Editorials

Sometimes a Flower

A substitute teacher in a public school in what is, by today’s standards, still a relatively socially conservative part of the country uses “an anatomical word during a teaching lesson.”  She is fired, and the story goes viral.

Just another battle in the never-ending culture war, right?  Yes—but not in the way you might think.

First, the facts: Allison Wint was a longtime substitute art teacher at Harper Creek Middle School in Battle Creek, Michigan.  As local TV station WWMT reports, she was discussing the paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe in an eighth-grade art-history class.  Referring to certain of O’Keeffe’s paintings of flowers, Wint used the word vagina.  The school’s handbook says that teachers “are required to get advanced [sic] approval when discussing any form of reproductive health.”  When school officials were notified of Wint’s use of the word, they told her that her services were no longer required, now or in the future.

So, yes—on the surface, this seems like the story of regressive (or courageous) school administrators punishing a progressive (or troublemaking) teacher over the use of a word that every eighth-grader—even in Battle Creek, that historic bastion of breakfast cereal and Seventh-Day Adventism—not only knows but understands.  Which set of adjectives you...

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