Thursday, August 27, 2015

Governor Kasich, Abolishing the Metaphorical Teacher's Lounge Would Be Even Worse than Banning the Real One

The Secret School - Nikolaos Gyzis
The Secret School, Nikolaus Gyzis

 Recently, Ohio governor and Republican presidential hopeful John Kasich raised some ire over a comment he made at an education conference in New Hampshire. The unabashedly anti-public-education governor said that if he were King of America, he would "abolish all teachers' lounges, where they sit together and worry about 'woe is us.'"

Kasich's spokesman, Rob Nichols, had this piece of snark to say in response to those who took offense:

He thinks teachers have far more support in their communities than they sometimes give themselves credit for and they shouldn't pay attention to the small number of pot-stirrers in their ranks who try to leverage problems for political gain. Anyone thinking he was making a comment on buildings or school architecture or space usage might need to look up the word "metaphor" in a dictionary.
Emphasis added by me, because I was pretty well stunned by that last zinger of a sentence. 

Note to Governor Kasich: If you want to try to defend your fairly outrageous statement, calling it a metaphor is not the way to do it. Yes, we know what "metaphor" means, and no, we didn't think that you were really talking about architecture. We get it: It is teachers' voices that you object to, not the teacher's lounge. 

I mean, let's unpack this metaphor. If Kasich is not talking about the brick-and-mortar space, then what is he talking about? What is the metaphorical teachers' lounge that he'd like to abolish?

Indeed, it's not the literal architectural space that bothers him: It's the gathering, the meeting of ideas, the organizing together. It's the outcry over poorly designed, misused standardized tests; it's the many thoughtful critiques of the new teacher evaluations. It's the multitude of blogs, Facebook groups, and forums that have sprung up in response to worsening working conditions and low morale. It's the collective yearning to break free from education reforms that undermine teaching and learning.

Of course Governor Kasich would prefer that teachers stop talking about what's really going on in their classrooms so that the narrative of education reform can continue, unhindered by teachers' lived realities. The metaphorical teachers' lounge is far more important than the literal one.

If Kasich really wants to do damage control, he needs to offer an apology. The "it was a metaphor" defense makes his statement worse, not better.