Metaphors are like the subway.  No.  Actually, metaphors are like an over-sharpened pencil.  Sorry. Let me try again.

Metaphors are like a little, furry kitten.  (Everything goes down better with a picture of a furry kitty, doesn’t it?)

And, yes, Mr. Strunk and Mr. White, all the previous examples of metaphors were actually similes – but the point remains.

Metaphors are the primary means for articulating abstract concepts.  Useful indeed!

Metaphors are also useful to folks because they can connect two seemingly unconnected phenomenon (such as metaphors and furry kitties, or chalk and cheese, etc.) and, in making the connection, generate new knowledge and greater insight.  Through changing the relationship between object and symbol, we can appreciate nothing short of a new reality created by the metaphor.

However, not all metaphors achieve traction.  (Case in point, all the terrible examples I concocted above …)

And some metaphors that get traction should be resoundingly un-tractioned because they limit or twist or corrode instead of expand thinking. (Case in point, my previous post, re: parent = consumer, school = Starbucks, student = venti decaf mocha-java frappucino.)

(And yes, the original piece was about how best to market day schools, but, sadly, the school-as-Starbucks, parents-as-consumers metaphor infects other, ostensibly non-market spheres of Jewish day schooling…)

So here are four other metaphors (okay, fine, nudnik, similes) through which one might regard and consider the day school dynamic in a less capitalistic, market-driven, profit-crunching, objectifying manner …

Day school as a Broadway show where learning is performance, the students and teachers are actors and parents and administrators are backstage support, etc etc etc

Day school as extended family… where learning is relationship-building, the students are children, teachers and parents are the elder, nurturing generation, etc etc etc

Day school as ecosystem… where learning is about sustainable living, the students, teachers, parents, etc. all strive to define their roles in relation to the larger system, etc etc etc

…and my personal favourite, expounded in my doctoral dissertation (which has apparently now been sucked into the information vortex known as “Google Books”), Day school as dinner party which regards Jewish learning to be an act of consumption, teachers as cooks as well as hosts who fête learners as guests at the “table” of study.

Please feel free to add your own traction-seeking, reality-framing metaphors in the comments section below!

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