your free educator’s pass to familiarize yourself with the Museum prior to your class trip. During your visit, select between 5-10 works focused around a theme related to your classroom study. Plan the length of your visit with your students’ interest and energy levels in mind. Do not try to see the entire museum during to your visit!

 Curricular resources are available for download at

 Review and discuss pre-visit materials with your students. Explore the museum’s web site to generate excitement about the trip. The more students know about the museum and the exhibitions, the more they will learn during their visit.


 To ensure that you arrive on time, review travel directions on the Museum’s website at or use to get detailed directions from your site to the Museum. If you are coming by school bus give the directions to the driver. If you are taking the subway, allow at least 15-20 minutes walking time from the 86th Street subway station to the museum.


 Street parking on Fifth Ave. and side streets available for cars and buses.

 Bus drivers may stop temporarily to load or unload passengers on the west side of Fifth Ave. except at city bus stops. For layovers, drivers may park on either side of West 62nd St. between Columbus Ave and Amsterdam Ave., except between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, or on the west side of West End Ave. between 58th-61st Streets. In accordance with NYC regulations, bus drivers may stop at “No Parking” or “No Standing” zones only while actively loading or unloading passengers. Drivers may not leave their bus during loading or unloading. Drivers may wait for passengers no longer than 20 minutes in zones marked “No Parking” or “No Standing except Trucks Loading and Unloading.”

Museum Rules

 Teachers and chaperones accompanying school groups play an important role in the museum visit, helping students to observe appropriate museum behavior. Students have a better experience when they know what to expect and what is expected of them. Please review the following museum rules with your students prior to your visit:
Remember to look and not to touch the artwork.
– Walk at all times.
– Sketching is limited to pencils. Pens or markers are not permitted. Pencils may be distributed for sketching or taking notes when students are seated in front of an artwork. Collect pencils following the activity as students are not permitted to hold pencils as they walk through the galleries.
– Food, drinks, and chewing gum are not allowed in the galleries.
– Backpacks are not allowed in the galleries and should be left on the bus or stored in a bin upon arrival. The Museum is not responsible for lost items.
– Cell phones must be turned off while in the galleries.
– Photography is not permitted above the rotunda floor.
Be respectful of other visitors in the Museum.

Teacher/Student Ratio

 One chaperone is required for every 10 students.
 Prior to arrival divide your group into no more than 20 students per group.


 Assemble your students outside the museum, under the overhang, in front of the gift shop and to the left of the revolving door. If the weather is inclement and/or your group is not too large (less than 20 students), the security guards may open the main doors for your group to enter.

 1 teacher should enter the main entrance on Fifth Avenue and check-in at the group sales check-in /membership desk to make payments and/or receive stickers/wristbands.

 During most visits, a museum volunteer will be available to assist you throughout the entry process.

 Request a storage bin from a security guard if your students have coats and/or backpacks that cannot be stored on the bus. Be sure to get a claim ticket from the security guard for retrieval of your groups’ bin at the end of your tour

 Following check-in, assemble your group inside the museum, either near the benches to the left of the large windows or along the wall between the benches and the fountain. Once your group is inside the lobby (rotunda), please avoid congregating too closely to the front door or directly in the center of the rotunda.

 Students should put all hats, gloves & scarves in their pockets or coat sleeves before their coats go into the bin. All food/lunches must be securely sealed and stored in the bins..

 Distribute stickers (or in some cases wristbands) to students. Collect and discard sticker backing.

 Proceed to the galleries through the walkway to the left of the fountain.

 Single-stall bathrooms are available on every floor of the museum. The only multi-stall bathroom facilities are located on the Basement Level in the Sackler Education Center. These can be reached by the Tower Elevators located in the galleries on the 2nd, 4th, 5th, and 7th level. Bathrooms are immediately to the left as you exit the elevators on the Basement Level.

Present your claim ticket to a museum guard in the rotunda. The storage bin will be brought to you. To avoid waiting, you may ask another adult to present the claim ticket while the rest of your group is using the bathrooms.
 When retrieving your coats, please be mindful of the other groups and patrons in the museum and stay away from the front door and the center of the rotunda. Check that all personal belongings have been claimed from the bin. The bin will be removed and stored.

 The entrance to the gift shop is immediately to your right, just before the main exit.

Thank you for choosing to visit the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum!
We hope that these guidelines will help you and your students have a pleasant, rich and exciting experience!

You might want to look at a promotional photo from the museum’s web site.  Do you see any little blond children?

Guggenheim Museum
Guggenheim Museum

They were touching the art work. One of the museum workers who is of the same race as the kids said that they were not misbehaving.  She also said she’s never seen a group of minority students at the museum, before that group.  I don’t know what universe the woman inhabits, but every time I’ve been in a museum in NYC, it has been full of kids on field trips.  I never noticed a group which was lily white.  They were every possible racial mix, creed, national origin, and mix there-of.  Someone is not being honest here, and I suspect it is the woman who said she had never seen a group of minority students at the Guggenheim.

Guggenheim Museum
Guggenheim Museum

Yep, it’s racist alright.

Even a snot-nosed high school kid should know you don’t touch the art work.  People should have manners when out in the real world.  They should have been taught how to behave.  Going back years ago, as a high school kid, on a field trip, we were lectured before hand on how to behave.  We were lectured on the bus.  We were read the riot aft afterward if we didn’t behave.  I don’t fault the kids, I fault the school and the teachers.

I’d ban the high school, too.  They blew it.