So this high school class is on a field trip to the local morgue and a girl spots a bottle with a brain in it. She reads the label. Turns out it’s her boyfriend’s brain. He’d been killed in a car crash the year before. Of course, she flips out. The word spreads through the school. The dead kid’s sister hears about it and she also falls apart. Her parents end up suing the morgue for stashing their son’s brain in a bottle and holding onto it rather than giving it to them promptly with the rest of his remains.
All of this is just sad and weird enough to be a featured news story on AOL, which is where I read about it. It isn’t an urban legend. It’s a true story.
Here’s my question: what on earth were these kids doing taking a field trip to the local morgue? What educational thing were they supposed to learn there? That formaldehyde smells bad? That dead bodies are gross? That there are way worse places to work than Wendys?
When I was in high school, we took field trips to art institutes, historical museums and the occasional factory. We never went anywhere near the mortuary. (And the local mortuary was probably a happening place — I grew up in Detroit.) It apparently never occurred to our teachers that viewing corpses might be useful to us, and I suspect that if a note had ever come home asking my mother’s permission for me to spend a morning at the morgue instead of in a classroom, she would have scrawled, “Are you kidding me?“ on it and sent it right back.
My son’s high school took him on field trips to the zoo, the natural history museum and a potato chip factory. I’m not sure what he learned from these jaunts, except to avoid sitting next to the kid who always throws up on the bus. But, except for the time the class ended up watching a pair of Galapagos tortoises enthusiastically making whoopee at the local zoo, he never encountered anything particularly alarming.
You have to wonder what field trip that school system has scheduled next for those kids who toured the morgue. “Instead of studying anatomy, let’s take the kids to a strip club!” “Instead of poring over chemistry books, we’ll schedule a field trip to the local pub where the kids can learn to mix and pour drinks!”
And just think of what they could learn about finance from the dude who hangs out in the parking lot every day when school lets out, waiting to sell them pot.
I’m not saying that the sorry state of education in this country is a result of clueless field trips. But that poor kid’s parents aren’t the only folks who need to get a brain.
(Roz Warren is the author of OUR BODIES, OUR SHELVES: LIBRARY HUMOR.)