On this episode of What Kind of Dumb Dumbassery is Going on in Michigan Today, we profile Allison Wint, a former substitute teacher in Battle Creek.
Ms. Wint taught art at Harper Creek Middle School. During one of her classes, which was about controversy in art, Ms. Wint asked her students a question pertaining to public reaction directed at Georgia O’Keeffe’s work.
“Imagine walking into a gallery when [O’Keeffe] was first showing her pieces and thinking, ‘Am I actually seeing vaginas here?'”
While some students giggled (this is an 8th grade class, after all), the administration at Battle Creek Middle School did not find Ms. Wint’s usage of the anatomically correct term for a female reproductive organ humorous at all. Even though Ms. Wint thought the lecture remained educational and productive, she was ultimately terminated by the school because she had allegedly violated the school’s policy about getting “advanced approval when discussing any form of reproductive health.”
Because, in Michigan, an art lecture about Georgia O’Keeffe’s extensive body of work, of which many pieces are artistic-looking vaginas, is akin to a lecture on female anatomy.
When news of Ms. Wint’s firing began creeping out of the apparent nunnery that is Harper Creek Middle School, a certain former state representative couldn’t help but point out that this isn’t the first time the word “vagina” has created problems in the Great Lakes State.
W. Mich. substitute teacher fired for using anatomical word during lesson https://t.co/CDnFuSXhPw SPOILER ALERT- vagina – sound familiar?
— Lisa Brown (@LisaBrown39) April 26, 2016
In 2012, state Rep. Lisa Brown, in the midst of a debate about a proposed abortion bill, told the bill’s supporters: “I’m flattered you’re all so interested in my vagina, but no means no.” The comment prompted swift condemnation from Michigan conservatives and got her banned from the House floor.
With Ms. Wint now looking for another job and ire making its way toward Harper Creek Middle School, whoever is in charge of maintaining the school’s social media presence decided to use Facebook for the release of a statement pertaining to Ms. Wint’s termination.
“Harper Creek Community Schools prides itself in being an outstanding educational institution which consistently operates with purpose, respect, and integrity. We are aware of the allegations that controversial subject matter resulted in a substitute teacher, employed through a third party agency, not being invited back for further service. This is not the case. We do not shy away from controversial issues. The district did have concerns that the substitute teacher did not follow district art curriculum. These concerns, in addition to other failures, were the basis for the determination. We work very diligently to ensure that all students, staff and contracted personnel are treated fairly with respect and privacy.”
Aside from the fact it’s not too common to see the phrase “outstanding educational institution” anywhere near anything pertaining to Michigan, the statement seems to point out that the word “vagina” is a controversial issue. Intentional or not, this is a statement coming from an “outstanding educational institution,” so one would think syntax would be important enough to be a concern when crafting a public statement.
Also, what other failures are being referenced in this statement? The only time prior to this that Ms. Wint had any kind of disciplinary interaction with school administration is when she was told to take down a student-made sign from behind her desk that read “Marriage is about love, not gender.”
Take this story and put it alongside the myriad of other woeful and agonizing tales that have come out of Michigan in recent years and it’s hard not to wish your pa would just take Michigan out in the backyard and Old Yeller the shit out of it. While the firing of a substitute teacher over saying the word “vagina” is not as socially detrimental to the people of Michigan as, say, poisoning the residents of a city, allowing Detriot to turn into an episode of Life After People, or actually casting a vote for Gov. Rick Snyder, it speaks to the culture of the state’s education system.
The policy under which Ms. Wint was fired states that teachers must get advanced approval when discussing any form of reproductive health and the last time I checked, a discussion about Georgia O’Keeffe’s art is as much a discussion on reproductive health as the Republican obsession with abortions.
So does anyone think it’s pertinent to point out that Harper Creek Middle School’s mascot is a beaver?
Featured image by Pearson Scott Foresman and is in the public domain.